Developing stories: These Cape Cod artists are just beginning their journey
Learn about Leah Bares, Tim Ellis Cole and Caroline & Olivia Brodt
Spring is nature’s ultimate expression of creativity, the season of emergence, when the dormant awaken amid songs of woodland and sea birds, when gray branches explode in buds of red and in rainbows of bloom, when fawns and cubs shake the sleep from their eyes to take their first steps in a greening world, and when the osprey reappear from their tropical winter roosts. Fly fishermen, when they think of emergence, see damsels, mays and caddis taking wing from the depths of streams and ponds. Others may imagine whales breaching the waters of Stellwagen Bank. And of course, there’s the butterfly.
As this spring blooms into summer, Cape Cod ART highlights three emerging local artists, each of whom has shed his or her cocoons for the wider world. Painter Leah Bares stuns white backgrounds with explosive watercolor renditions of sea turtles, oysters, whales and fish, creating colorful encapsulations of nature’s bounty. Tim Ellis Cole, through a variety of media, brings the waves of Nantucket Sound to Main Street in Hyannis, and silkscreens prints of John F. Kennedy on repurposed shingles. And in her budding photography career, Caroline Brodt, a student at Barnstable High School, has captured not only the vibrant colors of her surroundings, but also vivid memories of her older sister, Olivia, who passed away in April. Browse the work of these emerging artists, read their stories, and be inspired!
Fisherman’s daughter captures marine life on the canvas
Painter Leah Bares has been working with watercolors for the past two years in what she calls “negative white space,” referring to the way her subjects stand alone on the canvas. “The white background allows them to pop off the page,” she says. Thus, the artist’s depictions of a man o’ war jellyfish, an octopus and a seahorse appear suspended, clean, almost surreal in their brilliance.
A Plymouth resident, who took after-school art classes from age 8 to 18, Bares graduated from the UMass Dartmouth Law School in 2013, and then took a job at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. It was in her third year of law school that she rediscovered her true passion. The epiphany struck after she painted a portrait of Bean, her cousin’s pug. “I’m pretty sure I cried in joy,” she recalls. “It had been seven or eight years since I’d painted anything.”
Bares opened Violette Tide Studios in 2015, and the company has seen rapid development. In addition to her original watercolor paintings and giclee prints, some clients have commissioned Bares to recreate her artwork in mosaics and on their kitchen backsplashes. “This has been a new challenge,” she says, “and I’m pleased with the results—as are the homeowners who have my lobster or turtle in their kitchen.”
The inspiration for Bares’ nautical artwork comes from experiences she had working aboard her father’s fishing boat. “My dad likes to brag that I’ve caught more fish than some of the most seasoned outdoorsmen,” she says. It’s no wonder that her paintings of sharks and whales are so true to life. Currently, she’s working on a series of paintings of saltwater fish, including striped bass, summer flounder, black sea bass and scup.
She says her greatest obstacle is time. “I’m a full-time mom,” Bares says, “and I’m managing the online shop, painting commissions and keeping up with a fresh portfolio. Sometimes I have to reel myself in, although I am open to growth and new challenges.”
More of Leah Bares’ artwork can be seen at violettetidestudios.com
Tim Ellis Cole
Whether painting, screen-printing or skateboarding, this artist is enjoying the ride
Tim Ellis Cole has ridden his artwork from the skate park to the Kennedy Compound. “Art and skateboarding both require a lot of individual effort,” says Cole, “so they feel interchangeable to me in many regards.”
A New Jersey native and a lifelong skateboarder, Cole, 35, earned his BA in studio art at The College of Santa Fe in New Mexico, and settled in Monument Beach, Bourne in 2013. Unsurprisingly, one of his first art-related commissions on the Cape was creating t-shirt graphics for a local skate and lifestyle brand, Cod Town.
He also recently completed new t-shirt graphics for Levitate, the brand that commissioned him to paint one of his first murals at the Levitate Music & Arts Festival in Marshfield. “I always like working with them because they are really supportive of skate, surf and music culture, which are all personally relevant,” he says. This year, Cole designed a poster to promote the 2017 Cape Cod Bay Challenge, a stand-up paddleboard marathon that raises money for Christopher’s Haven, an organization that provides residency in Boston for families of children with cancer who are being treated at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Cole has also been working on several projects for an upcoming auction to benefit the JFK Hyannis Museum entitled “Artwork Inspired by a Presidential Home.” In 2017, the museum is commemorating the centennial of JFK’s birth—for which Cole has created two images and has screen-printed 100 of each upon shingles donated for the project by Ted Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Kiki. “It feels like my artistic debutante ball on the Cape,” says Cole, “hand-pulling prints of JFK sailing on cedar shingles salvaged from the Kennedy Compound.”
After years of exploring, Cole has found his home on Cape Cod—and his career as a full-time artist, running his own studio, Partner Projects, out of Monument Beach. “Now that I’m on this side of the canal,” he says, “there’s no turning back.”
More of Tim Ellis Cole’s work can be seen at partnerprojectstradingpost.com
Caroline & Olivia Brodt
Triumph, tragedy and two very talented sisters
Some of Caroline Brodt’s earliest subjects were frogs: eyes peering above the surface of their watery domain, tadpoles bursting from the shallows, a leap from bank to pool. Despite this humble artistic genesis, Brodt’s rewards for her early photographic adventures have proven far more valuable than any golden bauble or fairy tale prince—especially in the past year, one punctuated by both triumph and tragedy.
Just as Brodt, a member of Barnstable High’s Class of 2018, has begun to receive critical acclaim for her work in regional and national competitions, she and her family have also suffered a tremendous loss: Olivia Brodt, Caroline’s oldest sister, passed away from cancer on April 2. She was 20 years old. Through this time of intense grief, the family takes some comfort in Caroline’s photos of Olivia, images that capture her vivacity, her joy and her battle, images to treasure and to tell the story of an incredible life cut far too short. “Olivia was my model,” Caroline says with both pride and sadness.
The sisters grew up in a home where art matters. Their parents, Brenda and Craig, met in art school and raised the young women to develop as athletes and artists. “We taught them to be critical of their work,” Brenda says. Indeed, Caroline credits much of her success to Olivia’s constructive feedback. “I’ll always have her telling me to improve, and helping me improve,” Caroline says, “but she always encouraged me to be well-rounded, too.”
Though Caroline had developed a reputation as a talented photographer around her school, she had yet to imagine her art as a profession. Olivia saw more in her sister, though, and pushed her to enroll in the program that would transform Caroline’s artistic identity. In July of 2016, while Olivia was fighting cancer, Caroline flew to New York City, where she attended a photography course at the School of Creative and Performing Arts. “It was really hard to leave her,” Caroline recalls, “but Olivia was one of the main people who encouraged me to go.” There, Caroline met other young artists and learned key technical aspects of her craft. “This has really changed everything,” she says. One of Caroline’s artistic highlights from her time in New York is her photo, “Distance,” which would win a silver medal at the national level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In total, eight of Caroline’s photos from the past year have garnered Scholastic awards.
In the fall of 2016, through the ArtWorks internship program, Caroline won the privilege of working with professional Cape Cod photographer Julia Cumes, who encouraged her to branch into storytelling. ArtWorks then offered Caroline a solo show at the Cape Cod Media Center. Her exhibit, featuring 18 of her photos, was on display in February and March of this year, and Caroline sold four photos.
While Caroline was working on her photography, Olivia, who was on a medical leave from Babson College, painted with Jamie Wolf at Chalkboard Studio in Barnstable as part of her therapy. (Wolf previously mentored Olivia through the ArtWorks program at Barnstable High School.) There, she used watercolors to recreate a photo Caroline had taken of her entitled “Battle Ahead,” bringing the art full-circle. Olivia’s story was supposed to have had a happy ending, but as Brenda says, things took a turn for the worse during the winter. The cancer, which the family had hoped was gone, reappeared, this time in Olivia’s spinal fluid. It was incurable.
Today, Caroline runs her own photography business taking senior portraits and headshots for musicians, and shooting images for family holiday cards. She’s also working with Cumes on an exhibit that will open in the fall, one that celebrates Olivia’s life while documenting her struggle with cancer. Fortunately for the Brodt family, Caroline was able to photograph Olivia extensively last fall, both on the Cape and on a vacation to Turks and Caicos. “It’s hard to look at and be critical of the work from this hard time,” Caroline says, “but I need to finish. I feel extremely motivated to carry on what she believed in, what we believed in.”
More of Caroline Brodt’s work can be seen at: carolinebrodt.wixsite.com/cbrodtphotography