As a youngster growing up in Magdenburg, Germany, Mandy Brasa never pictured herself living in California and opening her own art gallery.
But with the encouragement of her husband (Kris Halvorsen) and being inspired by other artists in the Mountain Area, that is exactly what Brasa has done.
The public is invited to the new Mandy Brasa Art Studio & Gallery’s grand opening 4 - 8 p.m. this Saturday (Nov. 12) to meet the talented Brasa and see 60 of her vibrant, uplifting pieces. In addition to seeing the unique art work, those attending will be treated to light hors d’oeuvres, wine, live music, and the opportunity to win one of her pieces of art.
The gallery is located at 49269 Golden Oak Drive (next to the Children’s Museum of the Sierra and across from Western Sierra Nursery).
Once you step in the gallery you’ll find an impressive amount of acrylic artwork of nature and animals, broad swaths of happy colors combined with soothing lines and patterns which form beautiful expressions from Brasa. In the center of the room is a 72 X 48 Birds Of Paradise.
Some members of the community may know Brasa from Oakhurst Office Outlet, her family run discount office supply store located next to the gallery.
She came to the United States in 2003 to work on a horse ranch in Santa Cruz in trade for room and board. After working on the ranch for three months, she and her future husband, Chris, moved to Coarsegold.
Brasa, who has never considered her casual drawings to be anything more than a childhood hobby and has never received any formal art training, is now giving her latent talent a chance to find expression on canvas and is sharing her unique style with art lovers everywhere.
“I always enjoyed art classes in school but it’s only been in the last two years that I have been drawing and painting on my own,” said the soft-spoken Brasa. “I started doing some casual drawings at the Cool Bean Coffee Shop in Oakhurst with Courtney Artist, and she as well as Rivka Schaffner, another area artist, inspired me to start expressing myself on canvas.”
John Bock, owner of Williams Gallery West and president of the Sierra Art Trails, is enthusiastic about Brasa’a work.
“Mandy’s work is colorful, intuitive and energetic,” Bock said. “She expresses her passion for nature in a bold graphic style that is truly delightful.”
Last April marked a turning point in Brasa’s art.
After having a miscarriage with complications that required an emergency medical procedure, she has been adding a small star to each of her paintings in remembrance of the loss.
A friend of hers brought it to her attention that in Germany unborn children are referred to as “Sternenkinder” (star children).
This past April she do nated the first piece of artwork adorned with the star to the local non-profit organization “Be the Power of One” that supports education for impoverished children in Haiti. She plans to make an annual donation each April of one of her original pieces to different organizations supporting children’s causes.
Brasa also wants to reach out to support all woman in the Mountain Area who have experienced a similar loss by offering them a free matted print of “The womb.”
In addition to painting on canvas, Brasa, who just turned 39, also puts her artistic touch on rocks, furniture, handbags, sculptures and clothing - and even on a TV with the special request of her friend Csilla Schulcz.
Her imagination is limitless - “I’m looking into starting my own shoe collection,” Brasa said.
She is also experimenting with her work on coffee mugs and t-shirts for businesses.
Brasa also does commission work and recently did a piece, “Cats,” for Ginger Foust, owner of Dream Interior Redesigns.
“When I was recently remodeling a living space and had a particular theme and color scheme in mind for wall art, Mandy’s creativity came to mind. I love her use of color, geometry and minute details. I commissioned Mandy to create a very small but specialized piece and the results far exceeded my expectations. Everyone immediately knows the theme and then starts becoming more and more engaged with the details.”
Foust has also commissioned Brasa to paint large stones for her garden.
“People are fascinated by them,” Foust said. “As an interior decorator, it is exciting to have this talented artist in our mountain community.”
“I really enjoy how often people discover hidden things in my paintings,” Brasa siad. “Sometimes the things that are being discovered by the viewer are even a surprise to me. It’s a very rewarding experience to have people spend time talking with me about my work.”
Brasa is thankful for the people who have supported and encouraged her.
“All of the kind feedback has been instrumental to me while in pursuit of my artistic career and I’m thrilled to be able to bring happiness into people’s lives through my artwork,” Brasa said.
Details: Mandy Brasa Art Studio & Gallery: Open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. - 49269 Golden Oak Drive, Oakhurst - (559) 676-0595, www.mandybrasa.com.