Brittany Kathryn Knapp was born in New Jersey, but moved to Pittsburgh in her youth. She is an artist and activist and currently lives in New York, where she keeps a small study in Bushwick. She received her Master’s in Art Therapy from New York University in 2015, and her artistic projects reflect her experiences within the justice system, her experiences as a psychotherapist, and her passion for justice.
Her art, wood burnings, are filled with often-geometric designs and feminine figures. Much of her imagery is anatomical and scientific—synapses, optical nerves, and chemical shapes. There are motifs of both growth (the anatomical webbings and rooted saplings) and strength in the faces and figures of women. Her three dimensional pieces bring the viewer face to face with a reality of passion, wonder, and pain. The women that she depicts seem both vulnerable in confronting their fears and their pains, strong as some stare directly at the viewer, and gentle as many are shown with floral or geometric patterns behind them. Her pieces reflect the complexity of the human experience, but more specifically the reality of being a woman. A woman who can be both curious and in wonder of the world around her, and robbed of something at the same time—whether that be freedom, or power, or the knowledge that you are in a system sometimes rigged against you.
As an activist, she fights to eradicate sexual violence in prisons and her art has historically focused on this cause. She became passionate about confronting sexual violence in prisons following her own experience in juvenile incarceration. Her art related to prison reform, specifically focused on sexual violence, has been involved in a number of campaigns and showed at a number of locations in New York, including at a conference for prison reform at Columbia.
Currently, she is working on art and activism to address the flaws in the court system, and the way the court system deals with sexual violence. This is particularly apt in the current political climate, where empowering women and ensuring their voices are heard within the legal system is more important than ever. And with her passion for justice within incarceration and prison reform, advocating for those who are afraid of or ignored by the current justice system is a noteworthy cause. In addition, her art continues to focus on the challenges that women and minorities face while incarcerated, since those incarcerated are disproportionately of lower income and minority status.
When asked about her goal for her art work, Brittany describes the challenges of making art in the activism realm (or for social change), saying, “You don’t want the viewer to look away. You want them to look inside of themselves.” And, especially in the current political climate, Brittany relays the words of another woman she heard speak on art in activism, saying, “Art moves the people, and people move the politicians.” Her delicate and confrontational art is worth watching as she continues on her path of activism and creation.