Painter B. Robert Moore and his works are a hot commodity in the art world. His latest exhibition, Out The Mud: A Black American Rite Of Passage—which wrapped last week at Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles—has sold our. The former corporate IT manager turned artist found salvation in his paintings, turning away from a life of alcohol and drugs to focus on his art form.
From his initial paintings that turned popular comic strip characters into Black individuals, Moore is now exploring more authentic tableaus that reveal and celebrate the quality of life for Black Americans. Here, the Iowa-based painter shares with EBONY his latest artistic exploration and where it will take him next.
EBONY: What inspires your art?
B. Robert Moore: I'm inspired by stories that I've experienced, and by stories that I'm able to express through authentic storytelling. Painting is a great medium and creating is a great thing, but having an authentic story, a story that's felt and understood, is really inspiring for me.
When did you discover your artistic talent, and what event conspired that set your artistic tone?
Artists always struggle with that ultimate level of confidence, I think. But I've had points of validation along the way. It started with my close friends and my mom, my brothers and sisters. I remember one of my close friends buying one of my first pieces of work, and another friend of mine told me I should sell it to someone else outside the state, or put it on Instagram or something. Those were all early happenings, maybe the end of 2019 or early 2020. In April 2020, I bought a print from an artist out of New Orleans named Auudi Dorsey. Auudi then noticed my art and told me how much he thought my art was amazing, and he shared my art with some collectors, who ended up ultimately buying one of my works. So that was a really cool thing where it was community-based and peer-to-peer, just one of the homies sharing my work with some of his homies.
How does your art stand to speak for the plight of the Black male in America?
My art speaks to that resilience we have without taking away the trauma and without over-victimizing ourselves. That resilience continues to be a positive figure and uplifts the Black male as a positive figure but also as a vulnerable, sensitive and emotional figure. I'm a father, that's my number one job, and I came from a great father—a single father—but an amazing father. It is being able to figure out how to compose imagery that's true but doesn't demonize the Black male.
What's your most personal piece in the exhibit?
My most personal piece is A Letter To My Absent Parent. It's a piece with a child throwing a paper airplane in the sky. The relationship between the Black body and water is not necessarily a healthy relationship, due to the biological experiences that we've inherited. So when I thought about a message in a bottle, I didn't necessarily think that that made the most sense in terms of the Black identity and the Black experience. Instead, I thought that the idea of throwing a paper airplane with a letter written to my absent parent, in hopes that the wind might take it to them, and they may catch it, was much more ideal for a body of work that's rooted in Black identity and experiences. And it's true for me because I didn't have my mom growing up. So that's a very personal one.
Where did you study your medium?
I'm self-taught. I've been doing this for a little about four years, so I would only describe myself in a way that I'm not boxed in. I'm continuing to keep things open and free. There are materials and applications and mediums that I'm still very open to using that I have used in the past or haven't used at all. So my discipline is categorized under folk art, but it's also multidisciplinary because I don't have one dimension I solely focus on.
Where will your art take you next?
I think my art will take me into spaces where people like me aren't seen as much. I think I'm taking an independent path, which is a much more challenging one, with much more reward on the other side. So, I look forward to continuing to master my craft, challenge myself and see what rooms I can authentically get in without manipulating my credibility and honor or selling my soul.
See Moore's artwork at Think Space Gallery.