One of art’s most astounding qualities is its power to elicit an undeniable feeling while holding articulated meaning out of reach. It is a dynamic well understood by Robert Schoolfield, one of twelve artists selected for solo exhibitions at the Customs House’s Peg Harvill Gallery in Clarksville, following a call for entry by Nashville Arts Magazine. His show, Robert Schoolfield: The Layers of Up & Down, will be the first in a year of month-long exhibitions by the selected artists.
“I thought that entering this show would be a good opportunity for me to get more exposure,” Schoolfield says of his decision to apply. “It was just something that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon, and I’m really excited to be showing in a new city.”
During the show, Schoolfield will be bringing his unique combination of drawn, written, painted, and applied-material work to a new audience. His process can range widely—delicately applying paint or slinging it onto the canvas; utilizing newspaper clippings, money, and documents from mental hospitals; adhering cigarettes and brushes—and this brings to life in his pieces the indecisiveness and ambiguity he feels about the work.
“I really like my major and minor keys to be in the right places to really get across what I’m trying to say,” Schoolfield explains. “And I’m not even sure if I know exactly what it is that I’m trying to say . . . I never really have a result that I already have imagined in my mind. It’s more of an experiment every time that always reflects my life and things that are going on in the world around me. It’s an intuitive process; watching me work is like watching a creature in its natural habitat.”
Though the result is unknown until it appears on the canvas, Schoolfield’s works for the show share some common qualities. They are colorful and dynamic, shapes emerging from scrawled, chaotic backgrounds peppered with recognizable words and objects. Schoolfield says that, if it connects to anything in the work, the exhibition’s title may reflect the emotional ups and downs that are evident in the pieces or their exploration of the sides of ourselves that are uncomfortable.
“The works I have selected for the show are all pieces that reflect my own unique style,” he continues. “I like when all of the attention is drawn to one of my paintings just because it is present in a room, where you notice it just because it’s there. People come to look, and I like to give them something that they can view multiple times and still see something different every time.”
If there’s one lesson that visitors will gather from The Layers of Up & Down, it will be a sense that the rules don’t matter, that expression comes in many forms, and that creating is more important than self- consciousness. “Don’t be afraid to express or expose yourself,” Schoolfield says of his hope for what a viewer will take away from the show. “I want them to be inspired to go do that certain thing that they have been thinking about for their entire lives but keep putting off until ‘one day.’ Whatever the source of creativity is that flows through me, it also flows through you.”
Robert Schoolfield: The Layers of Up & Down is the first in a yearlong series of exhibits curated by Nashville Arts Magazine at Customs House Museum’s Peg Harvill Gallery, 200 S. 2nd Street in Clarksville. The exhibit is on view January 3 through 30. Schoolfield will be on hand to talk about his work at the Customs House Winter Exhibits opening reception January 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.customshousemuseum.org.To see more of Schoolfield’s art, visit www.schoolfieldart.com.