Like everyone in New Orleans, Brandan “Bmike” Odums’ life was changed forever by Hurricane Katrina.
Odums is a natural-born artist who was encouraged to pursue art early on by his peers. Although he attended the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, he didn’t see how making art could become a viable career path and shifted his focus to filmmaking after graduation. He quickly found himself shooting guerilla style music videos for everyone from Juvenile to Trombone Shorty.
But Katrina changed everything. “The entire city of New Orleans was slapped with intention,” he said. For him, that meant bringing attention to blight, displacement, and other issues plaguing the city. And a return to painting.
Odums has become known for his large scale, site-specific installations. Project Be and Exhibit Be both took place outdoors in and on abandoned buildings. For Studio Be, his current project and the third iteration of the Be series, Odums has taken over a 35,000 square foot warehouse. He’s amassed quite a following of celebrity visitors and collectors, including Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Durant, and RZA. After her visit to the space, Ava DuVernay was compelled to write him into an episode of Queen Sugar. New Yorkers can get a glimpse of his work up in Harlem where he recently painted a building size portrait of Dizzy Gillespie to mark the musician’s 100th birthday and help raise awareness about the plight of the Baha’i people in Iran.
I spoke with Odums for MASS APPEAL about the balance between street and fine art, New Orleans’ recovery, and his dedication to giving back to the community.
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