Photography by: Carol Zou // Fake Smile (Facsimile), 2016
When you first glance at Brent Ozaeta’s artwork, there’s a lot to take in.
Then, something in the mix catches your eye, and it’s mesmerizing. It’s his style.
Brent says that his screen prints are inspired by 70’s and 80’s Japanese manga, but he’s been developing his unique way of expression since he began screen printing as a student at University of Texas at Dallas.
“I would start with an image I found on the internet and then redraw it to blow it up larger,” Brent said. “Then I would embellish it with patterns and add even more elements to it until it was a dense cluster. My goal was the take these graphic elements and then compose them in a way that was more abstract.”
He first created a piece with this technique when he was at the University of Texas at Dallas, leaning how to screen print. During his time at UTD, Brent fell in love with the art form.
“I like the flat graphic nature of the medium,” he said. “This quality is what drew me to this print method, and is the reason I still use it today. It’s pretty versatile.”
When Brent was in school at UTD, he had to scan and process every hand drawn image he wanted to use in the piece. Now he’s creating pieces in Dallas, using a Wacom tablet and Adobe Illustrator to draw his images digitally before starting the screen print process.
Photography by: Carol Zou // Ecstacy and Wine, 2017
Brent draws his images in fragments, like pieces of a collage he’s trying to compose. He’s saved all of these drawings on his computer in a specific folder, named “Image Atlas”, for nearly a decade. In 2011, he created the first zine in a series that gave a glimpse into his process. The Image Atlas zine series features selections of Brent's compositions, side by side with QR codes that link to the Internet images referenced in the piece.
Although his zine series makes the screen printing process look painless, it takes several steps for Brent to develop a finished product. After Brent chooses the Internet images he wants to work with, he draws them and pieces them together until he feels the composition is complete. Then, he separates the colors digitally and starts burning his images into screens. Each new creation is special to him, and helps him develop his style.
“I’m normally most attached to the most recent things I made,” he said. “Each time I’m making a new work, I’m thinking about ways to improve in my process or technique from the last piece.”
Since he started screen printing, Brent has grown in his craft. His style and technique is constantly developing, and he’s found growth in the sometimes-laborious screen printing procedure.
“Some of the processes in screen printing I used to find frustrating, but now I find it more relaxing, like registering my screens, mixing ink, or pulling a squeegee hundreds of times in a row,” Brent said. “In the end, it’s a pretty gratifying thing.”
Photography by: Carol Zou // Image Atlas 2, 2015
Throughout his career as an artist, Brent has found that motivating himself and pursuing ideas has also been, well – a pretty gratifying thing. In 2015, Brent told his friend Ha Mai about an inkling of an idea that he had for an art space. The following year, they opened their first installation of Super Fantasy Mercado at Vikon Village Flea Market in Garland.
“The idea was to set up an art space in an area that might have been uncommon to experience art,” Brent said. “As a frequent visitor of this bazaar, I wanted people to come out to this place, as an alternative to more common arts districts.”
Brent’s friends Taro Waggoner and Mylan Nguyen helped him organize a roster of local artists to display their art at the first Super Fantasy Mercado, a site-specific pop-up shop. Later, Brent took Super Fantasy Mercado to the inside of Southwest Center Mall in South Dallas, as part of a social art exhibit called Decolonize Dallas.
Although these two installations are over now, Brent says that his biggest takeaway from this experience is how great the community of local talent is in Dallas. Many different artists displayed their artwork at this pop-up shop that began as a simple “what-if”.
Brent is still brainstorming the location for the next Super Fantasy Mercado, but he’s thinking it will in be in a place that's often overlooked, like Southwest Center Mall and Vikon Village Flea Market. By doing this, Brent hopes to bring people to a place that many may have forgotten about.
“Looking back at all the work that eventually went into this project and what it evolved to, it’s funny to me that it all started with just that kind of free-floating thought,” he said. “This proved to me that those kinds of ideas are valuable, and you should not easily dismiss them.”
Instead, do as Brent does and build on ideas until something special is created – piece by piece.