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We invited a dear brother of State and R&D LA speaker, Burton Rast, to join us in the studio for our first ever video in a new series called State Talks: a chat with folks who inspire State. 

What’s something that you wish you could tell your 15 year old self?

I would tell the younger me, “Don't be afraid to talk to your peers and even the leaders who you trust about what it is that you're feeling, especially if you're doubting yourself".

What does your black and white palette signify?

I didn't realize at the time that the style that I began working in back in 2016 was evolving in a way that has now come to define me. My work was born out of tremendous loss and emotional hardship. 

So when I'm putting a talk together, I typically just go to Google Photos and scroll back in time to the moment that I'm talking about so I can pull the visuals for that part of the story. And I scrolled back to this moment where I lost someone very dear to me and very unexpectedly. And as I'm scrolling through time, I'm getting kind of nervous because I'm like "oh, here we go". Like I'm going to see that moment. What I wasn't expecting was thatas I'm scrolling past the tragedy, all of the color drains out of my work.

At the time, because I was just processing this sort of crushing emotional loss, I didn't realize that what I was doing was expressing the starkness of my emotional world through my images. And when I realized—that's when everything shifted. Certainly, you can ask anyone who knows me and my work, it was really colorful before that. And as I'm scrolling through, I realize that's the moment where everything changed; and that I've now created a 7 or 8-year body of work born out of emotional hardship and tragedy.

And when I realized that, I just started bawling, inconsolably bawling. For two reasons, really. Number one, because it's shocking to realize how that kind of emotional hardship pervades the whole of our lives and how it shows up in the ways we express ourselves. And number two, the beauty of it—that I lost someone who was so important so important and so meaningful to me, and now our friendship and my love for him will live on forever through the images that I create.

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“"As I'm scrolling past the tragedy, all of the color drains out of my work."”

How would you define your relationship with social media right now?

My relationship with social media right now is realizing that yes, it's the way that we share work and it's how folks can discover you. But now I'm realizing that my job is not to endlessly churn out content for a few thousand followers who I know I will never meet in real life. My job is to recognize that I have a body of work that I'm proud of and that I need to do something with it outside of social media. 

So with that, I'm making a book.

What do you see as your future?

I've gotten quite a lot of wonderful mentorship guidance and assistance throughout my career. So my job is now to pay it forward.

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“"Normal people don't go up on stage and turn an audience of 4000 people into their therapist, right?"”

What’s it like reliving powerful moments in front of a crowd?

It's interesting. So I talk about some of the struggles that I and friends of mine went through when we were younger. I talk about some of the very specific and traumatic moments that I and my dearest friends endured. And some of that stuff that was going on 25, almost 30 years ago, feels like I'm watching a movie rather than reliving something that I went through.

Like, it's so far out of my mind. You know, normal people don't go up on stage and turn an audience of 4000 people into their therapist, right? They go to therapy like a f*cking normal person. So some of it does feel like I'm watching a movie about somebody else, but it's so long ago and I really worked so hard to put it out of my mind and didn't deal with it in the moment, truthfully.

Those are the moments where I realized that I do still need to do this. I know I'm not going to talk about these things forever. I hope that I'm not lecturing about this in 5 to 10 years, but at least right now, I know that I need to keep doing it.