When this born-and-bred Chilean decided to make a home in America, Carolina Brunet chose Plymouth as her new hometown. Her husband started working for local company Cargill and the couple browsed the suburbs to see which area would be the perfect fit for them. “We saw a good future here, with kids and family,” Brunet says. “We saw families who have been here a long time and some, like us, who just arrived.”
Establishing a home and making friends didn’t happen immediately, so Brunet decided to enroll in classes at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. She already had a background in graphic design and wanted to further her artistic abilities, but she also yearned for a connection with others. “When I arrived here, I didn’t know the language, but it was important for me to say things, so I had to find another way to express myself,” Brunet says. “Abstract art was a good way to let go and let people know me beyond words.”
Connecting with Art
Eight years later, Carolina is establishing herself in the Twin Cities as an abstract artist. “She’s really blossomed into her own. I’m always thrilled when my students find their own success,” says Ellen Richman, herself an abstract artist and instructor at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. “Carolina is such a dynamic person, and a part of her dynamic nature is the culture of where she comes from. She brings that to her work. It’s vibrant and full of color.”
You can see that vibrancy not only in Brunet’s finished product, but also in her creative process as she paints. “Everyone has their own style, and I’m very wild,” Brunet says with a laugh. “I have to stand up. I have to move, listen to music and let my energy flow.” She turns on the radio or finds Brazilian music to get her creative juices flowing. “When I’m painting, it has to be active, and I let my energy out. Sometimes I dance in the middle of it,” she says.
Brunet says some of her vibrancy is due to her Chilean heritage. “I’m very into color, and I use a lot of color,” she says. “I consider myself passionate, and I can’t imagine going without color to express myself.” Another difference that separates her artwork from similar abstract paintings is that she uses big brushes with big brush strokes. “Art is an expression of my life,” Brunet says. “Depending on where I’m living, I’m expressing that in my art.”
She says her art is changing and reflecting her life in the Twin Cities. “You can find a lot of diversity and culture here, and that really impressed me,” says Brunet, who grew up in the central part of Chile near the capital of Santiago.
The country of Chile is long and narrow. It extends from the Andes Mountains in the north more than 2,000 miles to the southernmost tip of South America. “Because of the geography, we are a people who are a very homogenous population,” Brunet says. “There are so many different people around [the Twin Cities], and that cultivates me.”
Connecting with Others
Brunet decided to branch out and start displaying her artwork in 2012. “I took the time to find my own style and feel confident to show my work,” she says. “I was very nervous, but it was good to get feedback.” She exhibited at a café and then at local venues like the Hopkins Center for the Arts and Plymouth Creek Center. “I sold a few pieces and thought, ‘People are connecting with this and with my work,’” Brunet says. “Not everyone understands abstract artwork, but there is a very big group of people who like abstraction.”
With a few successful shows on her resume, Brunet decided to open up her own gallery at the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis. She’s experienced the busy hubbub that is Art-A-Whirl, and she is preparing for this month’s Art Attack, a three-day open studio and gallery crawl. She says she enjoys events like these because they give her the perfect opportunity to engage with people and share her artwork.
Having her own space allows Brunet to continue her work as an independent bilingual graphic designer, as well as squeeze in as much painting as she can. “Even if I have two hours a day, I paint. If I have extra time, I’m painting,” says Brunet, who has less free time on her hands these days. She and husband Claudio Calcagni had a son, Lucas, four years ago. She still seeks a creative outlet and making a connection through her work. “Abstract is my space and my art,” she says. “With art, I really feel free. I don’t have to follow a time or direction. I’m doing it for myself, and people connect with it.”
Connecting to Chile
Perhaps due to her expressive personality, Brunet enjoys entertaining when she opens a new show. On the menu, she gives a nod to her homeland by choosing beverages from Chile’s wine region. “I really think wine and art mix so well. It’s just perfect to see a glass of wine with art,” Brunet says. She serves up cheeses and salami that pair well with a strong-bodied red, then switches to fruits and lighter fare to complement a fresh white wine. “I like to invite friends, share Chilean wine and educate them about the wine and the art,” she says.
If someone purchases one of Brunet’s works, she remembers them. “People who have bought paintings, we now have a relationship,” she says. “People are interested in the canvas, but they also want to know the story behind it.” For example, when Brunet delivered one painting, she was honored to walk through the person’s home and listen to the stories about each piece of art. “They took time to explain every piece they have,” she says. “I’m honored that they now have one of mine, and I’m a part of their story.”
Northrup King Building 1500 Jackson St. NE, Mpls.