From France to Atlanta: Majestic oil sculptures to grace Summer Pleasures show

Brooke Major’s cream-toned oil sculptures are the intersection of a decisive aliveness and cool elegance: a chap-wearing cowboy sitting out a bronc’s twisting buck, one hand poised in the air above his hat; a finely conformed mare trotting with a foal at her side, two sets of ears pricked forward.

Major spends a lot of time analyzing the equine form in a professional capacity. As a horse breeder, she’s checking constantly to make sure her mares and foals are thriving, and as an artist, she’s shaping depictions of those charges in delicate, monochromatic oil sculpture — an endeavor that has brought her increasing attention in the art world. Although she spends much of her time at her home in the French countryside, she’s back in her native Atlanta networking regularly, and her connections here have landed her a coveted featured artist slot in the upcoming Summer Pleasures show at Thomas Deans Fine Art in Miami Circle.

The art

Horses have been a part of Major’s aspirations since her upbringing in Alpharetta, where she learned to ride. She moved to France for postsecondary studies and found a career path that allowed her to intertwine equines and art.

“Coming to France at the age of 18 for my undergraduate studies, I ended up grouping my time of ‘normal’ classes and going to the Fine Art school (École Nationale des Beaux-arts de Paris) to study oil painting and contemporary architecture as a class auditor,” she told Access Atlanta recently. “I also started riding at the veterinary school of Paris (École Vétérinaire de Maisons Alfort) to obtain my French competition license.”

An affinity for the Selle Francais horse breed eventually led her to base her operations in France.

“When I obtained my (university) diploma, I then discovered Normandy, with the Selle Francais originating from this area,” she said. “I started visiting on very regular occasions and eventually moved to follow my dream of raising horses and setting up my art studio.”

Gothic architecture has also provided creative inspiration, a facet Thomas Deans’ namesake owner noticed as soon as he saw her work.

“A colleague of mine and I first saw Brooke’s work in the home of a client in the Carolinas. I was immediately struck by her works’ ability to pull the viewer into the image, which was a view of the west facade of Rouen Cathedral in Normandy, France,” Deans said. “What made it so compelling (remember, Claude Monet painted this cathedral many times) was Brooke’s technique. Painting in white oil paint on a white ground, she created the image entirely in impasto, which is a term for thickly applied paint that gives the surface a 3-D effect. This sculptural effect, all in white, gave her images a striking and unique quality. She was not so much interested in ‘describing’ the architecture as she was in celebrating its gorgeous complexity in monochrome. It was only later that I also discovered her paintings of horses.”

A unique combination

Horses and art, Major realizes, may not be the most obvious combination, but for her, it’s an automatic one.

“Both horses and painting are art forms,” she explained. “Both are equally physical and intellectual. Combining both disciplines keeps me balanced and inherently teaches me of the horse in every aspect of its splendor.”

Deans said Major’s work is a natural fit for the decades-old Summer Pleasures show.

“We often use the exhibition to introduce a new artist to our audience, an artist that might be new to our roster,” he said. “We thought that Brooke would be a great fit as her images suggest summer pleasures, from the pleasures of tourism to equestrian pursuits. Her images also have a lightness and brightness perfect for a summer exhibition.”

For Major, whose works are represented in galleries across the United States, trips to Atlanta bring a unique perspective on the city as a cultural and artistic center.

“The Atlanta art scene has made leaps and bounds since I was attending high school at Milton High School in Alpharetta,” she said. “The High Museum has had many incredible acquisitions since the 1990s when I went, and things have really changed in a positive way for Atlanta as far as gallery diversity and urban sprawl expanding their gallery scene. I almost can’t recognize where I grew up!”

Summer Pleasures

Location: Buckhead at Thomas Deans Fine Art - 690 Miami Circle NE #905; Date and Time: July 15 through Sept. 2, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Admission: TBA; Website:

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