LONG BEACH, CA – Playful and award-winning artist Brent Estabrook’s Creature Comforts exhibit is now on display at the Long Beach Museum of Art from October 23rd through February 12th. An opening reception took place on October 22nd from 7:00pm to 9:00pm to celebrate Estabrook’s new exhibition, 37, along with Tony Marsh’s collection of ceramic sculptures The Shining Land.
“Creature Comforts” is Estabrook’s first museum show and highlights typical elements of his landmark works, such as child imagery, as seen in paintings of piles of bright and multi-colored stuffed animals, alongside new works. Although he has a knack for creating clear images in his paintings, most of the time spent constructing his works involves finding the perfect colors.
“I tell people I spend 80 percent of the time mixing colors and 20 percent of the time painting,” Estabrook said. “I’m a big colorist if you will, so I love oil paint because there are so many beautiful colors.”
The exhibition also includes three sculptures. They are shaped with oil clay, turned into molds and then transformed into bronze. Two feature his four-and-a-half-foot and one-foot Teddy Bear Smile. The other sculpture is titled “Unican,” a shiny unicorn with abundant textures, another aspect that Estabrook’s work is known for.
Estabrook remembers being a “crafty kid” growing up and later earned a bachelor’s degree but decided to attend dental school. His artistic drive still continued throughout his dental school studies. When he graduated, he had to make a decision – art or dentistry? The choice he made is quite clear.
He has what he calls a “sentimental history” with the Long Beach Museum of Art. In 2012, the museum gave him a chance. Estabrook recalls creating his first gallery-worthy work, which was shown at the Long Beach Museum of Art. They decided to show his work at a charity auction and it sold for far more money than he imagined any of his paintings could sell for. That moment showed him he could have an artistic career that began in Long Beach and returned in the form of “Creature Comforts.”
He likes to experiment with different styles and still has many drawings of skulls that he was inspired to paint while in dental school. He noted that the dental faculty makes students experts in head and neck anatomy, so they send students home with a skull. It became his muse.
Since then, his style has evolved, which is evident in his more recent works, which he calls “quilts.”
For Estabrook, his artistic and personal progress are one and the same.
“Unlocking the feeling of love for me made me just appreciate, be grateful and love everything I do more and more,” he said.
Estabrook embraced the new feeling of loving everything he did, something he infused into his new exhibit. His growth has been aided by his fiancée, Tara, who he calls his “secret weapon.”
“I knew I was on to something when I could get a 3-year-old and a 90-year-old to pay attention, actually stop and look at my work,” he said. “When I saw it, I realized I had the childish spirit in it and I could see it bringing the childlike spirit back to a lot of adults who were watching it… They weren’t worried about all the emails they had to check and all this and that and the stresses in life. You can tell they were in the moment and a lot of them will say it reminded them of childhood, you know, some people just say it makes them happy.
Estabrook exudes positivity. He admired impressionist painters such as Monet and Van Gogh for the beauty and active element of their work. Estabrook notes that Monet’s paintings do not contain any political message, but instead simply a pleasant sight.
“I hope my work is easy to understand,” Estabrook said. “I don’t want people to get confused or I want them to enjoy them however they want and if they want to enjoy them just for the aesthetic beauty, fine by me.”
He hopes that his bright and youthful work will ignite positivity in those who interact with his art and inspire people to start creating themselves, especially children. Estabrook believed that the psyche of children was special because they were not influenced by society. He resonated with Picasso’s quote, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Above all, Estabrook just wants others to follow their dreams and listen to their passions like he did.
“It’s rare for me to be really excited in a museum,” he said. “There’s great artwork out there, but there’s still a lot of, for lack of a better term, that, I feel like there’s a lot of boring art out there. And I want to create a show where when someone goes, they go home and go to their friend and say, “Hey, you should go check this out. Like, you have to go see it in person. I hope the families that go go tell other family friends, like, “Hey, go there and make sure you take the kids.” Because I know the kids are going to love it. The kids will go crazy there, which I really like. I think about my niece and nephew… They’ve seen my work, but they’ve never been to my art studio down here, and they’ll see it for the first time at the museum. Their heads will explode. I can not wait.”
Estabrook is excited about his “Creature Comforts” exhibit, which will be presented at the Long Beach Museum of Art. He is especially excited to have a space to really showcase his large works and turn them into a real experience.
“Come in, attend and enjoy,” he said. “I like that people are taking pictures of it, but I would recommend leaving your phone in the car.”
By Laila Freeman