In 2017, following a 35-year career as a physician, Robert Wilson began making art full time. His formal art education came first as an undergraduate at Stanford University, and then cumulatively in parallel with his medical education and practice. His course work in drawing, painting, wood sculpture and welding at University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico College has been supplemented by courses in sculpture at Anderson Ranch Arts Center and Penland School of Craft. Underlying his academic learning, he is self-taught.
Wilson’s first major exhibition of sculpture was in 1989 at Etherton Gallery in Tucson, which was also the venue of his most recent major exhibition in 2020. In 2011, he was commissioned by the City of Albuquerque to construct Flyway, a major permanent public art installation designed as an homage to the sandhill crane migration. Flyway has been recognized nationally as the subject of the award-winning documentary film, “Flight Path: The Flyway Project” and internationally in The Guardian’s 2013 article “Top Ten Art and Culture Venues in Albuquerque, NM.” Wilson’s smaller public art installations include Wild Dog Diorama (1986), an artist’s window project in New York City supported by a grant from the NEA, and Cube (2009), an installation in the Rio Grande Bosque commissioned by Albuquerque’s Open Space Program. His most recent large sculptural installation River (2020) was shown at Exhibit 208 in Albuquerque and will be on view at the Open Space Visitor Center in 2021.
Since his retirement from medicine, Wilson has also produced a significant body of drawings and watercolors, which have been exhibited at the Jonathon Abrams Gallery in the UNM Hospital and at the Albuquerque Art Museum. He now paints concurrently with sculpture-making.
There is a vital connection to nature in Wilson’s work. His drawings and watercolors focus on landscapes of his long-time home in the Southwest. His public art installations also reference the natural environment, having drawn inspiration specifically from the interface of sky and land, the East Mountains, the Rio Grande Bosque, and the Rio Grande itself. His sculptures are primarily of animals. Most of his sculpture appropriates salvaged or scrap materials and un-milled wood. In most of his work, Wilson strives for an elegance of form that supersedes his materials.