Artist Profile: Robin Wessman, oil painter
As a 20-something grad student studying painting in Ohio in the 1970s, Robin Wessman missed the ocean so badly that when he drove back home to Massachusetts between semesters, he’d stop at the beach before traveling home. “I could never live without the ocean,” Wessman says. “In Eastham, where I live, you can see light reflecting off water even if you’re a mile inland.”
Like so many artists, Wessman can’t explain exactly why he paints. “I paint because I need to,” he says, “because I like it, but I also like to think I’m doing it for other people.” He paints every day—sea and landscapes when the weather’s nice and still lifes in his studio when it’s not. He paints with the hope that the viewer will be attracted to the aesthetics of the scene—to its light and composition—just as he was.
His land and seascapes almost always draw the viewer’s eye into the scene with a strong diagonal or lines, or a sweeping curve of sandy track or beach. His palette is light, almost—but not quite—bright.
Figures appear so infrequently in his work they are virtually nonexistent, with their only acknowledgment being perhaps a line of sailboats way out on the water. Houses, railway stations and lighthouses don’t look deserted or haunted as much as they look as though the denizens are inside taking an afternoon nap, or are down by the water and have left the back door unlocked for the viewer to safely wander through.
About three years ago, Wessman began putting objects together in his studio for still lifes. Not your classic fruit bowls or vases of hydrangeas with a few fallen petals signifying the passing of time, Wessman’s objects float in space, casting shadows in their own metaphysical worlds. Wooden shoes tap dance on nothing. Pieces of fruit view a painting of beach balls, contemplating their own notion of beauty. Teapots, teabags and tea strainers whirl around a teacup as if in Wonderland.
He starts with an idea, knowing full well that people will see and interpret his idea differently. “It’s not important what I think,” Wessman says. “What’s important is what the painting causes the viewer to think.” These works precipitate a narrative in the viewer’s mind. What are we to think of a watermelon hovering over a martini glass, with an olive cowering in the gin? Or a lemon held gently in a vise, with the title, “Do it”?
Robin Wessman is represented by Gallery Artrio, 50 Pearl Street, Hyannis; Post Office Gallery, 38 Shore Road, North Truro; The Preservation Framer, 16 North Washington Street, North Attleboro; and The Woodshed Gallery, 1243 Pond Street, Franklin. Wessman will be the featured artist at Post Office Gallery from July 16-26. More information on the artist can be found at wessmanart.com.