Rubem Robierb is an established Brazilian American visual artist, sculptor as well as photographer. His artworks are usually filled with hidden meanings meant to spark a conversation, often using symbols to ask philosophical questions. The audience then develops its own personal understanding. Additionally, his strong cultural background has enabled him to connect to his audience more intimately, as their issues also concern him and impact his life.
The Arte & Lusso team had the pleasure of interviewing him and understanding his work profoundly as we were able to ask him a series of questions about himself and his art. We also discussed about his life as an artist during COVID-19 and his stance on several societal issues happening at the moment.
Would you say that your artworks reflect you as a person/artist? Are you an open book?
Just like a book shows the writer-author’s vision/opinion; An art work often shows the artist’s style/personality. History show us, art is a reflection of the society we live in, our collective selves and our time. That’s the goal for me, to express the world or the many “worlds” we live in.
To what extent has art transformed your life? How would you describe your character development throughout the years?
I was born in a very small town in Brazil, without of art I would probably still be there now. Art gave me wings to travel the world. Creating Art exposed me to different cultures, ideas and life experiences. Today, I can see my character development imprinted in my work. I can look at art works I made 10 years ago and remember, and feel, exactly what I was thinking/living in that moment.
It’s exciting to know our art evolves as we also evolve as human beings.
If you were not an artist, who do you think you could be?
Probably a philosophy teacher in a small town school. Art is a beautiful way to show a thought or tell a story, share a philosophy. Understanding our behavior and our universe, this is what “moves-me”. If you look closely at my work, you will see it’s meant to spark a conversation, often using symbols to ask philosophical questions. Art is the most beautiful way I have found to share a story.
What influences your art on a personal level? How is it reflected in your works?
I like to talk about contemporary societal issues because they deeply affect me on a personal level. These great questions in life are actually the fuel of my thought process.
I could never alienate myself and my work from what is happening around us, so I “dig into it” and love the dialogue.
At its best, art can promote understanding and empathy through beauty.
How has your identity as a Brazilian shaped the way you create your artworks?
In Brazil is common to have people from different religions, races and backgrounds in the same family or social circle. I was raised this way, exposed to an immense array of cultural references. It taught me how to easily assimilate, and mix harmonically many different aesthetics in the same body of work. Not every culture is accepting of diversity, and now as a Brazilian/ American, I create to bring people together in their thoughts and minds.
Your artworks are filled with hidden meanings and metaphors, could you tell us about the symbolisms in your artworks that help you achieve this? What emotions do you want to evoke with your artworks?
Symbolism and meaning are important in everything we do. My art sometimes asks deep questions from the viewer, it goes way beyond only the aesthetics. I wish to open doors for difficult conversations about our everyday issues. I use pleasure or beauty to “trap” the viewer for what I really want to talk about. Once I get your attention, the dialogue is open. I honestly believe empathy is the key for any dialogue.
You often use hearts and wings in your pieces, could you share what these objects mean to you? What do they symbolize?
I’m obsessed with wings and also Heart’s as powerful symbols of emotions and freedom. In EVERY different culture, these are timeless expressions we have in common. It’s an iconography that everyone can feel related to in any time or place. These symbols are universal common ground, and when you begin on common ground, you can start any deeper conversation.
How was it like being an artist during the pandemic? Did it give you more time to experiment or was it difficult to find motivation?
Through history, the most difficult times were also the most fertile for the arts. Conflict, stress and hardship are not wished for, but build resilience, strength and character. The art renaissance came right after the plague.
Last year I quarantined in my home and studio, determined to immerse myself in ideas, philosophies, prayers and art. My objective for this was to question our past and create conversation for the years to come as an act of hope and resilience. What else I would do ?
What did you create during these times?
I was surprised by the forward thinking of several projects to be completed in the next years ahead. Living in our now, I finished an 11ft sculpture “stethoscope shaped into a heart”, with an augmented reality feature of wings and a beating heart, as a tribute to the health care workers. We will want to forget the fears of that time, but we cannot. Instead we will remember and applaud our hero’s. Also for this time, A larger than life sculpture called “Peace Makers” inspired in the protests for racial justice and A new “Dream Machine II” winged sculpture that speaks to human resilience. They are all already on display in public spaces in NYC and Florida.
You are a strong advocate of the LGBTQ+ community, could you tell us about your Dandara sculpture honoring the transgender community? How did people respond to this piece?
Dandara was a transwomen who was brutally murdered on camera in Brazil in 2017 in a hate crime. For me she represents any of us from the LGBTQ + community and the hate or fear that we often encounter. NYC Parks invited me to display my work in Tribeca Park, I found the right opportunity to make this statement. I named my larger than life “DreamMachine” sculpture after her. The positive feedback from press and public was overwhelming, people not only read her story on the sculpture plaque but posted pictures with the sculpture and wrote me on my instagram about their own losses.
One woman, who’s son was killed by gun violence, wrote me that she was walking and asking God for a sign when she stumbled upon the butterfly wings sculpture and had her own revelation. Another was celebrating her last session of chemotherapy by taking a picture between the sculpture wings as a symbol of her own rebirth. Even actor Charlize Theron, saw the sculpture in the park and wrote a beautiful article about the importance of what it stands for. All random and deep experiences of different people with the same art work.
Art can transcend every social barrier.
On a personal note: For me, to make anyone who walked by the “Dandara – Dream Machine”… take the time to read her story and say the name of a person, who in any other circumstance may not even been remembered… THIS by it own is “ART”.
Ps: I didn’t know at the time, but It was also the first sculpture in NYC history named after a trans-person.
How was your experience with the NFT Art Fair? What did you showcase?
When I realized the Cube NFT Art Fair would take place in the same weekend of Nyc Pride, I decided to revisit “Dandara” art work turning it from a physical sculpture into a video art installation showing the “Butterly wings” pulling a huge pride flag all the way up in the 30 stories tall American Eagle billboard in Times Square. This video installation is also becoming an NFT with all the proceeds benefiting GLAAD, a foundation who works with the LGBTQ+ community.
What is your take on NFTs and how they are shaping the art world in the USA and abroad?
This Technology is definitely a game changer, not just for the arts, it will soon permeate all areas of art, culture and business. It establishes a financial worth to digital art, while giving so many artists freedom to create and sell their work. provenance, ownership and royalties are now easily traced. This is rapidly blurring the lines between physical and virtual worlds and it could be a really good thing.
Your art is displayed in various places in the USA, how did it feel to see it in Times Square?
Having your artwork seen all over the world is truly a blessing and a joy. It’s most rewarding when people from different cultures share their experience with my art by sending me a photo and their stories. I read each one. When Cube NFT Art Fair invited me to display in Times Square, I jumped right in.
This is possibly the most iconic spot in the world, known for sharing news and information. People gathered here to read of World-wars starting and celebrate their end.
With showing in historic places comes a responsibility to make a good use of this platform. Creating a 30 story-tall tribute to equality and inclusion and acceptance, seems just the right thing to do.
How did the public react to all the works displayed at this art fair
Innovative projects like this, reach a vast audience, even bringing non traditional art customers to the market. Anyone passing by can participate in the ART. It is no longer limited to those who “may” visit a gallery or show. I think this was the main idea of Cube Art Fair, bring art to people. The people who were in the “crossroads of the world” stopped what they were doing to see the installation and take pictures or videos. Most not even sure what was happening, but they were participants in an Art experience. Getting the attention of an art gallery crowd is much easier, than an audience in a place so polluted by information! I can’t believe we did it.
Do you keep in mind the interactive/engagement aspect while creating a piece?
Yes, It is a co-creative process. I would rather always open conversations and encourage the viewer interaction instead of make a plain statements. I want the viewer to make their own questions and find their own answers.
Follow the artist on Instagram: @rubemrobierart
Check out ‘World’s Largest Public Art Fair: Cube Art Fair Launches First NFT Art Fair‘ for more information about this event.