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Robert Grimes
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  Viewing a Robert Grimes piece is like interacting with a living being; one gets the sense that the viewer is meant to look past their first impression to get at the heart of what it really means.

Dissecting a work of art may be instinctual; human beings want to know exactly what the artist is trying to say. This is always difficult, but more so with Robert Grimes. His work is almost dream-like, a surreal landscape of half-images that spur one association just as they call to mind other, totally unrelated reactions.

 “I use form and figurative elements as a vehicle for further fantasy and imagination – the subject is the color, the composition, the light,” Grimes says. In short, he’s not giving anything away. His method entices the viewer into a collaboration with him, as if we are working together to decide the Meaning of Art. That’s a tall order, and Grimes suggests that, like a dream, meaning can only be found somewhere within the inner-space of individual perception.

  “Every piece is really a self-contained thing,” he says, “if you are looking for meaning outside of what’s there you may be missing the experience.”

  If this obscure language is frustrating, it’s because there’s really no way to capture exactly what he’s trying to do in words. It seems to transcend language, or, rather, speak its own. Like a bird’s song, it’s a language we can only half understand.

  “I would have to be a poet – it’s difficult, I’m so visual,” he says.

  Despite his claims to the contrary, Grimes is powerfully eloquent when describing his work to the uninitiated; a skill developed, no doubt, after years of providing “clear explanations” about the “significance” of his art.

  Truly his creations, which are impressionistic and figurative, illogical, illusionary and whimsical, are meant to be suggestive rather than descriptive. He wants us to draw our own conclusions.

  Grimes is also an accomplished sculptor. Rendering his dream-scapes in three dimensions, the construction is nearly as impressive as the finished piece. Elaborate figures twist and turn over amorphous structures. They could be ships, scaffolds, balconies or palaces. The figures could be human, animal or pure form. His sculptures are every bit as surreal as his paintings and painstakingly created.

  He begins with an abstract sketch, which becomes an elaborate drawing. From that he develops the dimensions and proportions that he would like to adhere to. Then the sculpting begins. He uses several methods of creation, though at present wood is his favorite medium.

  “I’ve become addicted to it – I am truly inspired by the desire to discover what the medium will give me, it’s just so limitless, sometimes the greatest difficulty is that there are too many choices,” Grimes says.

  At the time of our interview he was working on about 15 pieces, a heavy workload for any artist.

  “Sometimes I need to take a break from one and work on another; coming back gives me the fresh perspective I need.”

  He carves shapes out of large planks of bass wood, often slicing into a figure, twisting it around to fit his desired result,
then gluing it back together.

  “Every attempt is a decision, a hypothesis – I never know what the outcome will be, but if it isn’t right, I just cut the part off and keep moving-every piece sets me off in a different direction so I have to keep things going.”

  He will go through many involved stages – relief, carving and painting – before a piece is complete, usually a month or more of work.

  “When I finish it better have an exuberance, it has to really affect me before I can quit, it has to look vital.”

  Though Grimes has been an artist for his entire life, it only recently became his profession. He’s been an auto mechanic,
teacher and jeweler – experiences that have contributed greatly to his incredible work ethic and meticulous attention to detail.

  Even now, with so much recognition, one gets the feeling that Grimes doesn’t see his artistic life as a “job”. He, like his work, exudes an exuberance and enthusiasm only found in those who have meshed “work”, and “life” with “purpose”.

  He seems humbly in awe of his success, because, for him, art has always been such an integral part of his being.

  “I am in a realm where I use art as an adventure, and I never know where it will take me.”

Robert Grimes now has shows regularly around the region, with a big opening coming up in August at The Art Spirit Gallery’s Second Friday Art Walk. (August 11 – September 2, 2006) The Art Spirit Gallery,
208-765-6006, 415 Sherman Avenue,
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814 | | | |
Sandpoint Idaho Arial Photo Guide

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