Brittany Natale is the young New York-based curator encouraging the destigmatization of themes including mental health, mental illness, menstruation and inequality through artwork and dialogue. A native New Yorker, her curated shows range from the political to the personal; Weekend with Bernie, an arts weekend show Brittany curated and produced in 2016, was aimed at encouraging young individuals to become more engaged with politics; Teen Dream, an ongoing series, features work created by female-identifying teens on the subjects of anything from rape culture to eating disorders; another series Mood Ring addresses mental health and mental illness in creatives. Her emphatic approach to curating brings together works on subjects usually considered taboo to encourage openness, understanding and a much needed sense of unity in an increasingly divided world.
From a young age, I’ve always been incredibly emphatic and curious.
I was raised by my grandmother from the age of 13 following my parents’ divorce. I’m the daughter of an artist who attended Parsons in the 1980’s and an MTA worker but my father is a homeless drug addict today. Growing up and witnessing the dynamic and eventual demise of my parents’ tumultuous relationship has really affected me in the sense that I am aware of my interactions with everyone - I am incredibly empathetic to others. I have also always been curious; at 17 I spent a weekend filming for a Sundance movie, at 18 I rehearsed vocals and piano at a practice space in Chelsea with a Broadway director, at 19 I became innately curious about the behind-the-scenes of filmmaking and took part in extra work in movies such as Men in Black III, just so I could be on set. This curiosity has always been a sort of propeller to my creative interests.
I am always looking to understand those around me - their backgrounds, upbringings, what they have gone through and where they are going.
From a young age I was diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD and, for myself personally, I feel like this constant stimuli has widened my emotional spectrum tenfold and, in turn, made me more empathetic to all who are around me. I always try to carry this awareness and sensitivity into my curations. By creating real-life spaces for creatives to show their work, connect with and inspire each other, I believe we can create a more caring, understanding world. When I was in high school and lived alone with my grandmother, I would spend tons of time reading at the library, or taking long walks in lower Manhattan, or sitting at museum lectures, wondering if there were other people out there who thought like me and, if so, how could I connect with them.
When you grow up and live in a city like NYC, the variations of things you are encountered with everyday ranges so broadly.
I was born and raised in Flushing, Queens, an area considered one of the most diverse places on the planet, and the experiences I had during my upbringing can support this. I spent a lot of my “growing up” years in places such as Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, attending Salsa performances in Sunnyside, spending weekends at MoMA. My closest friends during my youth were immigrants and the children of immigrants from places all over the world - India, Pakistan, China, Peru, Israel, Greece, Egypt, Vietnam, Russia - the list goes on. I am the great-granddaughter of immigrants myself. Because of this, I was always surrounded by so many different languages, cultures, foods, music, religions and more.
My favorite scent changes with the season.
During the Fall it is Indian Amber oil, but now that it is Winter it is the smell of coffee, even though I don’t even drink coffee! The scent of it invokes memories and feelings of productivity and new beginnings. It also reminds me of waking up at home at my grandmother’s when I was in high school. I can still see the light coming through windows and brightening up the pink room, and hearing WQXR or Chopin or Mozart coming from the stereo while she made breakfast. The smell of coffee is like one, big, comforting embrace.
Women like Yayoi Kusama, Frida Kahlo, Jenny Holzer, my grandmother and my mother inspire me.
Everything they created is an act of empowerment, a declaration of strength and a message that you, too, have the ability to overcome even the most difficult of life’s situations. I also feel that every person I meet, every sound I hear, every feeling that comes over me, has the potential to be the precursor to something bigger. My muses are everywhere, whether it is the way the light hits the floor while I am at my grandmother’s in Queens, or the muffled sound of the city when I am at my aunt’s 31st floor apartment in Manhattan. As someone who feels so much all the time, it has become important for me at least to transmute these sensory “visitors” into something more viable, something that builds me up and doesn’t break me down.