B I O G R A P H Y ~ Artist with a Camera (Sturman's Polaroid style is described at the bottom)
The powerful images of mixed-media artist Robert Sturman have a vivid presence that is both other-worldly and deeply rooted in the earthly wonders he has explored so adventurously in his global travels. A spiritual journeyer as well, Sturman is an intuitive creator whose works resonate with an inner vision as much as they reach out to embrace the viewer with tactile, richly hued physicality. Dappled with light, vibrant with texture, at once brimming with narrative voice and sensual immediacy, his art conveys the sense of a moment of a dream distilled so that its magic and mystery can be absorbed at will.
The official visual artist of 2005s 47th Annual GRAMMY® Awards, Sturman has formal training as a painter and photographer, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Following his degree, Sturman completed a two-year apprenticeship with Carmel, CA-based master photographer William Giles, whose striking images have been said, "to have the impact of a Zen koan," a description that could apply to Sturmans imagery as well. He also studied for two years at the Memphis College of Art under acclaimed Italian painter John Torina, whose ephemeral, atmospheric landscapes are echoed in many of Sturmans works.
Sturman's body of work is comprised of a wealth of images taken over the course of extensive international treks. Each landscape, cityscape or captured vista is suffused with the essence of its place of origin, including visions of India, Rome, New Orleans, Laos, San Francisco, Cuba, and myriad more destinations. The artist's passion for Buddhist thought is reflected in a host of striking images including one of monks silently crossing in front of a Nepalese Temple, and his Jewish identity is explored in the piece "Perseverance: Portrait of a Surfing Rabbi," created after a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In listing qualities intrinsic to his work, Sturman has said it "is about emotions for which I have no words," and that can be felt throughout his oeuvre.
Many more of Sturmans pieces portray musicians and musical instruments, his distinctive technique lending itself beautifully to the improvisational nature of musical creation. The image selected for the 47th annual GRAMMY Awards, "The Humble Heroics of the Musical Poet," is a dynamic portrait of a red-suited guitar player shot in the streets of East L.A. Alive with spirit and screaming with color, it embodies Sturman's stated desire to be "fearless in the expression of light."
A native Southern Californian, Robert Sturman lives in Santa Monica.
TIMELINE OF THE ARTIST'S LIFE AND WORK
1970 Robert Charles Sturman is born on February 17th, the third and youngest child of Herbert and Beverly Sturman, in Los Angeles, California. Sturman grows up in an environment interested in literature and art.
1984 Sturman attends boarding school in the mountain town of Idyllwild, California. His father buys him his first camera, a Pentax K1000. His passion for photography begins. When he asked his father what he was supposed to take pictures of, his father's response was "Everything that you love."
1985-1988 While finishing up his education at Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, CA, Sturman spends most of his time in the photography department. He also enrolls at Otis College of Art and Design and takes night classes.
1988 Sturman attends The University of California, Santa Cruz(UCSC) and focuses on studying Art History and Drawing. He develops a friendship with master photographer, William Giles, who lives and works in Carmel, California. While still attending UCSC, Sturman becomes his apprentice for two years. He learns the foundations of photography while working in the darkroom, producing fine prints, and creating with a large format 8x10 camera. His friendship with Giles continues past graduation.
1992 After graduating from UCSC with a B.A. in Art and an emphasis in Painting and Drawing, Sturman attends The Memphis College of Art for two years. He studies under Italian master painter, John Torina, whose ephemeral images later echo in Sturman's work.
2000 Sturman visits India and Nepal, inspiring him to create his first comprehensive body of work. He is greatly moved by Osho, the Indian mystic poet and painter, and his principles of creativity, which soon affect his life as an artist and the responsibility that comes with it.
2000-2002 During this period, Sturman makes four separate trips to Cuba to create the "Cuba Libre, An American Artist in Cuba'" series. This work marks the beginning of a deep appreciation and fascination with music.
2003 Sturman spends three months creating a series of images in Europe, studying master artists such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rodin and Picasso. In Poland, Sturman visits Auschwitz/Birkenau Concentration Camp. This experience changes his life, reaffirming the importance of assuming responsibility for his life.
2004 Sturman is selected by The National Academy of Recording Arts& Sciences to be the official artist for the 47th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
2005 Sturman is commissioned by The United States Olympic Committee to create exclusive portraits of The Hall of Fame Olympians. The Living Wellness Foundation honors Sturman with the Creative Visionary Award; other invited honorees include His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Kunzang Rinpoche, the 'Tibetan Treasure Finder.'
2006 Sturman collaborates with B.B. King to create an 80th Birthday portrait.
2007 Sturman is asked by 2xist clothing company to create their ad campaign. The president of the company, Mike Tawil, is a collector of Sturman's work, and gives the artist 100% freedom to self express for the campaign. The Tyra Banks show featured Sturman's campaign and the winner of Americas Top Model/Men won a shoot with Sturman which was aired on her show.
2007-2008 Sturman creates his most prolific series of artwork entitled, "Poetry of the Gods," A comprehensive study of the beautiful practice of Yoga. The series receives international recognition in the world of yoga and inspires Sturman to create a coffee table book. In addition, an iPHONE application, entitled "Yoga Visions," is created to celebrate this illustrious series of artwork.
2009 Sturman is chosen by the city of West Hollywood as their official artist for their 25th anniversary. He is also chosen by FIFA, World Cup Soccer games to create an artwork representing America's participation in the first ever World Cup held on the African continent.
2010 After Hurricane Katrina, Sturman makes 5 trips to New Orleans resulting in a coffee table book celebrating 50 of New Orleans finest musicians Proceeds benefit musicians of Louisiana who lost everything in the hurricane.
2011 Sturman begins a new series photographing within United States prisons, exploring Yogis behind bars rehabilitation through the practice of yoga.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2008 Turner House Gallery Valdosta, Georgia Retrospective Exhibition
2007 Celebrity Vault Gallery, Beverly Hills The Art of New Orleans Music exhibition
2006 Bergamot Station, BGH Gallery, Santa Monica, California Tranquility exhibition
2005 Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN: "In the Mix Selected Works by Robert Sturman"
2004 Risk Press Gallery (Melrose), West Hollywood, CA: "Mandalay and the Skies of Serendipity"
2002 Studio Gallery, Santa Monica, CA: "The European Series"
2001 Studio Gallery, Santa Monica, CA: "Cuba Libre - an American Artist in Cuba"
2000 The Hatch Gallery, Los Angeles, CA: "Visual Poems"
1999 Potrero Hill Brewing Company, San Francisco, CA: "Blues Highway"
1998 Vision Gallery, San Diego, CA: "Song of the Waves"
The Painterly Polaroid Style
In browsing through the work, the style that looks painterly is actually a Polaroid technique and no digital alterations have been added.
In finding his own artistic signature, Sturman developed and refined an improvisational, labor-intensive process that synthesizes both his photographic and painterly expertise. Each of his pieces begins with an original image created with a Polaroid SX-70 camera, instant photographic film, and meticulously considered lighting. As soon as the image comes out of the camera, Sturman warms it up to keep the chemical emulsions fluiddepending on his locale when shooting, source heat might be the sun in the tropics, or the warmth of his winter coat in cooler climes.
On site wherever he is in the world, Sturman then immediately carves into the still wet and supple surface of the photo with a variety of handmade tools until he feels the image has been manipulated and transformed to its ultimate potential. The piece is later enlarged using an optimally high-resolution scanner, and a process through which none of the original light radiance or color luminosity is lost. Because Sturman chooses his subject matter in advance with its inherent color values in mind, his palette is extraordinary. Coupled with the impressionistic "brushstrokes" of Sturman's hand implements, the result is as pure a fusion of painting and photography as exists anywhere.
In 2010, Sturman made the shift from Polaroid to digital photography.
"I am forever grateful to Polaroid for providing me with a unique medium for over 20 years. It taught me everything I needed to know. Because the camera and film were so temperamental, I had to understand natural light in order to bring out the richness in my subjects. I had to utilize the concept of decisive moment as I often only had a few exposures of film. This taught me to be precise.
The Polaroid took me all over the world - gave me an opportunity to work with the Grammys, Olympics, World Cup Soccer, BB King, Alanis Morissette, Fats Domino, and many others.
Although the Polaroid film I used is still being produced in Europe by a company who purchased the rights, I have chosen to walk away from it and am now exploring new cameras and exciting techniques. Many of these new pieces can be found in my portfolios. Thank you for your support of my work as an Artist."
Robert Sturman, 2011