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Rob Evans p3

Pennsylvania contemporary realist painter and curator Rob Evans talks about symbols in his pictures… 

READERSVOICE.COM: You use a lot of symbols in your later works. They feature everything from moths to snakes, bones, shells and birds, and vapor trails mirroring the river below. How did this symbol phase evolve, like was it influenced by songs with a lot of symbols, or stories you’d read that had a lot of symbols?

ROB EVANS: Interesting that you should mention music. Growing up, I was a big Beatles fan, and was particularly impressed with their ability to take simple commonplace people, events, places or things from their life and elevate them through metaphor in their songs. I have always been drawn to artists, writers and poets who use metaphor and symbolism in their work, pulling you in on so many levels. I actually curated an exhibit called Transforming the Commonplace, exhibited at the Susquehanna Art Museum in 2003, which examined this same approach in the contemporary fine art world.

From the very beginning of my career I have gravitated toward making this type of work – my early interiors and landscapes utilized these types of symbolic devices (natural artifacts, power cords, open windows and doors, jet trails, power lines, fences). They are powerful tools to express layers of meaning without being overtly political or heavy-handed, allowing for the work to be enigmatic and still somewhat open-ended in its meaning and interpretation. I think this is important in allowing the viewer to bring his or her own story to the work, enabling a personal connection on some deeper level. I have continued to utilize these devices throughout my career.

RV: What sort of fiction do you like, and can you mention a few favorites?

RE: I have had a broad range of interest in fiction over the years – from masterworks by such historic greats as Dickens, Cooper, Hardy, Twain, Steinbeck, etc. to more recent works by contemporary writers such as Charles Baxter and Joyce Carol Oates. In fact, I created a cover painting for Baxter’s Shadow Play, (resulting from his seeing a feature on my paintings in an issue of The Gettysburg Review that also happened to include one of his short stories). We became friends and I later discovered that he had secretly incorporated one of my paintings in Shadow Play as well – the main character made little dioramas, one of which was based on my painting Late Dinner. Subsequently, my works were used on a number of other book covers by prominent writers and poets – enabling me to forge new friendships in that arena and discover their literary works.

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