Roberta Daar is 5' 1", 107 pounds. With those petite stats you might think that her sculptures are made from paper not wood. But step into her studio and you'll quickly learn the opposite.
Crammed into her work space is an industrial grade band saw, belt sander and drill press, various compressors, jig saws, clamps and an assortment of power hand tools. It's a workshop that would make most men drool. In fact, in order to have the strength to handle this equipment, she needs to pump iron at a local gym 3 times a week. It gives new meaning to the notion that artists suffer for their work.
Although she is relatively new to the fine art scene, her wall sculptures have already
gained enthusiastic recognition from peers and art critics alike. Her sculptures are distinquished by the unique way she cuts and shapes the wood. By their smooth edges and clean colors. And by the complex interrelationships between the parts. Her work doesn't actually move, but nevertheless, it appears to be in motion. To appreciate the true depth of Roberta's work, you must see it in person. Two-dimensional photos simply don't do it justice.
Roberta was born and raised in New York City. She attended the School of Visual Arts and took classes at the Art Students League before graduating with a BFA from Queens College. But it would be years before she became a sculptor.
After graduation, she embarked on a career as a graphic designer. She credits an early exposure to a lecture by sculptor Louise Nevelson as an important influence that stuck with her over the years. It was Nevelson's fabulous wood wall constructions that haunted and inspired her to abandon a successful graphic design career and to pursue her own sculptural ideas. But it wasn't easy.
It took 10 years to refine her techniques and almost just as long to find and finance the right equipment for her work. "I had an image in my mind of what I wanted to do but no single source to direct me. No one was using wood in quite the way I wanted to. It was like I was on a quest. Some artists travel to Machu Picchu for inspiration and answers.
I, on the other hand, traveled to Home Depot. I also hung around machine shops and lumber yards asking endless questions. I dragged my husband along when buying heavy machinery because the salesmen couldn't conceive that I would be using the equipment. In the end, it was mostly alot of trial and error."
If there's one thing definitive you can say about her, it's that her work isn't pretentious and neither is she. "I hate all those artsy, esoteric descriptions some artists use to justify their work," she says. "Like most people, I have no idea what the hell they're talking about. My favorite artist quote of all time is from Louise Nevelson. Someone asked her how she came up with her sculpture ideas and Louise shot back: "How do you eat a pear?" I think that pretty much sums up the process for me, it's unconscious. The important part is that you, the viewer, enjoy the result. I don't make political statements. I don't want to force-feed you my ideas. I want you to look at my work and conjure up your own thoughts and feelings."
Roberta's inspiration comes from a place she can't describe, but the actual construction of each piece can be documented in great detail. Each piece is meticulously planned and executed and can take up to 8 weeks to finish. "I look at everything under a microscope," she says. "I can't let it rest, even after its done. If something bothers me, I will take it off the wall and change it. I drive myself crazy. I can't let anyone have it until I love it."
Roberta lives on Long Island because she needs the space to create and store her work. "Long Island isn't exactly a cultural mecca," says Roberta. "But that's fine with me, because it means a lot less distractions. If I want stimulation, Manhattan is only 30 miles away."
She lives with her writer husband, Michael, and two gorgeous and charismatic Siamese cats, in a big house/studio crammed full of art, power tools and antique radios. You can contact her anytime at email@example.com.