Intuitive collage is how Bricque Garber describes her work. “The world presents itself as it does,” she says.“That just sort of translates into what I put on the canvas.”
The West Tisbury–based artist uses acrylic paint, torn handmade paper, small sections of patterned fabric, and bits with words or images ripped from magazines to create colorful multimedia work in an abstract, or partially abstracted, style. A selection of her newest pieces is currently the focus of the latest show at the Cousen Rose Gallery in Oak Bluffs.
In some of the work, vague outlines of landscapes emerge from a skilled combination of various elements in coordinating color palettes, while birds soar over the scene. Others present as pure abstraction — sort of a crazy quilt of various colors, patterns, and textures.
This is Garber’s second year showing at the Cousen Rose Gallery. Last summer she made her debut there, and given COVID restrictions, she expected an inauspicious start to her relationship with the gallery. Instead, she was pleasantly surprised to see her work all but sell out. “I didn’t expect much,” she says, “but I had a hugely successful summer.”
The pieces that she showed last year were influenced in part by what was going on in the world, and in the country, at that time. “Last year everything was so gray and scary between the pandemic and the election,” she says. “I had all the time in the world to work, and I did almost nothing.” Nothing is a relative word, since Garber did produce a whole body of work for the Cousen Rose show. Although those pieces are moodily beautiful, the colors she used tended to be somewhat subdued, and there is a certain darkness to the pieces. This year, her new work is tending more toward lightness and brightness.
“Around the time that it looked like people were going to be able to go out into the world again, I think I got a second breath,” says Garber. A lot of the new work features birds with their “wings out and heads up,” as she describes them. “We were coming out of this time of darkness. That was the primary inspiration for quite a few of the pieces.” Her current palette tends more toward pastels and brighter hues. There’s a sense of hope and wonder, an optimistic outlook, a re-emergence into the light.
Garber started out as an artist making jewelry in the 1970s, and then switched to black-and-white portrait photography while she was running her own boutique company in the Russian River area of California. She moved to Martha’s Vineyard with her partner of many years, Katherine Triantafillou, in 2009, and started working as administrative assistant for the Edgartown historic district commission, a job she says she absolutely loves. It wasn’t until she started playing around with collage that Garber discovered a way to truly express herself. “This has been my big burst into color,” she says, color being the conduit to emotion and storytelling in her work.
Garber likens her approach to art as a sort of therapy or means of expressing mood and outlook. “I’ve taken art classes in the past,” she says. “I think there’s always some pressure to perform in whatever medium you’re presented with, but collage totally frees you up from that.”
On her website, Garber writes of her process, “I simply go. I think about an issue: a joy, a hurt, a wish. What color is it, and how does it move? How can I tell the story? Then I just go. I want to express my feelings — not a literal thought — and when working on a piece, I have little awareness of where it began.”
Last year Garber decided to share her joy in creating her particular artform with others. She taught a collage workshop at Featherstone. Her advice to her students? “I like to tell them that this can be fun if you don’t overthink it. Just kind of go somewhere. If you don’t like where you went, you can change it.”
A solo show of Bricque Garber’s mixed-media work will hang at the Cousen Rose Gallery throughout July, with a reception on Saturday, July 24, from 6 to 8 pm. On Wednesday, July 28, the gallery will host a meet-the-author event with Priscilla Douglas, author of “Woke Leadership: Profits, Prophets & Purpose.”