Storyteller in Stone
“My passion is to create virtual records of cultural and personal events that have impacted me greatly. All of my work is rooted in observation – whatever is going on, I express it in stone. It could come out as Pop art, as an abstract form, or as a combination of both. The style I use is one that best reflects the inspiration behind each piece.” – Robin Antar, sculptor
American sculptor Robin Antar tells stories in stone. From hyper-realistic icons of American pop culture tinged with the artist’s wry sense of humor to a deep dive into personal and national trauma and conflict, Antar’s parallel and intertwining bodies of work span her 40-year career as an artist-observer of American life and human nature.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I’m very aggressive which is why I prefer stone as my medium for communication. A lot of sweat and work goes into each piece. I’ll attack a 1500-pound block of Greek marble with seven-inch diamond blades and high-powered air hammers to chisel away at anxiety and frustration. I’m not afraid to go in, not afraid to “cut the line,” which gives my forms vibrant movement. You have to put the emotion in there, otherwise the work is dead.
What is the most powerful work you’ve created?
“David’s Knot in Flames” was created as a tribute to my son, David, who passed away at the age of 26. I carved a knot in stone – David had a very hard life and the knot represented his pain – but it breaks open into a flame symbolizing his soul rising to heaven. This was an extremely hard thing for a mother to do. But for me, as a sculptor, it was also a work of healing. The sculpture was installed on the grounds of Zucker Hillside Hospital and I recently received a letter from a patient telling me how the work and its story inspired her. That was the biggest high in the world.
What prompted your Realism in Stone series?
I began carving abstracts – Expressions in Stone – as a teen. Much later in my career, my son asked me one day if I could carve a giant sneaker. I thought it would be cool to do a Skechers boot so I contacted them and within five minutes I got a commission to replicate one of their boots! I never carved realism in stone before that commission. When I walked into the studio after it was finished – with the real boot next to the carved boot – I had to take a double take on which one was which. That’s when I knew this series would be successful.
Why did you start working on condiments and food?
After 9/11, I began to ask, “What is America?” America is comfort food: Oreo cookies, a Ballpark Frank, a hamburger with fries. I also did condiments because every restaurant you go to there’s mayonnaise and ketchup – it’s a big thing for America. Actually I don’t like condiments. I don’t even have them in my house.
My Realism in Stone series became a statement of faith in the future of American culture while questioning the direction our society will take.
What is your most controversial piece?
When Donald Trump started running for president, I carved the hat he wore on the campaign trail: a white “Make America Great Again” golf cap. When I posted it on Instagram last year, the comments literally blew up – I lost hundreds of followers and had to take it offline because customers started boycotting one of my galleries. I’m not taking political sides, I created it because that’s America. I’m just an observer.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a sculpture titled “The U.S. Constitution in a Knot” to express all the craziness that is going on in our politics right now. It’s part abstract and part realism, combining the expression of conflict from my stone knot sculptures with my hyper-realism series as an observer of American history.
Is your work a celebration or a critique of America?
It’s an observation of what’s going on – nothing more, nothing less – and I express it in stone. It could come out as Pop art, as an abstract form, or as a combination of both. I am simply recording important moments in American history and creating monuments to American culture.
To see more of Robin’s fabulous work, visit her website and store.