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Biography and Artist Statement
I was raised in the village of Oyster Bay, New York located forty miles east of Manhattan on the North Shore of Long Island. Into a constellation of six children I was born, the fifth child and second son. My childhood was formed by being raised in the family’s Funeral Home and receiving a Catholic education typical of the fifties and sixties, meanwhile having the freedom to explore the abundant fields, forests, and beaches that surrounded us. I went on to study painting and drawing at St. John’s University in Queens, NY, studying with Claude Ponsot, a former student of Leger’s Paris studio. Another influence came from studies in Contemporary Art and Art History with Anne Weber, better known as Anina Nosea, a NYC gallerist. My art foundation was thus built on the ideas of the Paris School mixed with the broader dynamics of Pop, Op, Minimalism, Earth Works, and later Postmodernism.
After college, I traveled west of the Great Divide, landing in a commune in the foothills of the Cascades just outside Brownsville. A few years later I married, and four girls were born through that union. Our first child, Sarah died at birth, while our second child, Joanna, a twin, died in a drowning accident at the age of eight. The marriage lasted twenty-two years. Our daughters, Rachel and Christina married and have blessed the family with six wonderful grandchildren.
After our children’s birth, I made a conscious decision to fulfill my dream of being a practicing artist. In 1978, I fell in with a group of local artists which soon evolved into the artist run gallery, Artist Union. A few years later, we joined forces with a second artist collective, Project Space, from which the New Zone Gallery emerged. Those early years with the artist collectives and having solo exhibitions in the gallery were most formative in sealing my fate as an artist. I have since been able to maintain a studio in either Eugene or Springfield. Beginning in mid-eighties I began to have artistic successes by being selected to exhibit in Art Quake, the Oregon Biennial and having two works selected to be part of EWEB’s permanent collection. In 1988, I was asked to teach drawing at the University of Oregon in the Spring of 1988. From that time till Winter 2002 I would return when needed as a part-time adjunct. I soon moved on to teach Introduction to Drawing at Lane Community College and have been a part-time drawing instructor since then.
In 1999, I was awarded a commission to do four paintings for the new Eugene Public Library. They were based on the I Ching’s, Hexagram 48, The Well. I saw the library much like a well, since it functions as a resource of nourishment, replenishment, a place of gathering, a commons. Another painting of mine abides in the library, a gift from a private donor. The painting is titled, “Studio with Weeping Angels.“ It was selected for the 1988 Bach Festival poster.
Another dimension of my artistic output has been as an illustrator. Samples can be found in “The Yew Tree: A Thousand Whispers,” by Hal Hartzell, and “Infinity Minus Eleven,” a chapbook collection of poems by Robert Hunter, lyrist for the Grateful Dead. Lone Goose Press commissioned two board side drawings for Tom Crawford’s poem “Prayer” and Joy Harjo’s poem “Perhaps the World Ends Here.” Joy Harjo is presently the United States’ Poet Laurate.
My solo exhibitions have included the Jacobs Gallery, LCC, and DIVA. I have participated in many juried shows including the Eugene Mayor’s Show, Corvallis Art Center, Maude Kerns, and the Augen Gallery in Portland. Another role I have assumed is as a juror for the Mayor’s Art Show, Student Art Show, LCC, the Bach Festival Poster competition, a member of DIVA’s exhibition committee, New Zone Gallery and for the Oregon Country Fair craft booth competition. Finally, my work can be found in private collections throughout the Northwest, the nation, and Europe.
Fast forwarding to my current series of paintings, which began in March 2020, on the threshold of our Plague Years. This series is a collection titled “Maps and Hieroglyphics: Nevada Test Site (NTS), I-VII A Covid Journey.” Inspired by a book of aerial photographs by Emmet Gowin of the Nevada Test Site: the area where America has tested all magnitudes of nuclear weapons both above and below ground since the birth of the Atomic Age in the 1940s. I was drawn to this eerie landscape by the mad geometry of its roads, varied sized craters, and curved perspective caused by the camera ‘s angle–all the while juxtaposed to the barren mountains of America’s Great Range and Basin. I found Gowin’s masterful compositions irresistible, being drawn to explore them. My journey through this foreign land was much like a surveyor’s in that I plotted the photograph inch by inch, expanding it to a 5 -1 ratio. Walking the backroads and measuring the diameters of craters, while the mountains were easy, I followed them by their l lines of gravity. The photos were 8 1/8” square. I expanded them to 42 x 41 1/2” compositions. As the series evolved, at times I couldn’t escape the sheer madness of this dress rehearsal for the production: “Gaia’s Demise.” While at other times, I imagined meandering the mindscape of an Aborigine, dreaming Songlines of roads and craters with arid mountains springing from a barren world already dead. Maybe these paintings are a peek into a post-nuclear war world in its deformity of rebirth?
Even Moses and the children of Israel made an appearance in my plotting imagination. Would I wander this desert wilderness for forty years? For me, this series of invisible meanings which appeared and disappeared all parallel the silent meanings Covid have cased over my consciousness. Yet this series became a coping mechanism in my navigating such unknown, perilous waters. Bosch’s “The Day of Judgement” has often come to mind as I have driven the backroads of Hell in my journey to and from the place of this series creation, my studio. On route, scenes of despair and madness appear before my eyes, a dream no more, it waltzes around me in my waking hours of travel mapping the streets of the world today.
Bob De Vine