New England, born and raised. Though I have lived in California for all of my adult life, you cannot take the New Englander out of me. It follows me. I’m determinedly independent, critically frugal, I don’t take myself too seriously, and yes, sarcasm. For 30 years I have been making portraits of people, real people, as a photographer for advertising and editorial clients worldwide. But for over 40 years, I’ve been playing with trees, wood, lumber. Dragging dead oak trees from the woods on the back of a dirt bike in rural Massachusetts, I’d cut and split the firewood on cold November days while still in middle school. Fast forward a few decades of city life, and I’m back living on a farm, this time in the Oakland hills. Over the past few years, I’ve taken down 70 trees on site and planted close to 80. A lot of lumber has been cut milled, dried and built with and carved on site.
My 7000 square foot outdoor photography studio serves me well for clients, but when I started to carve there under the shade of a 60 year old cedar, I was back home again, back in the woods of New England, back playing with trees. I use urban tree fall – some of it from my own trees, but all of it from here in the Bay area. These trees have lived and died all around us. While the medium is reclaimed materials, it isn’t just a medium like a board or a piece of clay. It has a history, a local history, a life lived alongside us, a story of its own.
As with my photography, I suppose I’m looking for the portrait inside something. Yet, one cannot see someone or something without looking through the lens of their own emotions, their own experience, their current thoughts. The story I want to tell with a piece, though about the tree, is perhaps more about us, about now. The stories are about time, about age, about climate, about today.
While I work in wood, my pieces are sometimes cast in bronze, but the wood is still present, the cracks, the rings, the grain – all still present in the metal form.
2020 September - Silicon Valley Sculpture 2020
2020 October - Open studio
2019 September - Open studio
Brown University - BA
Rhode Island School of Design - Photography
Commercial Photography portfolio - roberthouser.com