Artist Wayne Brezinka Hopes Cobain Portraits Sparks Talk About Substance Abuse, Stigmas

The pandemic has brought renewed focus on mental health and substance abuse. Two friends are talking about these issues and taking on the stigmas involved.

“I gather. I collect. Then, I assemble,” said artist Wayne Brezinka, tearing pieces of newspaper and furiously painting over them. “It’s a storytelling process that has a lot of depth.”

Artist hopes portrait of Kurt Cobain sparks conversations about substance abuse, stigmas

The pandemic has brought a new focus to mental health and substance abuse. Two friends talk about these issues and take on the stigma involved.

“I get together. I get together. Then I get together,” said artist Wayne Brezinka, tearing pieces of the newspaper and fiercely painting on them. “This is a very deep storytelling process.”

Brezinka’s art begins with a workbench and ends with a portrait made of tangible items. Take a portrait of his Fred Rogers. “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” archives such as crayons, cassette tapes and sweaters. All items help tell a person’s story.

“Mr. Rogers’ essence is kindness and love,” Brezinka said.

“Ben Franklin has a wire in his hair as an inventor,” he continued, moving towards another portrait. “There are pieces of money, real money. There are pages of books, etc. Thinkers! I am fascinated by success. I am generally fascinated by humans.”

Ultimately, Brezinka wants to be inspired and encouraged by what he does. That part is what he has in common with his friend Casey Hyatt. The way Hyatt reaches people is to share his story through his voice.

“I grew up in a world where chronic substance abuse is very common, but I never thought it was dysfunctional,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt substance and alcohol abuse began shortly after their youngest childhood. He was only 11 years old.

“I didn’t graduate from high school,” he said. “I dropped out early. I chose to use more than everything.”

He was 19 when his mother refused to release him on bail.

“I was faced with felony possession and theft, which was when I entered the store and stole alcohol,” Hyatt recalled. “I had to sit in jail.”

It was a step towards recovery and who he is now, helping people with mental health and substance abuse disorders in Nashville, Cumberland Heights, Tennessee. Hyatt talks to people as coordinator of extended care management.

“It’s about learning how to live cleanly, learning how to live calmly, and learning how to live happily,” Hyatt said.

Helping people on that journey was also what Brezinka wanted to do when he chose someone to cover his latest portraits.

Brezinka met Hyatt at Cumberland Heights and presented a completed portrait of Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Band Nirvana.

“I’m interested in Kurt Cobain, and if he gets help, and if he’s seen, where is he today,” Brezinka said. “He kept his medicine in Tom Moore’s cigar box. The person in the cart is sitting in the box. To me, it tells a bigger story, not just him, but all of us. There’s a public side we draw and a private side that people don’t want to see. What did he struggle with in the company when he was young? “

Two good friends believe that they can reach people who are struggling in so many ways. Maybe it’s through a powerful work of art. Maybe it’s through a deep and personal story. Maybe it’s completely different.

“I don’t think you need to have some solid message to be able to help people,” Hyatt said. “The more I talk, the less stigma. I found the motivation for the recovery I needed. It changed my life forever.”