You’ve created a lot of outdoor art. Is public art important to you?
MB: I’ve been told that I have the largest amount of public art in Orange County — and that surprised me. I do like the idea of the public engaging with my art, whether it’s a bench, a chair, a structure or even a mural that people use as a photo backdrop. Take the step risers down to Brooks Street Beach in Laguna that I built. They hug you, and welcome you, because they’re useful, practical, colorful. People feel comfortable there. They come solo or in groups and especially crowd in during the annual Brooks Street surf contest. The art is a reflection of the real world.
You’ve shown great interest in California art history. Does that show up in your work?
MB: Southern California is home to a lot of architectural tile art, like Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in L.A., which he worked on for 30-plus years, then deeded to his neighbor and walked away from. I’ve also been fascinated by a collection of old tiles featuring parrots that you can still see around Catalina Island. Even the fragments are beautiful. I’ve received three National Endowment for the Arts grants, and the first of them allowed me to conduct a survey of the old ceramics factories in Los Angeles dating from the 1920s. I was so inspired by the pre- and postindustrial tile work that my pieces started to take on that same “arts and crafts” spirit, both in terms of my process and my style.