Barry Olofsson always had a passion for art. His work—intentional, meticulous and serene oil and pastel paintings, and charcoal sketches—reflects that love of creativity and a desire to explore and relay the stories, moments, and beauty he discovers on Cape Cod. “The essence of a good piece of art,” Olofsson says, “it’s something that speaks to the viewer.”
Olofsson’s interest in art was born early in his life. His first experience creating art was in the fourth grade making soap sculptures. This process of creating felt special to Olofsson, planting a seed of curiosity and exploration that would manifest for years to come. “I remember doing a horse head,” he reflects, “and it was just a great feeling, working. To remove the part of the material that didn’t look like the horse and the whole process. I just loved it.” He moved from soap to other forms of expression that helped him further explore his creative process, including some early paintings, (one of which his mother kept in her closet) and carved bird sculptures. “What it is,” Olofsson offers, “is seeing something that captures my attention that I want to share with people. It’s the whole process of trying to visualize what the final image might look like and the whole process of building up and seeing that image emerge from a blank canvas.”
Despite this passion, it wasn’t until the former Naval aviator and corporate professional had an opportunity to retire early and move to Cape Cod, that he was able to explore art further. When Olofsson moved to the Cape in 2001 he joined the Cape Cod Art Center, (formerly the Cape Cod Art Association) and served on the board as treasurer for a number of years. His involvement with the group led to taking a number of classes and interacting with numerous members of the Cape’s art community. “I am continually reminded how welcoming the artists on Cape Cod are,” he says. He became involved in a number of galleries across the Cape, including The Artist’s Gallery in Dennis and Artist Shanties in Hyannis, where he painted and exhibited his work with a group of people focused on creating art, and also worked with the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. In doing so, Olofsson further explored his practice, experimenting with different subjects and mediums, and figuring out what resonated with him.
Olofsson has created a variety of work during his time on the Cape, from digital photography to watercolor, focused on local scenes and maritime life. Now, his attention falls primarily on working in portraiture, the majority of which he does in oil paint. Olofsson views his portraits as a step past photographic realism. They are instead, moments in time, compelling viewpoints that convey the essence of the subject. “It goes beyond their likeness,” he says. “I try to create something in an interesting way that will hold people’s attention when they look at the image, whether they knew the person or not.” He consistently strives to better his work and is currently focusing on “adding interest” to the characters he is creating.
During his nearly 20-years as an established Cape Cod artist, Olofsson has exhibited and worked with numerous galleries, and has produced a myriad of commissioned and personal works that can be found in thousands of collections worldwide. Olofsson was supposed to exhibit work in three shows this year, however all three were cancelled because of the pandemic. He currently works out of his studio in his home in Sandwich, where he takes commissions by appointment. The majority of what Olofsson creates now is for himself and his family, personal improvement and enjoyment, and selective commissions. “There’s a lot of beauty that’s all around us,” Olofsson observes, “and what I’ve found is that all you have to do is open your eyes to see it. To be able to capture some of that beauty is just an amazing feeling.” – Katie Anastas