Featured Local: Evangeline Brekhus

Samantha Chamberlain

What is it you do in art?

So many things! Like this mannequin head behind me that's a planter, or I'm making little circuit board earrings out of a CD player that I ripped up during therapy. Painting, drawing, and a little bit of vandalism -lots of stuff. I'm practicing in an abandoned warehouse that's gonna inevitably get torn down but I want to try to do wheat pasting soon. I haven't read too much about it but someone from Germany told me about it. You take paper and do a flour-water mixture then you just go out and glue it up real quick and it's hard for people to remove.

I started messing with bones and stuff when I was nine. I picked up my first roadkill and brought it home. That was my start with making things out of dead things. I've always painted. Every year that I was in school I did art class. When that went I was pretty bummed because I really didn't want to go to college so I lost my art classes.


What's your favorite part?

Pretty much anything bones. I made my ex-boyfriend's wisdom tooth into an earring. If he sees this I don't think he knows that I have his wisdom teeth so I'm sorry. I went to go pick him up from the dentist, the dentist handed them to me, and I put them in my pocket.


What's been your least favorite part?

I suppose waiting for things. I have this little cup of bones over there that I'm whitening and it's taking a while. So that, waiting for resin to dry. I'm making this little seahorse necklace, it's super tiny. If I just pour resin in there it'll float to the top so I have to do a layer and wait a day and do another. A lot of waiting and hoping I don't fudge it up in between.


What do you have to wait the most with?

Waiting for oil paints to dry. People will hit me up for a painting that they see me doing on Instagram or whatever and I'm like okay and they want to pick it up immediately and I'm just like, "Maybe in a month." Sometimes it takes forever to dry. It depends on what brand of paints I'm using or if I end up mixing brands of paint which I don't like doing too much because then I never know when it's going to dry. Some take longer than others and I'll leave it in a corner for a really good long while just to be sure.


Do you ever run out of room?

Yeah. I have all this stuff on this little table right now. I pushed a scorpion and beetle out of the way to put this little stand to hold my phone on but there's not much room. I wish I had more space. Maybe if I had less plants but I'm not willing to sacrifice. Did I show you the cow skull that I mounted my staghorn in? Well I re-potted it. It's my favorite but it's so huge. It's a cow skull so it takes up so much space.


Where do you find these things?

I have no idea where my friend Leah got it but she just dropped it off at my house one day and so it's been sitting in a pile of boots until I found a purpose for it. I have a couple of friends elsewhere. Annalisa's another friend who mails me random bones like little pieces of mandibles and I'll rip the teeth out or whatever. I love when people give me dead things, but uh, bird is illegal. We have diverse birds in Corpus. There's a migratory bird act I believe that protects most birds. You can't even have a feather of a lot of birds because they don't know if you just pulled it off the bird or anything. I don't really know birds too will, I just know that I should probably try not to collect birds.


Who's helped you in art?

My aunt really encouraged me with my weird interests when I was younger. I used to hang out with a couple of my friends mom and aunt -older ladies- when I was younger. We would sit around and talk about art and stuff and she would show me different styles and just like all these little trinkets that she collected over the years. She was just like, "Yeah, go for it if you want to use any of that stuff." So her too, Gerry, gotta give her credit for sure.


Has anybody inspired you?

Georgia O'Keeffe because when people were doing more landscapes and stuff like that she was mixing bones and flowers, something kind of abstract for that time period. I read about her in middle school and was like, "Wow."

Then bugs too. I really like cicadas. I have this bug right here that doesn't look that exciting from the back but when you flip it over it's really shiny. I want to make something out of it but it's kind of weird to make something out of a bug flipped on its belly.


How'd you find that?

I don't remember. I have boxes I've been trying to go through so that I don't have random boxes with mystery things under my bed. I pulled out this box full of bugs I've collected over the years and was like, "This is pretty cool!" and found this guy.


Have you ever wanted to give up art? 

Never. I think that what I'm good at in general is just creating stuff. Even at my job I'm welding and fabricating things into something. Creating in general is pretty satisfactory. Sometimes I don't feel like doing art but even when I don't, I'll find myself picking up little things and I'm like, "Oh, I could probably make something cool out of that."


Is there something you know now that you wish you would have known before?

How to properly clean bones. I was doing it wrong for a while and I wasn't even fully cleaning some bones. They were sanitized but improperly cleaned and didn't really come out the shade of whiteness that I wanted. My friend has this really sick necklace with all these snake vertebrae but I cleaned it improperly so it's not completely white. I didn't know how to properly clean bones.

I joined a bunch of taxidermy groups on Facebook and taxidermists generally don't use use the bones -not even the teeth because well, they're in a wet mouth and start decaying over time- but in our taxidermy group there's people who do skeletal re-articulation and people were talking shit about bleaching bones and I was like, "Oh no, I'm doing that."


How would you begin to start to uncover the animal that it is?

There's different ways. I won't start hacking away at it. I don't really like messing with it until it's pretty decomposed. I'll throw it in a bucket of water in a sunny area, set it up so nothing can get to it, put something over it that's breathable so nothing will try to get into it and fall and drown. Imagine drowning in a bucket with a rotting corpse. Anyways, I would change the water everyday and wait until it starts decomposing then start the degreasing process once all the flesh is off and get all the stuff I want. You could also bury it, some people put things in cages above ground so that bugs can do it but I've never done that. Well I have buried stuff, but trying to find it, dig them back up, then degreasing and whitening everything... It's a lot. I won't deal with maggoty stuff, stuff already pretty decomposed or really smelly. I also won't deal with armadillos which is probably illegal anyways, but they carry leprosy.

But you'll do pets?

If someone gave me their pet and wanted me to do something specific I'd be like, "I don't want to make them look weird." That would be so awkward. But if someone wanted to give me their dead cat I'd be stoked. My friend Danny in California, his cat died and I was like, "Can I dig up your cat in a couple of months?" He was like, "Oh you have to ask my children." I was like, "I have to ask your kids if I can dig up y'alls cat?" I didn't want to do that.


What's success to you?

When you find something that makes you want to wake up in the morning, probably, because if you want to wake up in the morning you're probably happy doing whatever you're doing.


What are your dreams?

Pretty much that. I want to find a job that I love. I'd love to weld art or do something artistic with a career. Or at least do something that I like. Creating things and being able to make enough to do what I really want to in my free time.


Before I let Evangeline go, I asked about this particular picture on Instagram:

There is this picture of you on Instagram where you're wearing a red dress and everyone's like, "Get it!" Nobody mentions that you have a living creature on you. What is that about?

That's my rat dandelion. And whenever she inevitably dies... I love her very much, I play with her all this time, she's great... I will use her bones for sure.


You can support Evangeline by purchasing from her line in our shop.

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