The Importance of Fine Art
By Jonathan Whitehead

Gadfly: For our readers who are not as familiar with your work as they should be, please give us a quick bio of yourself.

Bryten Goss: Hmm, well I was born In Los Angeles in 1976, which makes me, I guess, an old man. I actually started to paint very young, but really took it as a full-time endeavor at maybe about 14. I went to an art class for one day and was a bit horrified with the teacher drawing on top of my drawing. I felt guilty when my mother said, "Wow that's great son," knowing I was only half involved. I didn't go back after that. I basically learned how to paint from drawing from life and doing hundreds of sloppy paintings. At 16 I realized I needed money to buy all these paints so I decided to put up all my rough, underpainted pictures in a friend’s loft, send invitations to as many people as I could and try to sell a painting or two. I ended up making about six thousand dollars, and at 16 thought I was rich so I decided to move to Paris.

I ran out of money in about four months, but the trip was a huge influence on me. I lived in a loft with a painter and sculptor named Vincent Magni and basically studied as much work from the museums as I could take in. Since then I have really taken the same approach and had about ten more privately funded exhibitions, only now the shows are much bigger and I have sponsors, etc.

What led you into painting?

Well, I almost always drew and painted. My mother was a big influence on me. She went to art school in Chicago as a teenager and painted. I would sit on her lap when she was painting; she would also always buy me paints and brushes when I was completely broke. But I do remember something that really made me serious about it: I think I was 14 or 15, I was at the Norton Simon museum and saw this small rough portrait by Cezanne, I think of his uncle. I didn't particularly love the painting but for some reason I was completely overwhelmed emotionally. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days; that's when I really realized the importance of fine art, how such a simple image could make such an effect on someone.

You obviously have a large following with your portraiture, particularly your nudes. Were Paul Gauguin or Stanley Spencer big influences? If not, who was?

Yeah, I think Spencer is a great painter. I also always loved the painting of Balthus, Freud, Shiele, Giacometti, and Degas as well, but I feel Carravaggio has always been a influence on me.

As the bio on your web site points out, you seem to have predominantly turned your attention and work to the female form in the nude. Why did the female nude, particularly since it has been painted often in the past, so capture your attention?

Well, I always painted people mainly. I guess I just thought it was a good vehicle for painting as you don't have too much to work with, the painting itself really has to communicate, plus I think painters tend to paint what they love, no?

In your nudes, the women depicted, while beautifully rendered, are often shown either looking way or looking discontent, for lack of a better term. Analysis of portraiture can center on whether the subject is looking away or looking at the artist, oftentimes dealing with the subject's level of worth. Why do you paint your subjects this way? Is it something you see in them, or is it part of what you bring to the portrait?

I don't think it has anything to do with the worth. I really think analytical analysis of fine art should be left up to the "experts," I'm just a painter.

In some of your other paintings you have rendered scenes of destruction, buildings burning, people running in horror. In one of these, people are shown being tortured by skeletons, a harrowing scene, which reminded me of some of Hieronymus Bosch's work. What is the impetus behind these scenes and was Bosch an influence?

Actually, "Triumph of Death" is an old idea. It's actually just a satirical look at the social strata, being that we do all have one thing in common.

Your subject matter also concerns the working class and older people. What is it about them that grabbed your attention enough to paint them?

I always like to paint everyday scenes. I’ve been staying in Ireland for about half the year for 6 years now, so I've done some painting of people in the pubs from sketches.

In reading an article written by Kevin Smith about his wife wanting to be painted by you, I noted that your nudes are painted from photographs you have taken, not from live sessions. Why did you choose this approach?

Actually, I prefer to paint from life. I’ve used photography as an aid, especially for background work so the model doesn't sit too much, but sometimes it is just impossible to have a model sit for tens of hours. But having a life-size model is a lot easier than a small picture.

The world of art often intersects with the worlds of film and music, affecting many visual artists, including Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. As I read on your web site, actor Jason Lee counts you as a good friend and your latest exhibition was sponsored both by Lee and InStyle magazine, and was attended by Hollywood types like Nicolas Cage. How did you come to be connected to Hollywood and what do you think of this connection?

Well, growing up in L.A most of my friends turned out to be in the entertainment industry. Jason has been a close friend for 10 years as well as a great patron. He has an amazing collection of painting and has been buying from me for years. I think in this city it is mostly people in that industry that can afford to collect art so that is how that connection was made.

Does the music you listen to ever have significant influence on your painting? If so, what do you listen to and how are you affected by it?

Yes, music is extremely important to me, being that my work is mostly visual. I am listening to music about every minute of my day. I have a wide range of tastes. I remember the last time I bought CDs I got Mozart, Mogwai, Al Green, the Misfits, Tricky, the Smiths and I think Poncho Sanchez. I think there's always a place for music.

You obviously have accomplished a lot in your relatively short time in the art world. Where do you see your work going? Will you stay with painting or move into other mediums?

Actually, I just bought an etching press and am working on a series of drypoints and etchings for a show at the end of this year. Then I'll exhibit the etchings in a few other countries. I will also have an exhibition of oil paintings next year in Los Angeles.