Charles Brouwer’s life provides the inspiration for his intricate wood sculptures.
“Inspiration is a mystery. Ideas and thoughts occur when I least expect them. I live my life indoors and out — I eat, sleep, read books, interact with family and friends, go places and do things, walk in woods and fields, look up at the sky, sun, moon and stars ... and somehow ideas and art emerge from it,” he says.
Brouwer’s original work was two dimensional — drawings and paintings. But he eventually moved on to three-dimensional work — his wooden sculptures.
“When I began to make three-dimensional things, I used wood because it was familiar to me from my childhood tinkering to the carpenter work I did as a young adult. I like the physical and emotional warmth of wood and the way it keeps me connected to the natural world. Some of the wood I use comes from my own woods and most of the rest comes from the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround me.
“Art making is one of the ways I pay attention to human culture — its past, present and imagined future. Hopefully, we all are trying to figure out how we should live and relate to each other and to the world around us,” he says.
Rebecca Elliot, the juror for “From These Hills: Contemporary Art in the Southern Appalachian Highlands,” chose one of Brouwer’s pieces for the exhibit.
“Ladders are a recurring symbol of humanity’s quest for transcendence in Charlie Brouwer’s wooden sculptures. ‘God Arrived with a Dark Suitcase, And Then Opened It’ suggests that the baggage of this complex world contains the very thing that will transport us beyond it,” she writes about his sculpture.
Brouwer hopes that people who view his artwork find something of their own in the work, rather than trying to decide what he put into it.
“I hope it causes them to ask questions of their own about the nature of beauty, truth and goodness,” he says.
He also welcomes visitors to see the beauty at his studio, “Out There,” which is located at the end of a gravel road in Floyd County, Virginia.
“We invite individuals or groups to come walk the sculpture trail to experience the 30 outdoor sculptures located on it and see what’s going on in the studio. There is no charge — just contact me for an appointment,” he says.
He received a bachelor’s degree in English from Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, a master’s degree in painting and a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Until 2008 he was both an artist and teacher. He taught high school for two years in Australia and for 11 years in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He then spent 21 years as professor of art at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.
Since 2008, he has worked full time making and exhibiting indoor and outdoor sculptures, installations and community engagement/public art projects. His work has been shown in more than 300 exhibitions throughout the United States, and in Australia, Hungary, Poland and South Korea.
Brouwer describes himself as “an artist in search of beauty, truth and goodness.”