“I make things. I show people how to make things. I have an insatiable desire to create, to explore, to understand. I work with my hands. I work with my head.” –Jeffie Brewer
Jeffie Brewer grew up in a small, rural town in East Texas. The son of eccentric junk yard owners, he learned to spot beauty in the mundane, developed an array of industrial skills and discovered he had a knack for drawing. Those early revelations have influenced his artistic trajectory ever since. Recently, I had the pleasure of conducting an interview over email to get to know about the artist behind the Kitties, Bunnies, Robots, Clouds, and Monsters that grace GVG’s sculpture gardens.
Renee – How about your share a formative experience from your early life as an artist.
Jeffie – I grew up in a smallish town in Texas, the son of a junk man. Across the highway from the junkyard was an old gas station. The gas station had candy. On occasion, I could coax money from my dad who was affectionately known as “Crazy Ray,” and make the harrowing journey to the wax lips, chico sticks or whatever other weird 1970’s candy was available.
In this specific summer day memory, Palestine, Texas was as hot, dry and dusty as one can imagine. Being made up of 99% sweet tooth I could hear the siren song of cokes and candies. After procurement of money and blessing to cross highway 79, I embarked on my heroes quest.
As I stared out across the dusty highway dark clouds filled the sky and it started to rain. I could see the line of rain come into view, engulf the station and then stop midway between me and the candy. The rain lasted just a moment and then just stopped leaving a perfect line between me and the store. I was transfixed. Where I was going was washed clean and new, where I stood dusty and unchanged.
I pinpoint this moment as maybe my first aesthetic moment. I was overwhelmed with emotion and wonder, every time I recount this story it gets me. I try to see beauty – it’s my job.
Renee – What is your preferred media and why?
Jeffie – Pastels – I can work fast and intuitively, building a drawing quickly. The drawings are where the sculpture comes from. The drawings are free and joy-filled play. Steel is up there but steel is hard work and we have a love-hate relationship with hard work.
Renee – Describe a typical studio day for you.
Jeffie – Wake, panic. That’s the only constant.
There is no typical, every day is an adventure. I teach so I’m floating back and forth from selfish to selfless all the time. On the non-teaching days, I have the best intentions to hit the studio early and draw a bit, then get my assistant going once he arrives, then on to welding and grinding or bending. If it’s too hot or cold in the afternoon I do computer design, proposals or things like this. On teaching days I sneak in work at school or sometimes draw alongside students. I do half days at the university two days a week so it’s a delicate dance. I think it’s great for my students to see that I’m an active working artist and not just a stuffy academic blowhard. Lead by example.
But as I said there is no typical – it’s an adventure.
Renee – What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
Jeffie – My assistant. If I need someone to grind (the most boring thing all day…) he’s got it. Indispensable.
Renee – How has your practice changed over time?
Jeffie – It’s always in flux. It goes from work to fun back to work in a day. 25 years ago it started as play then morphed into work… all work, so much so I stopped making “art” for a few years. In the past 7-8 years, it has merged into both. In these recent years with commercial success and seeing the public works out in the world mixed with making work that is fun and accessible… redemption.
Renee – What do you listen to when you’re working?
Jeffie – Crippling self-doubt… no. Dogs barking? Grinders? A shuffling mix of the most eclectic music ever. Right now there is a sassy flamenco song playing – I’ll come back when the next song drops… Lionel Richie, Three Times a Lady (wow)- Peaches, Boys Wanna Be Her- something from Rachmaninov (it was long)- Ted Hawkins, Green-eyed Girl – Mike Snow- Merle Haggard, Kendrick Lamar, Adam Green, the Bear Necessities from the Jungle Book… I couldn’t make this up. You get the point. I’m all over the place.
Renee – Name three career milestones that you’ve hit so far.
Jeffie – Commercial success, fame and fortune seem like the right answers but I think I’ve had fun, I’ve led a creative life, and I’ve shared that life through teaching for 20 years. That seems more sincere.
Renee – One more question, what are three artistic goals that you hold yourself to for the future?
Jeffie – Make it bigger, dumber and better as far as the work goes… International, another residency, and more public art.
“We are given a brief amount of time together. As an artist, I consider it a gift to be able to share my vision and experience. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s thoughtful and a lot of the time it’s just silly.” –Jeffie Brewer
Jeff earned an MFA in sculpture and metals and an MA in sculpture and painting from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he currently serves as Assistant Professor of Sculpture.
To read more about GVG’s artists through the GVG Studio Tour Series, click here.
All interviews have been conducted by Renee Lauzon, Gallery Manager at GVG Contemporary. If you have any questions you can email Renee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see more of Jeffie’s work, stop by GVG Contemporary @ 241 Delgado Street in Santa Fe, NM, or visit his online gallery page, by clicking here.