Robert G. Cunningham
Sculpting is my life—it’s what I’ve been doing for more than 40 years—and what I look forward to every day!
From a young age I have been attracted to visual expression; beginning in church, mesmerized by an artistic minister, who would draw, in colorful pastels on large newsprint, stories from the Bible as he narrated them.
From then until now, experiences of all sorts have shaped my development, but the power of the narrative image has remained a constant.
I have lived most of my life in California, but I was born in the 1940s in central Maine and still have a strong attraction for that remote area. It was there in the woods of Maine, that I first began to draw and develop my tactile sense of the three-dimensional world. After much debate, my family decided to seek a better life in the West and California became my home before I reached my teenage years. Fortunately, in spite of the turmoil of those early years, I found a mentor who was an important influence, and I was able to establish a solid focus and purpose, which has been the mainstay of my career.
In those early years, my interests were rather literal, using traditional methods to achieve visual ends. There was also the desire to explore and experiment, which lasted about a decade and a half. Those years gave me a war chest of knowledge and experience, rich in materials and techniques, forms and styles. But riches did not follow. For that, I returned to more conventional naturalism, so that I could share my vision and ideas more readily with others.
The first of these efforts was a commissioned sculpture, Prelude. Other commissions followed in rapid succession, but I was still not ready to give up my freedom to work when and how I wanted, without constraints. By the time I was in my forties, the slow rate of funds coming in, i.e., poverty, was taking its toll. It took a number of years for me to realize that working on a commission basis would allow me a financial freedom difficult to achieve through gallery exhibitions and trade show sales.
Because of my versatility and extensive knowledge of methods and materials, I have been sought out increasingly by other artists and by schools, as well as by those seeking to commission an artist but unable to find just the right match. In addition to directing the classes and activities of my own private sculpture school, I gradually came to work mainly in the world of private and public commissions. Rather than halting independent work, the focus on commissions has imposed a discipline that I sorely needed. It also helped to enhance my ability to work with individuals and organizations to achieve a common vision.
My goal and purpose in life is to continue to experiment with forms and materials, to grow the body of independent works, reflecting my narrative bent and experimental nature.