Sulin

He is an everyman – a mild mannered fellow quick with a handshake and a hello. If you ask him how he is he will always tell you he is fine. He is quick to answer your questions with a one-word response. He comes to the Center early every weekday with his vinyl lunch box in hand and likes to peek inside it every now and then.  He likes eating a sandwich, chips, Oreo cookies and an apple. Sometimes we’ve seen him facing the white wall on a sunny day keeping an eye on his shadow. We’ve never got close enough to hear what he is whispering – but we would really like to know.

Bob came to Short Center North in the early 1990’s and since then he has shown his art at The Crocker Art Museum, The University of Long Beach, and many galleries and other venues. During the years he has worked with SCN instructors: Steve Vanoni, John Berger, Valentino Fernandez, Skinner, Kathleen Clark, Kim Scott and Stephanie Skalisky, to name a few.  On his first day a teacher painted a happy face on a National Geographic cover for him. It hung on the wall for 12 years as a memento to that day. Since then he drew and painted with great precision and with no extraneous marks – just enough and not a paint daub more. He paints seemingly not out of the joy of creating but out of some inner duty, as if he clocked in to his assembly line job. Sometimes he did not paint for long stretches, preferring to look at National Geographic pictures, sometimes looking at the same one for long periods of time, sometimes reading the same page over and over. Perhaps that is how he developed his uncanny ability to memorize certain things- such as any song before 1969 and the names of all the dead presidents and their famous quotes.

He has the ability to unintentionally instill a sense of humor in his artwork through the linear simplification of his subjects: the bags under Betty Davis’s eyes, the stern scowl of an iconic Madonna copied from a Byzantine icon, the towering Frida Kahlo next to a tentative looking Diego Rivera. He is the funniest guy in the room but doesn’t know it; these artworks are created from sheer observation and without apparent emotional investment. Would he care if they all disappeared, or were destroyed? It’s hard to know. We are certainly not laughing at him, but we are not laughing with him either.  In the end the joke’s on us: we are not as innately clever as he is, and we cannot do what he does with such ease.  Like the ancient Greeks he has discovered his own Golden Ratio, dissolving images into geometric formulas which result in the simplest base shapes and in the process delighting us with the results.

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