When I received an invitation to attend a salute to award-winning British photographer, artist, and sculptor Bran Baxter Symondson at the S Bar at Mandalay Bay, I knew it was going to be a very special night. The setting alone was enough to get me to RSVP an enthusiastic YES! S Bar is always moody, edgy, and glamorous, and it was over the top the evening of October 19th. A sultry lounge singer and dancers draped in gold dresses with jeweled bodices and butterfly wings set the stage for a fabulous showcase of the artist’s work.
Bran Symondson’s career as a photographer, artist, and sculptor had its beginning in his service as a soldier with the British special forces in Afghanistan. The darkness, ugliness, and fear that surrounded him there inspired him to create art that would symbolize peace and love. He has achieved this with the skill of a master.
I was especially moved by his piece “Butterfly Grenade,” a World War II pineapple grenade covered with meticulously cut dollar bills and topped with a delicate green Ulysses butterfly. This so perfectly illustrates the contrast between a deadly man-made weapon and a fragile natural organism. The word “LOVE” is spelled out vertically on the grenade in carefully cut dollar bills, completing the jarring disparity of the piece’s components.
I found another piece, “Spoils of War Draco,” quite intense. It features an AK 47 rifle wrapped in American dollar bills. The laser-cut magazine reveals handmade glass bullets. They’re filled with items that symbolize what humans fight over: land, money, gold, oil, diamonds, cocaine, and poppy seeds. Like each one of Bran’s works, it evokes both despair and hope.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet the artist. He and his (gorgeous!) wife Saturn are engaging and friendly. Bran told me he has a new project in the works and promised it’s just as exciting as the works currently on display. While I’ll respect his request to keep quiet about the details, what I can say is that Bran will be continuing to remind us through his art that nature always wins, humans should forever have hope in their hearts, and love conquers all. I’m certainly going to be following Bran’s career, and am so thrilled that I had the privilege of meeting this gifted and brilliant artist.
Before I sign off, I want to mention that Guillaume Vallet, the City Director of LOUIS XIII, was on hand at the event to toast the artist and share his immense knowledge about the famous cognac. In addition to a hand-crafted Baccarat decanter, Guillaume showed me the crystal glasses designed by Christophe Pillet to expose and enhance the multifaceted characteristics of LOUIS XIII cognac. He pointed out that when you look at the glass from above, the crystal facets create an illusion of a sunflower. Sunflowers are abundant in the Grand Champagne region of Cognac, Guillaume explained. Even more memorable was the symphony of sound we created when we clinked the crystal glasses in a toast. Beautiful music is the perfect accompaniment to beautiful art!