Brooks Oliver recently completed a long-term residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. He received his MFA from The Pennsylvania State University, his BFA at Southern Methodist University, and completed his post-baccalaureate studies at Syracuse University. He taught in Jingdezhen, China in 2016 with West Virginia University and regularly teaches workshops in and out of university settings, including at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and the Anderson Ranch. In 2017 he was named an Emerging Artist by the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). He actively exhibits his work and has recently been included in exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kan.; the Lacoste Kean Gallery, Minnetonka Center for the Arts, Wayzata, Minn.; Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, Minn.; Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, Helena, Mont.; the Artstream Nomadic Gallery, Carbondale, Colo., the Dallas Pottery Invitational, Dallas; Penland Gallery, Penland, N.C.; Belger Crane Yard Studios, Kansas City, Mo.; San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, San Angelo, Texas; and Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum, Cullowhee, N.C.
Oliver received his M.F.A. in Studio Art with a ceramics concentration at The Pennsylvania State University in 2014. While there he also taught and acted as the Ceramic Technical Assistant. He received his B.F.A. in Studio Art with ceramics and sculpture concentrations at Southern Methodist University in 2010 and then completed post-baccalaureate studies at Syracuse University in 2012.
"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 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 own work, I use the ceramic vessel to convey my fascinations 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. 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.
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 that is familiar or known to be true and then flips that assumption into something that is the opposite or the 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 in drawn in to closely inspect conflicting dualities of form. I am extremely interested when one’s visually perceived knowledge is contrary to that of known reality. The moment that is created by this disbelief, similar to that of someone seeing a magic trick, is one of childlike amazement. I personally take great joy in offering a viewer this experience.