Making it Big: Artist’s creativeness shines in sizable sculptures


Local sculptor Robert C. knew from an early age that art would be a driving force in his life.

“One of my earliest memories was sitting on my dad’s lap as he would draw for me,” Robert recalls.

As an only child growing up in North Carolina, he would spend hours drawing and imaging things, and then creating those same items.

“I made a rocket ship in a pear tree out back and then I made a ray gun to fend off the aliens.

Even today when I’m making a sculpture, I sometimes feel like I’m still in that pear tree making the object I want to play with today. Everything I do is from my imagination and deep-rooted feelings, with things going on in my brain for a long time. It’s completely devoid of how old I am.”

Robert studied a variety of art mediums at the University of Georgia where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and completed his masters at the University of Massachusetts.

“When I was a student of art I wanted to get as much information about art as I could because, even at that young age, I knew my entire life would revolve around art. My initial major was drawing and painting and later I majored in sculpting and print making, so I am degreed in many fields of art,” Robert says.

Early in his career Robert focused on painting, utilizing myriad techniques, including watercolor gouache and oil, and then moved toward three-dimensional works, making unique waxes that were later cast in bronze or aluminum.

“I would occasionally sell a sculpture, but it wasn’t enough to support a family. So I became an art professor at the high school and college level and taught every kind of art course you could imagine. When I was teaching at a small liberal arts college, a donor financed the construction of a sculpting studio where my students and I could work. Sculpture has been my preferred medium of expression ever since,” he says.

Since the mid-1980’s Robert has focused on large outdoor works fabricated in aluminum and painted with bright, bold colors. His works often incorporate layers of brushwork, and a few have basic kinetic elements, much like a weather vane.

When the Vero Beach Museum of Art (then known as the Center for the Arts) opened in 1986, Robert was hired as its first artist in residence.

“That was a dream job because it was the first time I had a place that wasn’t totally enclosed.

It was more like a carport and the outdoor studios had nothing but a roof. The center had all the equipment I would never have been able to afford, and I was encouraged to work on my own sculptures when I wasn’t teaching or working on something for the center. All I had to supply was the metal,” Robert explains.

“This was the start of my dive into BIG art, and I began creating sculptures that were 8- to 20-feet high. I made them out of aluminum because steel was just too heavy for me to work with and ultimately transport to art shows. When funding for that position dried up, I created my sculptures at home and showed them at juried art shows and exhibitions around the country.”

Robert’s sculptures have been exhibited nationally and internationally in art galleries, museums, colleges and at outdoor civic and community exhibitions.

“I don’t create to sell, and I never wanted to be a bulk seller. I create for my own personal satisfaction and, while I love it when someone else appreciates it, that is not my goal. If I were creating a commodity, it certainly wouldn’t be sculptures,” he says.

Now that Robert is in his 80’s and no longer physically able to work with large sheets of aluminum, he is creating scaled model sculptures called maquettes. These smaller works of art are constructed using high impact styrene, much like the plastic that is used to mold model airplanes.

“I sketch out my idea on paper first to see if I can convey that image for someone else to build,” he explains.

“In my mind I’m free to do whatever I want, but when it comes to making it, it has to be real.

I need to have a sense of balance in terms of design, art and reality. A sculpture has to be stable and can’t fall over even if the winds are 75 miles per hour.”

Robert says he then proceeds to cut the plastic and bend and shape it into place. His maquettes are created in pieces which are slotted to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The idea is to produce a model for a larger sculpture that can be fabricated elsewhere.

The parts need to be balanced and strategically placed so that when the piece is replicated in aluminum or steel it can be dismantled and transported easily. If done correctly, the large, heavy pieces of metal will stack in place without the need to be welded.

As it turns out, his maquettes are also stand-alone pieces of art worthy of gallery showings.

A maquette made from sheet styrene from his Leaf and Twig Series was recently displayed in the Vero Beach Museum of Art’s Treasure Coast Creates: A Tribute to local Artists exhibition.

“I’m thrilled to still be creating and selling art at my age,” Robert says.

“I have everything I need to make the maquettes here in my home. I use the same process with sheet plastic as I did with aluminum. And I still have the tools to weld smaller aluminum sculptures. If someone likes one of my maquettes enough to commission it on a large scale, I’ve got a fabricator lined up in Jacksonville who can turn it around in their metal of choice in about a week’s time, under my supervision. That’s where I see my future heading.”

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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