Accessing the excess with Brent Houzenga

By Brandi Simmons

 "Every piece starts out with a photograph that I then use to make my stencils. I use a color separation process which basically means I break the photograph down into three or four layers of color," he says. "Each layer is cut out of poster board with an X-Acto blade. Once the stencil is ready, it is thrown into my process of painting, spray painting, taping and layering."

"Every piece starts out with a photograph that I then use to make my stencils. I use a color separation process which basically means I break the photograph down into three or four layers of color," he says. "Each layer is cut out of poster board with an X-Acto blade. Once the stencil is ready, it is thrown into my process of painting, spray painting, taping and layering."

Brent Houzenga’s work is an exercise in intentionality. Using stencils created from photographs, the New Orleans-based artist constructs portraits by layering paint, spray paint and tape. These boldly colored portraits often spotlight pop culture influences, such as musicians Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, and comic book heroes like Batman.

“I’ve been pretty much obsessed with Batman since I was six years old,” Houzenga says. “I wanted to be a comic book artist growing up. For a long time I rejected any direct use of that world in my work. My work has always been graphic but it wasn’t until around the same time as the Left Handed For a A Year project started that I embraced this as probably the most critical influence on me becoming an artist.”

Left Handed For A Year was spurred from Houzenga’s interest in psychology, and using parts of his brain that he wouldn’t typically access—the “excess,” as he calls it. “I did a series [a few years ago] where I spray painted with my left hand and I did a bunch of drawings and writing left handed.” It wasn’t until recently that he decided to develop this experiment into something more. 

“One night I sat down to draw while my son was sleeping and decided to do it left handed. By the time that piece was completed, I had decided in my head that I was going to take this left-handed thing to the next level and draw a portrait every day for a year.”  

Whether working with his non-dominant hand or creating assemblages with remnants from old projects, Houzenga never lacks inspiration. “I truly believe you have to just show up and work. When you’re constantly involved in the process it’s not a hard thing to do.”

 Prints from Brent Houzenga’s Left Handed For A Year series, $20 each in the LSU Museum Store.

Prints from Brent Houzenga’s Left Handed For A Year series, $20 each in the LSU Museum Store.

Visit the LSU Museum Store today to purchase prints from Houzenga, including selections from the Left Handed for a Year series, stickers, buttons and more.


Brandi Simmons is LSU MOA's communications coordinator.