Brooks is facing forward and smiling. He has brown curly hair and wears glasses and a blue plaid shirt

Brooks Oliver

Assistant Professor, Studio Art: Ceramics
Department of Studio Art

UNT Art Annex, Room 145

Website: Brooks Oliver



Brooks Oliver recently completed a long-term residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Mont. He received an M.F.A. in 2014 from Pennsylvania State University and a B.F.A. in 2010 at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. He completed his post-baccalaureate studies in 2012 at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. Oliver also taught and acted as the Ceramics Technical Assistant at Penn State. He taught in Jingdezhen, China, in 2016 with West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, and regularly teaches workshops in and out of university settings, including at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine, and the Anderson Ranch Art Center, Snowmass Village, Colorado.

In 2017, he was named an Emerging Artist by the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts. He actively exhibits his work and has recently been included in exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kansas; the Lacoste Kean Gallery, Minnetonka Center for the Arts, Wayzata, Minnesota; Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, Minn.; Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts; the Artstream Nomadic Gallery, Carbondale, Colorado, the Dallas Pottery Invitational, Dallas; Penland Gallery, Penland, North Carolina; Belger Crane Yard Studios, Kansas City, Missouri; San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, San Angelo, Texas; and Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum, Cullowhee, North Carolina.

Artist Statement

"Perhaps what one wants to say is learned in their childhood, and we just spend the rest of our lives figuring out how to say it.” - Barbara Hepworth

"Growing up as an amateur magician since adolescence, I have always been fascinated by illusions and love, especially 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. Within my work, I use the ceramic vessel to convey my fascination with these three aspects of an illusion.

"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. 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 for special presentations and shows, many of my works can be used functionally or maintain elegance as sculptural works.

"Like a parlor magician in a tuxedo or an illusionist on stage with a bedazzled cape with flashy lights, 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.

"Partially influenced by my two years of undergraduate training in engineering, my work tends to incorporate elements of engineering and math through tight, minimalist forms revolving around simple geometries.

"As with any good magic trick, one takes something familiar or known to be true and then flips that assumption into something opposite or unfamiliar. With this in mind, I create elements of illusion in the forms, surfaces, and materials I use. Similarly, I strive to create illusions of form involving aspects of apparent movement, defiance of gravity, or elements of balance where the viewer is drawn in to inspect conflicting dualities of form closely. I am extremely interested when one’s visually perceived knowledge contradicts known reality. The moment created by this disbelief, similar to that of someone seeing a magic trick, is one of childlike amazement. I take great joy in offering a viewer this experience."

Work by Brooks Oliver 

Archie Bray Foundation
Radius Gallery
Dallas Pottery Invitational
The Rosenfield Ceramics Collection
RO2 Art

More about Brooks Oliver

2021 Award: Honorable mention for a piece titled “Zipper” in the 12th International Ceramics Competition Mino, Ceramics Park Mino Museum, Tajimi, Japan
2021 Appointment: the newest member of the Board of Directors of the Archie Bray Foundation
2017 Named an “Emerging Artist” by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts
2014-2016 Long-Term Residency and Wingate Fellow: Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
2014-present Founding member and organizer of annual The Dallas Pottery Invitational

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