Robear brings ‘New Discoveries’ to Biggs

DOVER –– Cecil County, Maryland native Michael Robear has his surreal works of art on display at the Biggs Museum of American Art in a display entitled “New Discoveries.”

Mr. Robear began painting when he was about 8 years old and by 10 he knew he wanted to go to art school.

Mr. Robear attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., graduating with a concentration in painting before returning to Cecil County.

Although as a kid and through college he focused on painting, he grew up building with his father and said working in construction led him into woodwork and sculpture.

“I’ve always liked working in 3D,” Mr. Robear said. “I don’t just consider myself a painter. I’m an artisan.”

He eventually met a metalsmith and decided to try his hand at the art and has been working with metal for 22 years.

“It seemed interesting and I’ve never found anything that you can’t learn if you try hard enough,” he said.

Through his metalwork, he began creating custom frames to accompany each of his paintings which are primarily watercolor on paper, although some are on wood.

The frames aren’t independent works of art, they are an extension of the painting and equally as important in the presentation, he said.

“I’m changing the relationship between painting and frame,” Mr. Robear said. “I’m trying to blur the line so the final product says only one thing.”

Some of the frames blur the line by turning elements of the painting into 3D renderings, like a ladder extending from the painting into a 3D ladder on the frame and a frame covered with metal trees, matching the trees around the border of the painting.

By holding an exhibit at the Biggs Museum, Mr. Robear has a unique opportunity to showcase some of his more experimental work.

“The Biggs isn’t a commercial museum, so the artists we have are able to show the pieces they love without worrying about which pieces people are most likely to buy,” said Ryan Grover, curator of the Biggs.

“It allows visitors to truly absorb the artists’ work and not just what has been produced as commercial.”

“I’ve been able to bring some pieces out that may have been rejected by a different museum that is only looking for sales,” Mr. Robear said.

And some of his pieces are quite unconventional –– not following any sort of traditional path, especially when it comes to the shapes of the paintings and their custom frames.

“I’m not a student of art history,” Mr. Robear said. “I like to make things I find interesting and I like to experiment and do things I’ve never done before.”

Although he likes to be experimental, he usually comes back to more familiar ground after working on a few unique pieces to get centered.

“It can be mentally exhausting to push forward with some unusual pieces so sometimes it’s necessary to come back to something safe as a kind of break,” he said.

Nearly all the work on display was made between 2008 and the summer of 2015 and focuses on farmland, farmhouses and early American homes but Mr. Robear takes a surrealistic approach.

“His approach is very unique,” Mr. Grover said. “And the themes he chose to display deal with his relationships with family and the local landscape, it’s intriguing.”

“New Discoveries” will be on view in the Biggs Museum third-floor galleries at 406 Federal St., until Jan. 10.

On Jan. 9, Mr. Robear will collaborate with Mr. Grover to give a lecture and workshop on the history and use of egg-tempera painting, an artistic medium Mr. Robear is currently exploring.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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