A native of Minnesota, Robert Wilde studied art at the University of Minnesota before his entry into private industry, where he developed advanced metal working skills, broad experience in plastics and metals manufacturing processes, mechanical and electrical design, drafting and technical illustrating. Returning to artistic endeavors in mid-life, he completed a BFA and MA in sculpture at St. Cloud State University, then taught at the College of St. Benedict / St. John's University, in St. Joseph & Collegeville, MN for ten years.
Wilde works in various media - including photography, sculpture and drawing - depicting his view of God's incredible creation, with a specialty in sculptural portraiture ranging from busts to full-figure portraits in scales from miniature to monumental.
In the early 1990s Wilde began working with digital printing and in 1999 began large format photographic and Giclee printing. He continues to operate a Giclee-digital print studio in Dassel, Minnesota producing his own work and printing for other artisits.
That's the condensed form - a bit too condensed to cover 70+ years of life... I grew up in the northwest exurbs of Minneapolis, born near the end of WWII, before the Baby Boomers. We of that age were few and far between, especially out in the country and almost country. So I learned to entertain myself. I did it by building things in the dirt and drawing pictures.
1949: First Public Artistic Success.
My earliest memorable art experience occurred in kindergarten. I drew a picture of a house with a chimney because our house had a chimney. The kids sitting next to me seemed to like it so I added another chimney - they liked it more. So I kept adding chimneys and kept getting more laughter and attention. My first fifteen minutes of fame.
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1957-62 Early Training.
While I liked drawing and making things in clay, as I moved into my teens I began to lean more towards math and engineering, chemistry was interesting also, especially when the results were violent chemical reactions. By age 15 or 16 I thought I would like to be a physicist. This was before calculators; hand calculating pi to two or three pages seemed quite fascinating. Then I took my first high school art class. Newtonian physics was nice, neat and predictable ... life was not. Nor was Art.
OK, theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, uncertainty principle... these had been around for decades. But nobody had mentioned them to me. I suppose my high school physics teacher had so much trouble getting Newtonian physics across to most of his students that he never dared approach the real-life stuff. If I had known - I would probably be a physics professor emeritus by now (of course there was a problem, until mid-life I had not learned to write - spell, yes, grammer, yes, string together more than 300 words - one page, no). So I spent my last two years of high school studying art.
1962-1968 On-Off Art Studies at U of M, Mpls, MN.
Early 1960s I was called a Beatnik, then I called myself a hipster, by 1967 I was called a Hippie. I was in and out of school for about six years studying sculpture with Katherine Nash and drawing. I also maintained a studio and/or darkroom to continue to develop my career. During that time I managed to accumulate fewer than two years of college credits. I never made it past the first essay in freshman English. Three tries. But I did manage to get married in 1967, the "Summer of Love", and my wife and I briefly moved to California. We discovered that winter in California did not necessarily include insulation and heat; by December we were back in Minnesota to get warm. By 1968 I questioned my career choice and went to work full-time for my landlord in his company manufacturing electronic signal systems for hospitals and nursing homes.
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1968-1976 Industrial Manufacturing Apprenticeship.
In the beginning my employer was Management and I was Production. The company grew quickly and soon I was supervising other employees and managing production. As the company continued to grow I became responsible for more production processes. So I trained as a machinist, learned sheet metal fabrication, plastics forming and molding and a number of other industrial processes.
Did I mention that I also farmed from 1972-2000?
In 1972 my employer moved the company from Minneapolis to Dassel, MN, and my wife and I bought a run-down 80 acre farm. I began farming on weekends, evenings and vacation time. We raised and milked dairy goats for 12 years, sheep, pigs and chickens for another 16 years. I grew soybeans, corn, oats, wheat and alfalfa. We also raised 4 children (3 boys and a girl), seven dogs and untold numbers of cats.
1976-1986 Founded Steelesville Implement, Wilde's Welding and Ironwork.
I wanted to run my own company. After eight years I thought I had learned enough about business to do so. My first venture was building and selling hydraulic log splitters, the Steelesville Splitter. That kept me busy through the energy crisis of the 70's. By 1980 the competition in log splitter manufacturing became too fierce for me. Living in farm country, my welding skills began to be put to use repairing local farmers' machinery and supplying stair and porch railings for area builders. Decorative metal work began to wake the artist in me. I started using my wire feed welder to draw on steel plates, mostly simple landscapes with a few trees and rocks. In 1984 I did my first full round sculpture with the wire feed welder; it was a frog catching a fly. It was pretty rough.
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1986-1991 Began my career as Artist.
By 1986 I was making welded wild flowers of various sorts and other wildlife sculptures: fish, turtles, spiders. The flowers sold well at arts and craft shows. In fact they were selling so well that I investigated having them cast in bronze. The cost of casting was too expensive for me but I was hired by the foundry to do welding and detail work on the sculptures they cast. This was very good practice for me as I had to duplicate the style of many different sculptors. I also learned the working process of lost wax casting. A year later, when I parted ways with that foundry, I had learned about the Minnesota State Arts Board's Arts-In-Education program. I worked out a plan for a portable foundry and put together a one-week program for teaching lost wax casting in schools around the state. I applied for and received a grant from Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council for the materials to build the foundry. I also applied to and was accepted by the State Arts Board for inclusion in their roster of approved teaching artists. I taught Lost Wax Casting in middle schools, high schools, community colleges, senior centers, even a nursing home; it made me realize how much I liked teaching and how much more about art I had to teach than just one casting process. But I had no degree.
1991-1996 Back to school in mid-life.
My oldest son was just graduating college and son #2 was 2 years away from graduating high school. I was used to filling out financial aid forms; why not put my name in the blanks? I found I was "under employed" and qualified for grants, scholarships and low-interest student loans. So for the next five years I became a student again (I got two good English professors who finally taught me how to write) and finished my BFA and a Master of Art in sculpture and drawing. I shifted my attention from wild life to human life. I spent those five years studying figure and portrait sculpture and drawing. I was also a Teaching Assistant (instructor of record) for two years. Those studies would eventually lead to a number of portrait commissions. Unfortunately graduation also mean't losing my studio at St Cloud State Univeristy.
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1996-2006 Instructor to Professor.
In the summer of 1996 I purchased a historic old building in Dassel that included a store-front studio and offices and apartments that I could rent out. Later that summer, hearing that the College of St Benedict/St John's University needed a gallery director, I sent my vita and portfolio to their Art Department. Coincidentally their long-time sculpture professor had just turned in his retirement notice, giving them no time to do a faculty search; also they had promised the job to one of their monks but he only had a Bachelor of Arts degree and was in the process of applying to graduate school. They decided to try me for a semester. I taught the former professor's 3-D Design, Sculpture and Photography classes while the monk took five years to earn his MFA; I stayed on as an Adjunct Instructor until he finished it in 2001. Then I filled in as a sabbatical replacement and adjunct during two faculty searches. I taught 2-D Design, Drawing, 3-D Design, Photography and Color Design through the spring of 2006 reaching the position of Adjunct Assistant Professor.
2006-2013 Art Gallery, Custom Framing and Digital Print Studio
Because of an employement blip in 2003, I opened my studio as a full-time gallery showing other artists' work as well as my own. At that time I also purchased a large-format printer and started printing giclée reproductions for other artists. When called back to teach during another faculty search, I hired my daughter to help take care of the gallery and digital print studio. In 2006 I went full-time in the gallery and added custom framing to my operations. This went well through 2010 when 66 years of accumulated injuries brought me to a temporary halt. After a surgeon successfully fused a third of my back, I found that my duties as property owner and landlord became nearly impossible. That took a while to sink in but in 2013 I sold the building, downsized and moved my studio again.
2013-present Smaller Print Studio at Home.
In 2009 my wife and I built a new house on the north end of our old farm; half of the basement was reserved for my studio space. I made the move in early summer of 2013. After installing two large printers, two computer workstations, a shooting easel for large paintings, a mat table, flat files and shelving and other storage units, the basement studio looks much smaller. The house is at the top of a steep hill and has a walk-out entry for the studio. However I have yet to build steps and a walk to it, so everyone must come to our front door. It gives each visitor a friendly welcome and a taste of the view that is on the head of each page on this website.
Now what's your story and how can I help you? Do you need photos (jpg, tif or psd) or prints of your artwork? Thinking of trying experimental digital prints? ...on fabric, a different paper, metal or acrylic sheets? Just need advice or suggestions on any of the materials or processes I've worked in? Give me a call 320-275-3403, email me Robert Wilde Studios or message me on facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.
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