Celebrating Brett - A Life in Art

Digital Exhibition

This digital exhibiton includes work by Brettney (Brett) Young alongside pieces by sculptor Kamil Peters, Katie Shaw and quiltmaker Barabar Boseman. By exhibiting artwork that was an outlet for her child, a mother invites a community to share in their journey of healing. These funny, intimate, audacious, political drawings by Brett, celebrate an intelligent and talented individual with a keen sense of humor and commitment to social justice.


April 23 - May 5 | Free Event
Opening Reception: Friday, April 23, 6 p.m. ET, Online


In a letter to Brett, her mother writes:

Dear Brett,

For nearly two and half years, I have been tending to the altar that is now in our home. The urn with your ashes sits among dried flowers, candles, crystals, and photos of our friends and family members who have also passed on from this realm. This altar is a place of comfort where I can sit in solace as I grieve and remember you. I am sharing your art work in a gallery this month because I want the world to know how beautiful, smart, funny, and talented you are. I had hoped that your art making would lead to healing and I believe it was a powerful outlet for you. I am sorry that you endured pain and suffering in your short life. I wish that I had learned a different way to support you; one that was more open and expressive instead of stoic and silent. Love is the root of both of these paths, but my way feels so insufficient. I continue to humbly ask for your guidance and forgiveness. I hope that my journey towards healing reaches you and that you can accept my love as I send to you everyday.

The artwork in this collection represents my favorite pieces from your childhood: the drawings of the cats, your self-portraits, and your tribute to Maya Angelou. I am also sharing work you created as a young adult. You play with texture and color in your paintings and collages. You continued to document yourself through portraiture and you blended humor with sharp social criticism in the edgy cards and zines that you produced. Since your passing, we have received artwork in your honor and those three pieces are here as well. There is a beautiful quilt, made of your clothing, by Barbara Boseman, a metal mask by Kamil Peters, and a portrait by Katie Shaw, that Henry commissioned. By sharing this work, I believe that you can continue to help others in the same way that you selflessly shared your love and kindness with so many friends and family. Creating this exhibit has offered me the opportunity to continue to heal and to remain close to all of your tremendous gifts.

With love and devotion,
Mom
AKA Dr. Priscilla Page

Brettney Louise Irene Young
Brett was a loving spirit who cared for many people in their short time on earth. They expressed themselves through music and art. They loved to sing, dance, paint, and cook delicious meals, especially desserts. Brett connected easily and lovingly with young children and worked as a pre-school teacher at The Community Music School in Springfield and Fort Hill Pre-school at Smith College. Brett also worked as a nanny and forged a close connection with the Levin family: Julie, Ben, Soph, and Isadore. They loved and cared for pets throughout their entire life and they often found solace in the natural world.

Brett was born in Hayward, California where they lived until age seven. They attended Challenger Academy for Kindergarten and First Grade in Fremont, California. In 1999, they bravely accompanied their mom, Priscilla, on an adventure that led them to Amherst, Massachusetts. (Mom entered graduate school at UMASS Amherst that year). The two places couldn’t be more different: geographically as well as culturally and their closest family members were 3,000 miles away. Brett attended Mark’s Meadow Elementary School, a small school on the UMASS Amherst campus, and Pioneer Valley Performing Arts for middle and high school, in South Hadley, MA. They loved writing, visual art, and dance and participated on the Mock Trial team travelling to Boston to compete at the state level. They attended Lesley University where they studied Early Childhood Education and continued to cultivate their passion for art.

Brett’s Uncle William nurtured and supported their love of music from an early age. They would play guitar and sing songs until late into the night. William and Brett taught themselves Beatles’ songs that they would perform for Pat, Brett’s grandma. This brought immense joy to her every time they sang. Music became a lifelong pursuit for Brett who attended Rock and Roll camps as a teenager at the Institute for Musical Arts in Goshen, MA.

Brett was a shining star among a vast constellation of family and friends.