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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Joe Brubaker

Joe Brubaker was born in Lebanon, Missouri in 1948.  Ten years later Joe's family moved to Southern


Joe received his B.A. from Sacramento State University, then attended U.C.L.A. where he earned his M.A. in 

1978, followed by an M.F.A. in 1980.   From 1980 through 1988 he lectured in Art and Design at U.C.L.A., as 

well as at Long Beach State from 1982 to 1984.

In 1987 Joe moved with his wife and two children to the San Francisco Bay Area, settling in San Anselmo.  

He continued to teach as an Art and Design lecturer at both San Francisco State from 1989 to 1994, and 

Academy of Art College from 1989 to 1997.

Brubaker retired from teaching in 1997 to begin full time work on his own sculpture.  

Brubaker's works are primarily made from wood, bronze, steel and found objects.   Though he prefers Alaskan 

Yellow, and Port Orford Cedar, he chooses from a wide variety of both milled and reclaimed woods, including 

Redwood, Basswood, White Pine, Avocado, Monterey Cypress, and Douglas Fir.    

The sculptures Joe produces have an incredible range in size; from figurines, only 8 to 10 inches tall, to 

massive forms as large as 14 feet.  The bulk of Joe's work however, lies in the more manageable range, from 

16 inch tall busts to 4 and 5 foot tall figures.  Though known mainly for his sculptures, he regularly 

paints, draws and writes poetry.  Joe currently works from his studio in San Rafael California.   

"I make art to renew myself, to experience the vitality of creative flow. I also feel that the individual 

creative process generates a 'halo' effect that is more significant than the individual creative act. 

I chose wood sculpture in order to invent myself as an artist, to rewrite my previous history as a painter. 

An extended trip through Mexico in my early twenties influenced me profoundly. In every dusty village I 

encountered, there was a town square bounded by a church. I was deeply moved by the religious figures, 

Santos woodcarvings, and plasterworks I found in the interiors of these churches. This experience remains 

with me years later, and has always pushed me toward figurative wood sculpture. 

Most of my figures are totemic, that is, very quiet and subtle of gesture. I have found that more extreme 

body positions in the figures do not work for me. I believe this might be because "quietly gestured" 

figures invite meditation. Also, a standing, quiet figure exudes grace, and very small adjustments in the 

head tilt, or arm location, or leg position, affect the attitude of the piece a great deal, and create an 

implied narrative. 

I have experimented with scale, and have carved everything from 8-foot tall figures, to 1-foot tall 

figures. I've found that the large works are experienced viscerally, and the smaller works are experienced 

in a more abstract, yet focused manner. 

Figurative sculpture, and I believe especially wooden carved sculpture, links to a vast art making 

tradition throughout the world. In this sense, the medium is highly charged and potent with many 

associations in history, from Santos carvings, to Egyptian funerary miniatures, to voodoo figures. I find 

that this history, if not abused too literally, provides a deep thematic background coloration for my work. 

Carving wooden figures is necessarily an "action" art, and I think the presence of the hand on the work is 

one of the highly appealing characteristics of woodwork. I also feel that wood, even painted or with 

patina, has a warmth and depth that few other art mediums can match. 

In the gallery, I want my pieces to work as individuals, each with an implied narrative, but also try to 

show the work as an installation, so that the individual pieces make a collective statement. "

  -Joe Brubaker 

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