Visiting the website of SFA artist and educator Jeffery Brewer ’98 & ’00 takes viewers on a whimsical adventure that barely touches the tip of the iceberg of his playful (and somewhat mischievous) imagination and brilliant talent.
“We are given a brief amount of time together,” he writes on his home page. “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.”
He is married to Angie, whom he credits with saving him from “impending doom.” Brewer goes on to explain that his interests include “teaching, golf, dogs, plants, the letter z, singularity, a 10-foot putt, fresh figs, harmony, understanding, tulips, the tango, cut grass, the color teal, clouds, rust stains on concrete, small violent birds, the realization of exactly how fast time goes by, the number 7, ‘politricks,’ cows, short walks, good stories, using the word ‘sans’ and lying in the sun.”
… yea, that’s Jeffie.
And if you’ve driven through Boerne, Texas, and seen the giant purple bull sculpture sitting in front of the Boerne water tower on Highway 46, or visited the University of Mississippi Museum in Oxford, Mississippi, and encountered a large orange fox out front, or strolled along Poydras Street in New Orleans and came upon a big pink bunny … that’s Jeffie, too.
Assistant professor of sculpture and 3-D design in the School of Art, Brewer works in two- and three-dimensional art — his favorite medium: pastels. “I can work fast and intuitively, quickly building a drawing,” he said.
From the drawings come the colorful and massive steel sculptures. “The drawings are free and joy-filled play,” he said. “Steel is up there, but steel is hard work, and we have a love-hate relationship with hard work.”
Brewer earned a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture and metals and a Master of Arts in sculpture and painting from SFA, and he also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing, printmaking and jewelry making. He has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate-level art classes, from sculpture to typography to expressive drawing.
Brewer was the owner of Gorilla Graphics, a graphic design and sign production company, from 1994 to 1996, and he was an illustrator/designer for the Nacogdoches advertising firm Point A Media Inc., working alongside his wife, from 1999 to 2010. In addition to his teaching career, Brewer is the founder and president of Orange Cat Inc., a design and fabrication company, which he opened in 2002. He also designed, fabricated and built his own home north of Nacogdoches.
Since his first exhibition in 1998, his work has appeared in both solo and group shows across America, Canada, Europe, Mexico and Asia. He has works in public and private collections throughout the U.S.
Describing himself as “the son of eccentric junkyard owners,” Jeffie, as friends know him, grew up in a small, rural East Texas town where he learned as a child to “spot beauty in the mundane.” He developed a variety of industrial skills and discovered he had a knack for drawing — early revelations he said influenced his artistic trajectory.
“I’ve always been an artist … never thought I would be anything else,” he said. “I’ve been making art from the start and will probably go out doing it.”
When asked to describe his art and its influences, Brewer referenced his artist statement:
"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."
“My work’s intention is to provide just enough information, allowing for a narrative without delving into total non-representationalism,” Brewer states. “Leaving room for interpretation, as well as a little mystery, I hope, adds to the viewing experience. My work in graphic design and general fascination with pop culture are heavy influences.”
He further explains those influences change daily.
“I’ll hear a song, see a bird, eat a taco, see a flash of color, read a book, hear the news or have a great conversation with an old friend — anything really,” he said. “I think it’s the artist’s job to filter the minutiae of the day-to-day and present it back to the world in a way that’s more beautiful, painful, poignant, thoughtful and just clearer or more honest.”
Brewer has public projects scheduled through 2019, and the work he supplies galleries continues to attract buyers.
“I love what I’m doing, and I guess people do, too,” he said. “I have a very specific skill set and a love for art that borders on neurotic. I love the expressive spirit, creativity and beauty, and I love when others understand it the way I do. It’s a journey as a human to get to that point, and I try to guide people there by my work, actions and passion for art.
“I have had some amazing mentors through the years; some shared information and confidence, and others shared criticism and conflict. I don’t like to call myself a teacher; I just want the world to have better art.”
He describes each day as an adventure.
“I teach, so I’m floating back and forth all the time,” he said. “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 or proposals. 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.”
In summing up his career thus far, Brewer said commercial success, fame and fortune “seem like the right answers.” But more than that, he’s had fun.
“I’ve led a creative life, and I’ve shared that life through teaching for 20 years. That seems more sincere.”
When recently asked to share a formative experience before one of his shows opened in a Santa Fe gallery, Brewer related the following:
“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 I’d make the harrowing journey across the highway to the wax lips, Chick-O-Sticks or whatever weird 1970s candy was available.
“In this specific summer-day memory, Palestine, Texas, was as hot, dry and dusty as one can imagine. Comprising 99-percent sweet tooth, I could hear the siren song of Cokes and candies. After procuring money and a blessing to cross Highway 155, I embarked on my quest.
“As I stared 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 the store and me. 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 experience,” he said. “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.”