This week’s Studio Sunday feature highlights the work of Canadian artist, Brandi Hofer. With three pieces from her GUS series currently on view with PxP Contemporary, we wanted to learn more about her creative practice, how she tackles creative blocks, and what inspires her work. Behind the bright colors and gestural marks lies a wealth of emotion tied to love, loss, new life, and most importantly, the joys and challenges of motherhood. Learn more about the artist and her work in the interview below!
Brandi Hofer was born in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan in 1986. She studied in Red Deer, Alberta, at Red Deer College from 2004 - 2006 before transferring to the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in Halifax, where she completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2008.
Hofer has worked in several art media including: drawing, printmaking, and painting, with oils, acrylics encaustic, mixed media, and watercolors.
Hofer has long focused on female portraits and has explored themes of feminism, empowerment, the emotional self, and the female psyche. Hofer's work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in France, London, New York, and all across Canada. In 2011, she attended residencies at Red Deer College, Toronto Island, the Marnay Art Centre outside of Paris France, and was part of artist Robin Lambert's project in Montreal, Quebec. She was listed as the online Saatchi Gallery’s “Artist to Watch” feature on their website. Most recently her work appeared on HGTV’s House of Bryan, Bryan Inc, and has been published in The World of Interiors Magazine and a General Motors commercial.
Her show "Gus", based on parenthood, for 2018 traveled to Red Deer at the Harris-Warke Gallery, Lloydminster with through The Collective Art Market, and the Rouge Gallery in Saskatoon.
Brandi Hofer's studio where she works and creates is located in Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada.
When did you first become interested in art?
Art or being an artist and creative has always been a part of me. From a very young age, I was interested in all forms of art, particularly painting and drawing. Every book in our home had an original drawing on its pages. My parents were always very encouraging and open to my interests, they never pushed or questioned, they were just supportive of whatever interest my siblings and I had. If I received a gift from someone, it was always related to the arts. I remember breaking a wishbone on Thanksgiving when I was about 4, and I wished aloud for a pack of markers, that week in the mailbox the “wishbone” delivered. I was very fortunate, in the regard that I had a support system, encouragement, love, and the space to experiment, explore and create.
Around my second year in the visual arts program, something began to shift, and I made a conscious decision to actively pursue the avenue of becoming a professional visual artist. I had no idea what being an artist and running an art studio or what it meant to run a self-employed business actually entailed. I just knew that I was passionate about creating, it made me happy, it was fulfilling, and I would do anything to be able to do it every day.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your work and what your creative process is like.
Nothing can prepare you for parenthood, being a parent is one of the most difficult and challenging endeavors in one's life, however, I have no doubt it is the most meaningful. As an artist, I am influenced and inspired by my everyday environment. In this new series of artworks, I aim to highlight and capture the beauty of being a parent, (from what I've experienced) as the richest time in my life. This series aims to speak about my triumphs and struggles as a mother. It deals with the ideals of motherhood, its morals, and its priorities. It is an exciting series that revels in a mother’s time with her child.
I would like to begin by establishing that I rarely like to bring up or to discuss the subject matter of losing my mother in 2014, being that it is emotionally painful. I lost my mother, my beacon of wisdom and love, my sense of home. After a brief fight with lung cancer, my mom passed, I was six months pregnant at the time with my first child. I found her death to be beyond life-shattering. Devastatingly I lost my “home”, the constant in my life. Though her values and way of life are entrenched in my every day, I still long for the sound of her voice and cling to the dream of her meeting her grandchildren. Her meeting them for even a minute, to see how amazing, beautiful, and smart they are, those thoughts are the most heart wrenching for me. There is no doubt in my mind that my son Gus and my husband Carly saved my sanity in those trying months following her death. Gus was my focus, and Carly was my strength. I learned in that trying time that a mother’s love for a child is an insurmountable love, and I now know how much my mother loved me.
That experience and shock of death awoke something in me. I had a new thirst for life. Nothing scared me anymore. Nothing could be more painful than losing my mother. You will not get the things you want in this life by not taking a chance in the first place.
“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Since the passing of my mother, my life has kicked into high gear. Time is our most precious commodity and should be spent on the things that matter most: family, love, and one’s passions. Moments are fickle and fleeting; I have endeavored to make the most of mine. I refuse to lock myself away in my studio alone and not include my children in my passion for the arts. I want to show them the beauty of mark-making, dancing, and expressing yourself with a brushstroke or a splash of paint. I want to teach them that it’s ok to make a mess, “YES Gus you can step in the paint, squish it between your hands, and no Finn, you can’t eat it”! My 2-year-old son Gus and I had the most amazing time together painting this series; I hope the unique artwork can even scratch the surface of the significance of our time together.
The paintings consist of a series of portraits. The intention of the work is to project strength, integrity, love and the struggle of what it takes to be a parent. This series is a celebration of motherhood, parenthood and the sheer innocence of being playful. The mindset and mood of the artwork is to project the incorruptible freedom of a child’s open cognizance, and zest for living life in the moment.
What do you hope your viewers take away from seeing your art?
My aim and hope are that the viewer can connect in some way, get a feel for the artwork, and grasp not necessarily the exact meaning that I have intended while creating, but to have their own associations and perceptions. Moreover, the viewer can feel the passion and emotion behind the imagery, figure, portrait, and forms in the artwork.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?
I do think about this from time to time. I have a few “wishes”, like utilizing social media a few years ahead, in a more effective manner for business purposes, I could have built a wider audience had I been more focused or aware of its effectiveness earlier on. I also wish I had applied myself as hard as I do today, and made a point of being in the studio, including it as a part of my daily routine, like I do presently. I have always been very prolific, but I think could have had more of a vision and focus for my practice. I still would not change a thing about how my life or my creative process, or the way my art business has evolved into what it is today. There are important lessons to be learned in the way that life falls into place. I feel like changing anything would possibly affect the outcome of where I am now, I am happy and grateful for the life that I have presently, and in the end, I guess I wouldn’t take my future self’s advice.
How do you overcome creative blocks?
I believe in working through creative blocks. As long as you are in your studio creating, there is a lesson to be learned or ideas to explore. You are never going to get ahead if you can’t take the first step of being present in your practice. I also believe in rest. You cannot master your active life if you cannot master your resting life. Living a balanced life helps my practice immensely: getting a proper night’s sleep, taking naps, reading, eating well, spending time with loved ones, meditating, and exercising. Because when I finally get that time in the studio it feels like an honor and a special treat. How many people can say they do what we do as artists? I am always grateful for the ability of simply being an artist, creating something out of nothing, and creative blocks are just an organic part of the process.
Do you have any big collaborations, projects, exhibitions, etc going on during the rest of the year that you'd like to share?
The most recent show that I am involved in is with PXP Contemporary for their “Faces & Figures” show. My work from the “MINE” series is soon to be available in an upcoming publication titled, “FEMME Issue II”. My “MINE” series (from 2018/19) has found homes in several galleries. I just had my third child recently, and I am taking a month or two to rest. I will continue working on my ongoing commissioned work, as well as my personal in-progress series. The focus of my new series is based on heritage, lineage, and imagery from found photos from the past, this series will be opening at the Assiniboia Gallery in 2021. I also was recently featured in an episode for a documentary series “Making it in Saskatchewan” which aired in June. The “GUS – artwork created by Mother & Son” series just finished its tour. The series was a 44-piece show and interactive installation, travelled to 3 Galleries across Canada, in 2017/18.
By Alicia Puig