Robert Carlson was introduced to glass by his good friend Tom Philabaum in 1980. He has been working on Bainbridge Island, Washington since 1987. He lives with his wife Mary Fontaine-Carlson. Their daughter Nora Carlson is a recent graduate of Kenyon College of Gambier OH.
Robert has taught many workshops. They include Pilchuck Glass School, Penland School of Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Bild-Werk and The Glass Furnace. He has been a visiting artist at California College of Arts and Crafts, California State University at Fullerton, Kent State University, University of Illinois, Hastings College, University of Miami and others.
Robert Carlson is represented in many collections. They include the Corning Museum of Glass, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, Tampa Museum of Art, The Glass Museum, Glasmuseum Frauenau. Among his awards are a Lifetime Membership Award from the Glass Art Society, John Hauberg Fellowship at the Pilchuck School, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1990, a Visual Artists Residency at the Centrum Foundation in 1992 and many others. Mr. Carlson was president of the Glass Art Society from 1994-1996 and on board for 6 years. He served on the board of the American Craft Council for 3 years as well as on the Artists Advisory Council of Pilchuck from 1989-90.
My pieces are three-dimensional narratives that are meant to be “grocked” (the term Robert Heinlein coined to express complete and immediate understanding) as opposed to “understood”. Unlike a written narrative, where a linear progression of words slowly brings the reader to the story and ultimately to an understanding, my sculptures present an entire narrative experience in a unique and more immediate visual format. To me this is the beauty and allure of painted glass sculpture.
The images and forms I use are archetypal and personal. They are iconographic and idiosyncratic. This is after all how we experience life. We are incorporating the largest conception of creation, a god concept, down through the cosmological, into the iconographic, then the identity markers of nationality, religion, gender and finally to the uniquely personal and mundane. Our moment-to-moment experience of being depends on where we place the emphasis on this continuum. One thing is certain, the more our experience feels like awe and incomprehension, the closer we are to the “god” end of the continuum!
While I have always loved the process of “glass blowing”, my sculptures had to be about more than just the glass and it’s inherent properties. Painting on glass has allowed me to transform this beautiful and seductive material into narrative sculptures. They express the deep inner life that animates all human beings. The glass gives these sculptures form, but the paint gives them meaning. For me this is the most important part of my work.