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Portfolio of
 Robert Cantor 

Mill Valley, California
United States

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Artist Website Link

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Galleries in Portfolio:

Anatomy of Melancholy
Contemporary Sculpture
Covid Attitudes/Secret Obsessions
Ecstatic Moments
Figurative Sculpture
Portraits and Busts
Psychological States
The Human Comedy
Theme and Variation Series

View Artist Statement

Gallery Direct Interview with ROBERT CANTOR

Robert’s sculptures are all about the human figure and face. His work captures the psychological ambiguities, conflicts, emotions, and hidden meanings of everyday life. He uses movement, kinetic tension, exaggerated form and the beauty of smooth lines to reveal the heartfelt aspect of a human experience.

Adam Study #1 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-3546
Adam Study #1

In your biography you said that Art and Sculpture has been a lifelong passion. How old were you when you first started creating sculptures? Tell us a little about your first pieces.

From the early childhood years of growing up on a farm, I’ve always been trying to create interesting things, but I first began to take art seriously when I got to college. There I took drawing and painting classes including several with Alan Kaprow, the founder of the “Happenings” Movement (in those days, you seemed to be defined by how outrageous you could be). Although these abstract “performances” were fun, the whole scene just seemed silly to me and I went back to working with the figure. My first descent pieces were portraits of friends willing to sit for me; life size busts that were more satisfying to create.

Corpus #4 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-3541
Corpus #4

How did you balance your formal education to become a clinical psychologist with your love for art and maintain two very demanding professions?

I had to put my love of sculpture on hold when I entered graduate school. But after finishing the dissertation, establishing a psychotherapy practice in San Francisco, and then writing a book, I once again felt the tug to create sculpture. My wife encouraged this by setting up a small studio in our home and I spent more and more time modeling. I was then juried into a local gallery (the director, Lisah Horner, was enormously supportive and helped me feel confident enough to show my work publically). A few years later, I rented space in an artist’s community and have been spending two or three days a week there.

Ecstatic Moments #9 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-10521
Ecstatic Moments #9

During your career as an artist, who or what has given you the most inspiration?

In this regard, I’m a cliché. The powerful, exaggerated physical emotionality of Auguste Rodin simply took my breath away. When I saw an exhibit illustrating the links between Rodin and Michelangelo, (and his detailed influence on specific Rodin pieces), I couldn’t stop pouring over Michelangelo’s work; I was hooked.

The Anatomy of Melancholy #1 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-6289
The Anatomy of Melancholy #1

Have your life experiences influenced your work or your choice of subject matter?

The most significant force influencing what I do is emotion - and the emotional themes are most often the familiar but difficult to express psychological experiences of just being alive. With time, my focus shifted away from intellectual concepts and toward what evokes this kind of emotion. There is no doubt that spending years exploring these things with people as a psychologist has had a strong bearing on this focus.

Corpus #3 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-3526
Corpus #3

How do you think or want other people to respond to your work?

As with good music, literature, or the theater, my primary sculptural goal is to evoke some underlying visceral experience in the viewer; stirring up something intangible but recognizable. With the satirical pieces, I hope to induce a chuckle; with others, the attempt is to evoke something more tender or poignant; and with a few, the intention is to startle, even to shock.

Theme and Variation Two by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-7983
Theme and Variation Two

What has been your biggest challenge and your greatest success?

Several projects come to mind, especially one complicated commission. But I think the greatest challenges for me are those “dead” times when there just isn’t any flow of creative energy. In the same way, the most successful times are those extended periods when it feels as though I’ve tapped into a vein of emotional imagery that produce multiple pieces with a unifying theme.

Pumping Irony #1 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-3946
Pumping Irony #1

What role do you think your emotions play in the creative process and which series do you feel you are the most emotionally connected to?

As I’ve described above, the process of sculpting is almost entirely one of “feeling” my way along. I usually start with some general theme and it seems like I’m then “inviting” the images to emerge. One theme was triggered by the curator of a recent Paris exhibition who stated: “For more than two thousand years, melancholy has been recognized as the intellectual source of all great creations in European painting and sculpture”. The bittersweet nature of this reflective mood has always been very evocative to me and the “ Anatomy of Melancholy” series of 10 pieces best illustrates the role emotion plays in the process. It is probably the one with which I am most identified.

Covid Attitudes #7 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-10904
Covid Attitudes #7

Could you tell us about your “Transfiguration Series” and what inspired you to do them?

In the ”Anatomy of Melancholy Series” mentioned above, the pieces began with more realistic images, began to morph toward stylized forms, and then evolved into abstract renderings. This evolution happened naturally and it was very exciting to watch it happen. I then tried, by intention, to work with this natural evolution - but to have it happen in the same piece. In the “Transfiguration Series”, unlike much of the other work, I moved forward mostly not with emotion but with the ideas. Working in this way lead me to start playing with some of my favorite sculptures in a “theme and variation” manner; taking forms created by Picasso, Matisse, Brancusi, Giacometti, and others and pushing them toward either more realistic or more abstract forms.


How long does it usually take for you to complete one of your sculptures?

It usually takes around 15 or 20 hours to model one piece. But it can take three times as long to do all the rest to finish it.

Psychological States #3 by Robert Cantor
Artwork-ID: 102-10734
Psychological States #3

Have you considered what your next series of work will be when you complete the ‘Transfiguration Series’ and if so, could you tell us a little about it?

I truly have no idea what will follow the work on the Transfiguration Series. But I’m sure something will come calling.

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