Kathleen Bryson (born December 6, 1968) is a novelist, painter, actor and filmmaker.
She was born in Barrow, Alaska, United States, the first child of parents of Irish, English, French, Scottish and German heritage. Bryson spent the first two years of her life in the Arctic village of Wainwright, and when she was nearly four, her family moved to Kenai, where they lived until Kathleen was 18. She studied as an exchange student in Sweden, which enabled her to excavate a Viking grave. She also studied in California for four months and at the University of Alaska. In 1991, Bryson left Sweden and moved to Seattle, Washington. She graduated with BA degrees in Anthropology and Swedish from UW and was a co-recipient of the Peterson Family Scholarship for Outstanding Swedish Student of the Year.
She arrived in London in September 1994 to attend postgraduate drama school at the London Academy of Performing Arts. She completed her MA in Independent Film and Video at the London College of Printing in 1998. It was also in London that she met her long-term girlfriend with whom she currently lives in Oregon.
From 1998 to 2004, Bryson worked first as a commissioning editor of erotica at Virgin Publishing. Several months after the Millivres Prowler Group published her novel Mush in early 2001, she asked them for freelance proofreading work, and eventually became an in-house editor there as well. While at Millivres, she took the opportunity to edit literary fiction instead of erotica and eventually became publisher of the entire books department. In 2004 she travelled to the BookExpo in Chicago to receive the Lambda Award for Best Independent Press of the Year.
Bryson's short story "Perdichio's Hat" (published in Sedition Magazine, October 2006) details her early grunge years and the many layers of radical political movements and sexual fluidity among her friends.
Her short story "The Day I Ate My Passport", published 2000 in the Lambda Award-winning collection The Diva Book of Short Stories, touches on her experiences of injustice at the hands of the British immigration system.
It was while "trapped" in Britain that Bryson wrote her first novel Mush, which details a menage-a-trois between three Alaskan women and focuses heavily on the Alaskan environment's wilderness, scents, sounds. The description of the fictional town "Little Novgorod" is very similar to Bryson's hometown of Kenai. Mush received glowing reviews from literary journals such as Mslexia and from the wider gay press, but because it was pigeonholed as a "lesbian" book, it was not reviewed in either the British or the U.S. mainstream press.
From early 2000 to late 2003, Bryson was at work on her second novel, Girl on a Stick. She also wrote a shorter novel at around the same time, the Douglas Adamsesque He's Lucid (like her first novel Mush, set in Alaska, although far in the future in a landscape devastated by global warming). She was offered a two-book deal for these works in early 2005 by the publishing house Suspect Thoughts Press. Girl on a Stick will be published in June 2007, while He's Lucid is expected publication date to be in 2007 or 2008. She finished her fairy tale-based novel The Matchbox in 2006.
Bryson is represented by Laura Morris of the Laura Morris Agency.
In 1993 and 1994, her first solo art exhibitions took place on Capitol Hill: "The Bumblebee Standard/Unnamed", "Doing Time as a Marionette" and "Heaven" (described by the Capitol Hill Times as "Heavenly"). During the same time period, she was a founding member of Thommy Goes Down, "the laziest Riot Grrl band in history), a group which never played a single gig but instead sat around drinking countless beer pitchers at Seattle Comet Tavern and writing third-wave feminist song lyrics on abortion rights and other subjects.
Bryson used her enforced exile in Britain to produce two solo art exhibitions in 1997 and 1998: "Monsters & Monsters" at First Out in Soho and "The Hyperbled Heart" at the Oval House. In late 2002, Claire Waxler produced Bryson's first solo art exhibition in four years: "Strange", which was up for only one night at Trafik in Hoxton, East London, but which sold three major paintings. In August 2003, Bryson's retrospective exhibition "Wilderness", produced by Ms. Raj Rai, took place at Prowler King's Cross in North London. Press praise came from Diva Magazine (“All things Bryson beautiful... Kathleen Bryson’s richly textured mixed-media artwork is beautiful, unsettling and weird. A strange, tusked hermaphrodite cruises for sex amidst the tangled greenery of Nunhead Cemetery. In the other-worldly light of an icy forest, a gleaming cyborg sprawls beneath drifting snowflakes…”) and Urban 75 (“Glamorous gorgons and beautiful banshees dazzle and dance their way into your subconscious at Kathleen Bryson’s stunning art show at the Prowler Gallery, King’s X. Imagine the shamanic majesty of Norwegian spiritualist painter Frans Widerberg crossed with the punk energy of Iggy and the Stooges and you won’t even be halfway there. In a culture dominated by the tyranny of the bland, miss this vibrant and heart-warming display at the peril of your own beleaguered imagination.”).
In June 2005, Bryson's eighth solo exhibition took place in Corvallis, Oregon at Interzone. It received positive reviews from the Eugene Weekly ("Magical Art, Ghostly Magic: Bryson paints richly textured, multilayered images that whisper ‘Magic is real.’ She explores other realms of existence that leave the viewer with the somewhat unsettling, slightly euphoric feeling that comes from believing, if only for a second, that realities beyond what we can see or feel do actually exist. Her paintings imply as much as they leave out, the way the absence of noise can tell you something’s wrong." and The Daily Barometer (“I have a feeling Kathleen Bryson would have been comfortable throwing back a bottle of wine with the Brothers Grimm in a secluded cabin in the middle of an enchanted forest. At first glance, her rich colored, textured paintings appear to be merely picturesque landscapes. However, looking deeper into ‘Stravinsky's Bird & Schroedinger's Cat’, you see the imaginary pets of a musical virtuoso and Nobel Prize-winning mathematician frolicking amidst tangled vegetation, illuminated flowers and smears of night sky. Stravinsky's bird presides menacingly over a nest of what look like Russian nesting-egg dolls, while Schroedinger's cat leans back, ready to leap into the night sky. You can almost imagine this scene on the tattered pages of a leather bound anthology of creepy children's stories, shoved on a darkened shelf in an obscure used bookstore. You can see this sense of danger and wonder in her landscapes, tranquil and beautiful but with something inherently sinister beneath the surface... Sadly, newspaper print can't convey the amazing amount of detail in Kathleen Bryson's paintings. Plus, it's always cooler to see a masterpiece in person.")
Acting and film-makingEdit
Bryson's short film (3min, 46 sec) about the independent fast-food chicken restaurants of London, Kentucky Fried World, was accepted and screened at the 2005 Ladyfest Olympia Film Festival. She has recently completed another short film called Dentist of the Vagina Dentatas (2007, 4 min 22 sec).
In early 2002, Bryson wrote the screenplay for the feature film The Viva Voce Virus, which she co-directed with Finnish director Kimmo Moykky. Pre-production was from 2002 to early 2004. In the spring of 2004, Bryson and Moykky entered production for The Viva Voce Virus, and the production period officially ended June 2005.
Post-production for The Viva Voce Virus began in February 2005 and is anticipated to finish in mid 2007, at which time the film will be submitted for various arthouse, independent and gay film festivals.
Bryson acted under the name Kiirik Bryson for several years, though she now uses just "Kathleen Bryson". Kiirik is an Inupiaq name which was given to her shortly after birth in Wainwright, Alaska. Recent screenings of her lead roles in acting work have been in the films I Want to be a Secretary (dir. Sarah Wood, Winner: Best Film, Halloween Short Film Festival 2007), Surrender (dir. Sarah Wood), a dreamy and Sherman-esque experimental short screened at London's National Film Theatre and in a number of festivals. She also played Diana Dors in I am Diana Dors (dir. Ali Smith), screened at the Cambridge International Film Festival, 2004. All three were produced by Woo Hoo Productions.
Bryson has also done some part-time modeling, and had appeared both in Rankin's SNOG art exhibition in Brick Lane, London 2000 and in his Snog book as well. Bryson also appeared in the book Red Threads (Parminder Sekhon, photographer) as a gangster moll, on a book cover for Ice Queen, Virgin Publishing in 2000 (Parminder Sekhon, photographer), in a 2001 feature article for The Observer's LIFE Magazine photographed by John Stoddart in 2001, and ongoing as the "Face of Diva Magazine 2004" in a series of subscriptions ads for Diva Magazine in 2004 (Venetia Elphick, photographer).
Politics and activismEdit
Controversially, Bryson, who describes herself as bisexual (except for what she jokingly referred to as her "3-month lesbian separatist period" in the fall of 1994), has been clear in several interviews that she does not consider either heterosexuality or homosexuality to have a genetic basis, but rather considers them to be the result of many social and environmental factors. From a 2002 interview with Rainbow Network: "People often forget that "gayness" and "heterosexuality" are new concepts, less than a hundred and fifty years old... "Straight" and "gay" and "bisexual" are all social constructions anyway, but until the world is more comfortable with same-sex desire I'll be calling myself bisexual, as that word comes the closest to describing my own personal make-up."
In another interview from the same time, she said, "I choose to be queer, and I'm proud of my choice. I'm sick of gay people saying 'it's not my fault', like being queer is something to be ashamed of." More radically, she suggested the following: "I truly believe that all people are born with bisexual potential, and I feel strongly that the onus should now be on "heterosexuals" to come out, as queer people have already done enough hard work questioning sexual mores."
In London, Bryson was a member of the direct-action pressure group Lesbian Avengers, where she met her long term girlfriend. Together they fought to have the British immigration system recognise their relationship so that Bryson could get a visa to stay in the country. The case was to drag out 5 years, and Bryson was only allowed to travel freely in the summer of 1999. She has said that she will never forgive the UK Immigration Service for not allowing her to visit her California-based dying grandfather in 1998 (Pink Paper Interview, 2003).
Bryson is on record in 2004 for having said that she's truly fallen in love twice: once with a man and once with a woman (Diva Magazine, 2004). She describes herself as a serial monogamist.