Artistic couple opens home gallery in Wesley Chapel

Upon entering the front door, various colors seem to emanate from all directions.

The living room and dining room walls are covered with diverse paintings.

The tables are decked with sculptures of different shapes and proportions.

Bernard and Gwendolyn Brooks have opened their Wesley Chapel home to the public as an art gallery. (Brian Fernandes)

More artworks can be found in the bedrooms, too.

This is the Wesley Chapel home of Bernard and Gwendolyn Brooks, who moved to the area a year ago from Washington D.C., to live closer to their family.

Their residence doubles as their art gallery.

The artists have dedicated their lives to teaching and exposing the world to their craft.

Each grew up around art.

Gwendolyn’s father, a painter, was a curator at Howard University for 33 years before retiring.

She grew up painting and also developed a love for music through the piano.

Although a passionate artist and musician, she felt a stronger calling to creating art.

“I realized that art as well as music are disciplines that require a lot of time and energy,” she said, reflecting on the competing desires. “I couldn’t do both, so I chose art.”

She pursued her education, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Education/Counseling from Trinity College.

She spent her career as an art teacher in Washington D.C., and in Gambia, Africa.

In this painting, Bernard Brooks pays homage to legendary blues musician, B.B. King.

Bernard recalled that his uncle was an artist who was quite “comfortable” in his line of work.

His uncle was an art instructor and helped establish the art department at Carver Vocational High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bernard noticed and admired his uncle’s contentment, which, in turn, influenced Bernard to pursue a life in the arts.

Bernard received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Howard University, where he remained as the chief medical illustrator for more than 26 years.

It was during this time that he would design the interior of local dentist offices throughout the Washington D.C., area.

His artwork — known for its cotton fabric, metallic mediums and watercolors — began to gain notoriety.

“I was attracting people early on that had influence,” Bernard said, of his art’s growing popularity. “I always had a captive audience.”

His pieces would go on to be featured on national television shows, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “The Parkers.”

Gwendolyn Brooks was inspired to create this piece after taking a trip to Cuba.

After becoming established, Bernard continued to be an advocate for up-and-coming young artists in the nation’s capital.

He often opened his home, giving many a place to stay and hiring some, as interns.

The couple said their art has been inspired by international influences, noting they’ve lived in the Caribbean islands and visited numerous countries.

Recently, a trip to Cuba inspired each of them to create pieces reflecting life on the island.

Hoping to gain a local following
Both feel compelled to create, but their approaches differ.

“I consider myself an intuitive artist,” Gwendolyn said, noting she never plans her work, but instead lets her feelings guide the work.

Bernard, on the other hand, said he needs to set an agenda for himself before putting paint to canvas.

The concept of their work is also what distinguishes their paintings.

Bernard tends to focus on artistry that conveys political or social issues in the world.

This portrait by Bernard Brooks is both a painting and collage of real images paying homage to U.S. Troops.

He doesn’t concern himself with what message viewers takes away, as long as they get a message.

Gwendolyn, on the other hand, avoids controversial issues — focusing instead on positive aspects of humanity.

“I like to brighten the person’s life – take them away from what’s happening in the world,” Gwendolyn said.

In addition to painting, she enjoys creating dolls and handmade quilts.

Stitching quilts by hand can be a tedious process, but it makes her work feel more personal, she said.

The couple has had art shows around the world, and they continue to do so. In some cases, their works go on display even when they can’t be present.

At home, they have two separate rooms they use as galleries for their respective works.

In addition to creating art, they also appreciate work created by other artists.

Their house is a showcase of ethnic diversity, with paintings and sculptures from French, Haitian, Japanese and Jamaican artists among others.

For every piece, the couple can name the creator, and tell the story behind it.

Some works hold a more significant meaning to Gwendolyn because they were painted by her father. He passed on much of his work to her, and those pieces tend to focus on African-American culture and identity.

When they were in Washington D.C., the Brooks had home shows with a cook-out in the back for visitors.

They’re hoping to gain a similar following here, and are trying to make a name for themselves in the Tampa Bay art scene.

Their home gallery in Wesley Chapel is open to the public, with pieces available for purchase.

To find out more, call Bernard or Gwendolyn at (813) 618-0916.

Bernard and Gwendolyn Brooks Home Art Show
Where: 5242 Riva Ridge Drive in Wesley Chapel
When: Nov. 10, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Cost: Free
Details: Bernard and Gwendolyn Brooks will open their home gallery to the public with paintings for sale.
Info: To RSVP, call the Brooks at (813) 618-0916 or email moc.l1553518131iamg@1553518131skoor1553518131biuqa1553518131nylod1553518131newg1553518131.

Published November 7, 2018

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