ABOUT THE ARTIST
"Art let me out of the box."
Raised in Michigan, Robertus van der Wege ("Wege" is pronounced "Wehg") grew up learning the basics of drawing and a love of art from his father, who was a sign painter. He struggled with learning, particularly reading and math, throughout elementary and high school. It wasn’t until attending Western Michigan University that he was finally able to define his learning disability as dyslexia.
In college he became fascinated with art history, which gave him a way to connect with reading, and he took every course possible on the subject. A mentor encouraged him to attend Michigan State University for a semester in order to take additional art history classes, and when he completed those courses he returned to graduate with a B.A. in sculpture and art history, the first B.A. with a focus in Art History that Western Michigan University had granted. His thirst for knowledge led him to pursue a Masters in Asian and Pacific Art History from the University of Hawaii-Manoa and later an MFA in sculpture from Northern Illinois University.
Having often felt uncomfortable with reading or speaking in groups for most of his early life, art helped Robertus express his wit and imagination in unique ways. Although he’d initially seen himself primarily as an art teacher, during his MFA in sculpture he began to recognize himself as an artist with something to contribute to the world.
Robertus’ creations stand out because of their sense of whimsy, his willingness to mix media in unusual ways, and his constant quest for impeccable craftsmanship. His work is easily recognizable by its clean surfaces, a sense of order, and its distinct lines. One of the ultimate goals of his art is to express the joyful things inside of him, and to bring that happiness to others.
“It’s not that difficult to make people smile.
There’s a joy in that.”
MY BICYCLE MOVEMENT
My most recent body of work involves bicycles. I have chosen these simple pieces of engineering because they are so universal in nature, and I have come to see them as a metaphor for humanity. Throughout the world, only our ability to walk is used more as a means of locomotion.
Almost everyone has had experiences with bicycles. The bicycle exists in almost every culture and the knowledge of bicycle mechanics is universal. The skill to repair a bike is the same in Boston, Bangkok, Beirut, or Beijing, and language is not a prerequisite to solving the most complex bicycle problem.
As children, our tricycles opened up new worlds for us; they increased our mobility, and we imagined ourselves as adults riding horses, driving cars, or flying airplanes. As we graduated from three wheels to two, we underwent a major right-of-passage, and our mobility and range expanded. As we found ways to taxi friends on fenders or handlebars, we often made our first contributions to the greater community. It is delightful watching these experiences come to mind and change the faces of those who encounter my work.
In our consumer society, we leave piles of bikes to rust as we rush to buy newer models. This aspect of the human condition is symptomatic of the strained relationship we have between technology and nature. We dismiss much of what we have done to our environment in the name of progress, while continuing to utilize finite resources. This relationship also fascinates me. Just as I have taken these old bikes and attempted to give them new life, each of us could be prepared to rediscover older and more sustainable technologies for our lives.
We process a great deal of information about a person when we see them on a bicycle; I seek to go beyond that level of understanding and to convey more about our nature as humans and the human condition. Using bicycles as a media, I have found myself viewing them both as conceptual and as figurative objects.
I ask you to look beyond the functional aspect of the bicycle and discover a new aesthetic within these familiar objects. If we can do this, perhaps we can look beyond our own emotional, mental or physical limitations and find an expanded understanding of the “normal.”