We recently posted the work of artist and professor Robert Carter at the shop which was followed by an exhibition in the space. Perhaps it was awareness of his career spanning over 65 years or knowing that our country's tragic past did not stop this man from honing his craft and prolifically telling his story but it was such a powerful moment for everyone involved. A heartfelt thank you to his daughter Heather for working so diligently to transport Robert's work over to Local and steward all communications related to the event.
We hosted a Q+A during the event and at one point, I inquired as to what one factor contributed to his (Robert's) success and he surprisingly quoted Eddie Murphy, and paraphrasing here:
Something about this quote is energizing and paralyzing at the same time as once you take that leap of faith in life, you must literally take a leap and not look back. I can somewhat (loosely here....no comparison to Robert's journey) empathize as opening Local took a degree of strength and belief that was at times physically and mentally difficult. All that said, you keep going and working and working until you come out the other side. Sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed but either way - you did it and that's a powerful story.
See below for more of a bulleted Q+A from Robert followed by a link to his website. Robert's work will be proudly displayed at Local throughout the month of April.
1) Where were you born and raised? Describe your upbringing and impact on both your art and where you are in life today?
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky during segregation. We were poor, and I always had the support of my family. I remember a life-affirming experience I had when I was about eight or nine. We had a cheap print on our living room wall of a cottage in the woods, and I decided to copy it. I made an oil painting. My mother took the time to have it framed. At the moment I didn’t realize how important that was—by today’s standards it was a very inexpensive frame. But it was a confirming act. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be involved in this area called art. And I still have that painting today.
2) When did you know you were interested in pursuing an art career?
I always had the encouragement of my family—my parents, my wife and children. I was also supported by my teachers at a very young age. Something I will never forget is when my high school art teacher, Mrs. Lucille Wathen, came to my house to get my portfolio and enter me in a competition for the Scholastic Art & Writing Award. To have her come to my house on a Saturday afternoon was like having an audience with the Pope. We had a reverence for our teachers and for her to go out of her way and to then be awarded was a blessing I didn’t anticipate.
3) Describe your role as professor and the enjoyment you obtain from teaching.
I refer to myself as an ‘art coach’. The process of teaching has contributed to my personal, intellectual, and technical growth. This is how I describe how meaningful teaching has been: I taught a lesson the first time, and no one understood it. I taught it a second time, and no one understood it. I taught it a third time, and I understood it. Education has been an enriching experience for me, and when you see something working well with your students it emboldens it even further.
4) What generally inspires you and your work?
Religion, music, social and political issues, and the subtleties of the human experience are my main sources of inspiration.
5) What artists have inspired you and influenced your work?
Charles White, Albrecht Dürer, and Käthe Kollwitz have had great influence.
6) What message are you trying to communicate with your art? What do you want people who see your work to think/feel?
I use the human figure as a conduit for ideas. I would like people to experience behavioral universals that are tinted by race, geography, economics, time, etc.
7) If an art curator came to your house tomorrow to organize and catalog your work, what are the three most important things to communicate to that person?
I would want the curator to deeply understand both the true essence of the characters in my work and how they are conduits for expression. I would want him to look beyond my work’s technical merits, and see its spirit.
8) Describe the medium you work in and the materials you use. Why that medium and why those materials?
I use a variety of materials that lend to the personality of the composition. I juxtapose the naturalness of weathered wood with the boldness of acrylic paint to convey vibrancy, vitality and purity in my three-dimensional work. My drawings are mixed media composed of ebony pencil and collaged materials.
9) What’s the future direction of your art? What do you plan to do next?
Generally speaking, an intensification of spirit and growth in my craftsmanship is always my goal. Ode to Joy, referencing Beethoven, is the theme for my next composition.
10) What do you want your legacy to be?
I would like to inspire greater sensitivity to the human experience, cultural and spiritual enrichment and, of course, joy.