Brooks Oliver – Artist Interview
How would you describe yourself?
I hope they would say I was funny. I think they would most likely say that I was a very passionate and friendly person with an ability to relate to people.
When were you first introduced to ceramics and by whom?
I was first introduced to ceramics in high school by my high school teacher, Raymond Ochs, who I still talk to regularly. Raymond first “gave me the ceramics bug”, but I really discovered my passion for ceramics in college at Southern Methodist University with Peter Beasecker. Peter was the person who gave me the courage to switch my majors from Mechanical Engineering (that I studied for 3 years) to ceramics. I am forever grateful to Peter for giving me the confidence and courage to do that as it changed my life in countless ways.
What are your influences? Who are your mentors?
I am so extremely lucky to have such amazing mentors! They are Peter Beasecker, Shannon Goff, Tom Lauerman, Chris Staley, Liz Quackenbush, and Klein Rieds. My biggest influences are Anish Kapoor and contemporary furniture and accessory designs.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Creativity in my mind is the ability to play, taking risks, and not being afraid to fail.
What kind of creative patterns, routine or rituals do you have?
I am a creature of habit. I rely on my process to guide me and help me play. Chis Staley always used to say that “process saves us from the poverty of our intentions” and I full heartily believe that. I fall into my routine within my studio, and I find comfort in that routine. Once I am comfortable, I start taking risks and start playing – and that’s when the fun starts. I find that this usually happens late at night after a full day. In regards to routines, I only wear sandals in the studio and ALWAYS have music playing in the studio which often leads to dancing as nothing makes me more confident than dancing.
What else are you interested in outside of your studio practice?
Growing up as an amateur magician since adolescence I have always been fascinated by illusions and love when the eye is tricked and the mind is boggled. I have identified three crucial aspects to creating a successful illusion; to make the viewer question their assumptions, to construct a context around how the viewer perceives what is happening, and to generate a moment where belief is suspended. Like a parlor magician in a tuxedo or an illusionist on stage with a bedazzled cape with flashy lights, within my studio work, I set a stage and construct contexts around my forms. While they often tend to lean towards the dressy tuxedo side, my forms are often displayed in ways that provoke further inquiry regarding their performance and the anticipated environments where they are intended to reside.
Please tell us more about your artwork:
I use the universality and familiarity of the ceramic vessel as a means to approach the work, however I frequently attempt to alter the viewer’s preconceived notions of the vessel by disrupting and challenging expected functionality or by creating a conscious function. Just as a magician performing a magic trick, I ask the viewer to reinterpret the familiar and question their assumptions through forms that present multiple inquiries regarding their use. I want the viewer to examine various aspects of the vessel’s utility and question would I use this; when would I use this; how would I use this, and for what occasions? I strive to evoke ideas of functionality in my forms that frequently can be put to multiple uses, with some ambiguity as to which use is preferred. While not meant for everyday use, but rather special presentation and show, many of my works can be used functionally or simply maintain elegance as sculptural works.