2015-05-20 / Features


Brian Morris

Brian Morris, Director of Brian Morris Gallery, was born and raised in Woodhaven. His parents, Brian and Kathleen Morris emigrated from Ireland and Morris is the fourth of their five children. He attended St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy in Ozone Park and Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood. He currently resides in Jackson Heights.

Morris is an avid martial arts devotee, a poet and teacher who comes from a 12-year background in fitness and corrective exercise.

In 2011, Morris was a contributing artist to Glasschord Art and Culture Online Magazine which he co-founded. He conducted some artist interviews, invited artists to participate and organized several events to garner exposure for the contributing artists. He helped build and organize the extensive community that was burgeoning around Glasschord.

These experiences along with Morris’ charisma and connections led to the opening of Brian Morris Gallery in December of 2012. Morris’ gregarious nature, desire and openness to develop a program guided by dialogue led to one good exhibition after the next. He has had nearly 40 exhibitions in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and Midtown.

Brian Morris Brian Morris The gallery has exhibited the works of around 100 emerging and mid-career artists, hosted poetry readings and live musical performances. Morris has worked with community organizations, notfor profits and collaborative projects.

Morris, along with his neighbors, fellow New York natives Ellie Covan, Director of Dixon Place, and Buddy Warren, owner of Buddy Warren Inc. are building a community of art and culture on Chrystie Street.

Morris is in the process of joining the Board of Directors at St. Elizabeth’s in the fall, and is interested in opening up avenues of communication and collaboration between his gallery, his artists and his former alma maters.

Morris’ parents are homeowners in Rockaway Beach, and both are very active in their community.

“Queens has more diverse cultures than anywhere on earth. I know people from everywhere. We get along and peacefully share a large community that respects the individuality of each group of peoples that make up the whole. There is a mural in Travers Park near my house, it says ‘Queens is the Future.’ I believe that with all my heart!” –BM

For more information, visit www.BrianMorrisGallery.com and new partnership www.BuddyWarren.com.

QG: You grew up in Woodhaven, attended schools in Ozone Park and Briarwood, now reside in Jackson Heights, and your parents are active residents of Rockaway Beach. Which areas of Queens are your favorites to show people unfamiliar with the borough? How do you compare Queens with other places in New York City?

BM: Every neighborhood in Queens has its charms. I love the diversity. We have people from all parts of the globe living side by side. There is a real sense of community, as there are many families and residents that have been there for multiple generations.

The parks are wonderful, Forest Park, Flushing Meadows, Astoria Park, and Rockaway Beach.

Queens is unlike the other boroughs; the pulse of the city exists throughout, but the pace is a little bit different. The great experiment that is America, in its best sense, exists right here in Queens. It’s truly a melting pot.

QG: You’re an avid martial arts devotee and teacher with a dozen years’ background in fitness and corrective exercise – how did you get so involved?

BM: After high school, I injured both of my knees; I was suffering from severe patellar tendonitis, and partial tears in both patellar tendons. The trainer at my college and several specialists were suggesting surgery. I was interested in finding another way. Shortly after that, in 2001, I applied for a job at New York Sports Club, I was lucky to meet three amazing trainers that got me started on my rehabilitation through corrective exercise and functional training. Within a year,

I had corrected imbalances in my body through several modalities of training – stability, balance, strength and power. I was stronger than ever, and eventually traveled to Europe to pursue a career as a professional basketball player.

After two seasons away, I was homesick. New York City is in my blood. Upon returning, I resumed my training career and met my first sifu. My journey as a martial artist began shortly after this. I began with Western boxing, mixed martial arts, and shortly thereafter found Chinese martial arts to be my true passion. I immersed myself into the culture and built my repertoire as a trainer, instructor, student and a teacher.

I have had clients and students of all ages. My youngest is four years old and the oldest, 89. I have worked with athletes, weekend warriors, stroke survivors, and everyone in between.

QG: What are your favorite attractions in Queens to spend free time? What are some favorite Queens restaurants you’ve visited and would recommend?

BM: I have friends in every neighborhood, but these days I am at the gallery so often that I spend most of my time in Queens in and around Jackson Heights. We have great restaurants. I love Phayul, a wonderful Tibetan restaurant, Jackson Diner, Indian cuisine, Cherry Valley in Whitestone is a must visit, Kebab Cafe in Astoria has Egyptian cuisine with a menu that changes every day. There are too many places to name... Mostly, I like going to my friend’s house, if you’re from Queens, you understand.

QG: Assuming your love of poetry and art probably began in your childhood, who encouraged your interests in each art form, perhaps were even your role models?

BM: I am one of five siblings and the fourth in line. My older siblings were all English majors. Poetry anthologies and books of prose and philosophy were always around the house. My family were always very supportive and valued education and the arts. My parents made sure that our education continued beyond our schooling and encouraged us to pursue our passions.

QG: Who are some of your favorite artists? Who are your favorite poets?

BM: That’s an easy question. If you want to know my favorite artists, come down to my galleries on Chrystie Street. I’m showing their work in three spaces every month: at Brian Morris Gallery at 163 Chrystie Street; Brian Morris Gallery with Buddy Warren Inc. at 171 Chrystie Street; and 29 East 32nd Street, all in Manhattan. There are so many artists doing phenomenal work that I am excited about; it would be impossible to name them all. You can find them at Brianmorrisgallery.com and Glasschord Art and Culture Magazine (Glasschord.com).

QG: When did you first begin to compose poetry?

BM: I wrote my first poem when I was six years old, and just recently headlined at the Bowery Poetry Club as a featured poet during one of their open mic nights.

(I do not paint or make artwork.)

QG: Your parents are immigrants from Ireland. Have Irish poets, writers and playwrights been an influence on your writing? Have you been to Ireland or are you planning to go there to soak up the literary atmosphere and local color?

BM: I grew up reading Joyce, Yeats, Heaney, Swift, and Kavanagh amongst others, and we would visit Ireland very often when I was young. I always found the language and the cadence of the Irish and Irish-American raconteurs and poets that I’ve read and met along my travels to be extraordinary.

QG: How do you plan to reach out to your former schools to engage students in the work of your gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (Chrystie Street) to build collaboration between your art and culture community and your former schools? Would such outreach be your way of paying your artistic gifts and blessings forward?

BM: I have maintained a solid relationship with people from my former schools. I intend to open that dialogue about those possibilities over the summer, and coordinate a strategy for the next fall semester. Our programs in the galleries are very diverse, as they continue to expand, we wish to engage a much broader audience throughout the city and beyond.

I don’t think it’s just about giving. My formal education, and my education growing up in Queens, and New York City are my foundation. They make me who I am, and I have some worldclass contemporary art to give back to those communities that raised me.

QG: What plans do you have after joining the board of St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy in Ozone Park this fall?

BM: I plan to make connections between our artists and the students, they will know what to do then. Our conversations will shape our future.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian

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