Emerging Artists | Brook Olivares

Family ties

Brooke Olivares, The Orange Mug, oil, 30 x40.

Brooke Olivares, The Orange Mug, oil, 30 x40.

This story was featured in the July 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  July 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Painter Brooke Olivares never tires of portraying the kitchen in her grandmother’s home in the rural Sacramento Valley. It’s the house where her father was raised and where her sister lives today as her grandmother’s caregiver. Olivares periodically travels to California from her home in Sarasota, FL, to visit. “I feel like I could paint that kitchen for the rest of my life,” she says. “It’s a meaningful place where people gather and cook, and the color in there is phenomenal. I keep visiting variations of it. It’s like Andrew Wyeth painting his farm year after year.”

Olivares also portrays her family members and the subtleties that describe everyday life around them, such as portraits of her husband, artist Matteo Caloiaro, in his studio. Her 95-year-old grandmother, Carlotta, is also a recurrent star in these expressive figurative paintings, which usually evolve from small gouache studies she completes during her visits. One subsequent oil garnered first place in the Portrait Society of America’s international portrait competition last year.

Still lifes have also presented opportunities to express her love for family. The artist’s most recent series features nostalgic table settings. Olivares stages each scene under colored lighting to evoke a certain mood, and she composes arrangements of mismatched dishware, patterned tablecloths, vintage kettles, and linens that display varied colors and surfaces. “I’ll go to Goodwill and find different plates and mugs that look like the ones my parents had in my home as a child,” she says. “For me, they act as different characters. You have to convey the gesture behind each object.”

Family recipes and foods show up in her still lifes, too. Brussels sprouts are a reminder of her father, and dishes like tamales represent Olivares’ Mexican heritage. “It’s very important to paint those kinds of scenes right now—that bond with family,” she says. “As an artist, I need to have a reason for why I’m doing what I’m doing.” One profound inspiration for portraying familial themes has been the memory of her father, who passed away last fall. He was a composer and guitarist, and Olivares listens to his music as she paints. “My father’s death has very much affected my work, and I just want to honor him through it,” she says. “That gives me joy.” —Kim Agricola

representation
Brandt-Roberts Galleries, Columbus, OH; Kiley Court Gallery, Provincetown, MA; and Palm Avenue Fine Art, Sarasota, FL.

This story was featured in the July 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  July 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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