Robert P. Eustace
Some Printed Review Quotes on My Work
(from catalogue: 'Fifty Years of Inspiration and Impact :
The Photographic Legacy of Klaus Schnitzer and His Students'
George Segal Gallery, Montclair State University 2020
Spirituality is present in the installation photograph by Robert Eustace's mixed-media event,
The Celestial Rose : Circles of Sanctity (1995) [Image - Figure 17 in the catalogue] Colored by candlelight, the object glows golden on this undulating arch tablet that holds a metallic, thornless rose - a symbol of Mary. (19) At it's center surrounded by circular, musical notations, apsidal architectural plans, and the Jewish tree of life, all are unified by glowing candlelight, God's light.
(19) In the Greco - Roman Tradition the rose was associated with Venus p. 11
Yoskowitz, Robert essay and curator & Luttropp, John, concept and design... Catalogue... 'Fifty Years of Inspiration and Impact : The Photographic Legacy of Klaus Schnitzer and His Students' Published by George Segal Gallery - Montclair State University, Montclair NJ 2020
Robert Eustace pp. 11, 15
(from catalogue: “The Next Generation” – Contemporary Expressions of Faith, MOBIA, 2005)
The artist in the exhibition who manipulates the altarpiece form most radically is Robert Eustace. He describes his mixed-media works as “altarpiece constructions”.(92) Eustace says that in addition to the altarpiece form, he is inspired by several important medieval formats, including the illuminated manuscript and the icon. To this list must be added medieval reliquaries, ornate containers designed for holding precious momentos, relics of the saints and martyrs. His mixed-media altarpiece construction Image: Seed of Divine Life daringly takes on the theme of the Annunciation by morphing the ornate framework of the altarpiece into a biomorphic form suggesting a cross-section of a womb and birth canal (entry 36 in catalogue). Like the bejeweled case of a reliquary, the work’s shape echoes an actual physical relic of the Virgin. It houses the Annunciation at the moment of conception, the seed of life swirling within the Virgin’s womb, when the deity becomes Imago Dei as the Son of Man.
Like a medieval alchemist, Eustace beautifully, and yet graphically, mediates between spirit and flesh. The eddying contours of his piece are adorned with metals and the heads of nails, recalling the ornate covers of medieval manuscripts replete with filigree, silver, gold, and gems. Yet these contours are also folds of a womb’s interior, rich with the blood-engorged lining of ripe fertility. Swarming within the borders is a field of blue-green and yellow movement, like fluids and sperm, surrounding a fully human image (transported from Italian Renaissance painting) of the Virgin holding the Christ Child in an aureole of divine light with two angels above. As an evocation of divine spirit and light incarnating itself into human flesh and blood, Eustace’s work is quite extraordinary, daring and devout.
If it were not for the sumptuous beauty of Eustace’s piece, the viewer might well find it distasteful because of its direct implications of uterus, birth canal, and body fluids. Yet in a remarkable way, Eustace manages to draw quite close to the corporeal reality of the Christian Incarnation, only to direct the eye to the spiritual through the near-Byzantine quality of his colors and ornate materials. This pressing of the relationship between spirit and body is part of his understanding of the “mysterium tremendum, or a visual approximation of the experience of awe, divine mystery, and terrible beauty”. Fittingly, Eustace calls the series to which Image: Seed of Divine Life belongs Aenigmate. This Latinate word for a series of works embodying “enigma” nicely houses the sensations that the viewer experiences through his art.
While Eustace’s art is strikingly unique, it is not without a grounding in the traditions of Christian theology and art. As Patricia Leighten has explored in her essay on Leonardo’s Burlington House Cartoon, there was an important Byzantine, medieval, and Renaissance iconography that emphasized the actual pregnancy of the Madonna, which was known as the platytera tradition.(93) To combat the Gnostic heresy, which taught that Christ “only appeared as a man, but had not taken a real human body”, the early church emphasized the bodily motherhood of Mary. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, declared around 100 AD that he believed in “Jesus Christ…who was ‘out of’ Mary, who was truly born”.(94) In the Byzantine tradition, as Leighten puts it, “the fact that Christ issued from Mary’s womb was sometimes portrayed by showing Mary standing in an orans position while Christ floats in a mandorla or disk in front of her body”.(95) The platytera motif is also related to the iconography of the Theotokos, or Mary as the earthly Mother of God. In medieval art, Mary sometimes holds the Christ Child on her lap, or even lower, with her thighs slightly parted and her drapery arranged so that the hem or folds tactfully imply a womb shape surrounding him. A tastefully restrained example is Margaritone d’Arezzo’s Madonna and Child Enthroned (ca. 1270; fig. 13). Whether Eustace has been directly inspired by the medieval platytera or has just intuitively discovered a contemporary way to evoke it through his own visual explorations of the mystery of the Incarnation, his work provides another example of the deep continuities that observance of the biblical text can inspire.
(92) See Eustace’s artist statement, p. 164.
(93) Patricia Leighten, “Leonardo’s Burlington House Cartoon”,
Rutgers Art Review, Vol. 2 (January 1981): 31-42.
(94) Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion,
Vol 1 (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1964): 33-34.
(95) Leighten, “Leonardo’s Burlington House Cartoon” 32.
Leighten reproduces several Italian examples of
The Virgin Platytera.
Essay fragment and footnotes, from:
Pongracz, Patricia C. and Roosa, Wayne,
“The Next Generation” – Contemporary Expressions of Faith
(Exhibition Catalogue), W.B. Eerdmanns Publishing Company
(MOBIA – The Museum of Biblical Art), New York, NY 2005
Robert Eustace pp. 66-67, 83, 164-165, 197-198, 204
….Robert P. Eustace of Englishtown, NJ, takes on the theme
of the Annunciation by creating a biomorphic altarpiece, bejeweled
like a reliquary, and suggestive of a relic, yet contemporary in its
evocation of the uterus, birth canal and body fluids….
Robert P. Eustace
Some Printed Review Quotes on My Work
Statement on my architectural construction:
…. ”when what was needed was a hushed quiescence”,….
…. We look at your piece every day on the coffee table in the living room….
…. Lately I’ve been noticing the slight grace in the less-then-straight rods that make up ‘Quiescence’. The bows and strains are meaningful to me, like the stress of supporting something, an imperfection perfectly arranged in the ‘body’ (if you will), strength like a tribal pole lashed with love, empowered by faith, like the fire for Elijah’s pyre on Mt. Carmel. The wind blows. The place waits.
(This is just a few minutes of thoughts your piece speaks, adding richness to everyday thoughts; art is a companion that understands what we’re going through)….
from a letter dated: September 9, 1988 by Jeff Thompson, fellow artist,
Professor of Sculpture at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois
Statement: from a student response to my exhibition at Biola University, La Mirada, CA, 1992
C.S. Lewis once wrote that the first purpose of art is to interest, and if it fails in this, it fails altogether. The work of Bob Eustace succeeds immediately in its extraordinary ability to capture the viewer. Each piece is a whole in itself, each a unique journey of discovery. The medium / process list, “altarpiece constructions: combined process on wood and metal”, in its simplicity, adds to the mystery of the intricate, complex works. I found them to be both beautiful and intriguing, the layers upon layers of images, objects, and colors demand reflection and contemplation, recognizing that the process involves both purposeful choices in the images used, as well as the element of ‘chance’ in exposing the layers underneath. The presentation of the images within the context of metal, icon-like ‘containers’ alludes to a spiritual worship object, an altarpiece, a stained glass window.
Statement: from my exhibition at Greenville College, Greenville, IL, 1994
Robert Eustace, … evokes sacred objects as old as Christendom itself in his series of mixed media altarpiece constructions, … In terms of form and flourish, Eustace’s altarpieces could be artifacts recovered from the ruins of an ancient church. He renders them in the forms of rectangles and arched tablets. Eustace embosses the edges – in accordance with the traditions of altarpieces from antiquity through the Renaissance – with metal stamped in rough but occasionally intricate patterns. For all of their familiar baroque flourishes, however, Eustace’s altarpieces ultimately spring from the oblique netherworld of postwar American abstract art.
The artist cuts, through the familiar narrative pageantry of liturgical images that customarily adorns altarpieces, penetrating down into a gothic, psychological substratum – a subconscious realm from which the familiar images of Christ’s Passion perhaps derive. At first glance, these objects look like ancient tablets that have been mishandled by inept archaeologists; who in removing layers of encrusting detritus, have defaced the very images they sought to reveal, the thick impasto occasionally covers an assortment of plastic and fabric meshes. Metal ornaments and other objects are encrusted into the paint, which is caked and blemished. Byzantine designs of labyrinths can occasionally be found carved into this odd assemblage. In one of his altarpieces, Eustace included an almost – hidden reproduction of Matthias Grunewald’s well-known and exceptionally grim Crucifixion painting, which that painter executed early in the 16th century as an altarpiece for a German church. Here, perhaps, Eustace tips his hand. What he seems to be after, in this series, is that same intensity of expression which Grunewald, and contemporaries such as Albrecht Durer, beckoned the faithful to repentance and prayer.
from an article by Paul A. Harris, “Altarpieces Offered In College Exhibit”,
St. Louis Post – Dispatch, Illinois Post (Metro), Monday, January 17, 1994, p. 12
… “His work evokes a mysticism of memory and yearning for the transcendent”.
Bruce Herman from the exhibition: “Aenigma” / “Light”, works by:
Robert Eustace and Krystyna Sanderson, The Gallery at Barrington Center
for the Arts, Gordon College, Wenham, MA, 2005
The “piece de resistance”, of the entire exhibition is Bob Eustace’s work. His paintings are tableaux that take place in a format like a shallow pan. The heroes are the myriad of small toy figures collected by children. Mr. Eustace constructs wonderful settings for them, and puts the figures to visionary use that mediates between the whimsical and the obsessionally bizarre….
from an article by William Zimmer, “NJSCA Fellowship Winners at Nabisco Gallery”,
The New York Times, Sunday, March 18, 1984, p. NJ, 22
Among works that speak for themselves is Bob Eustace’s abstraction titled “Mystery of Iniquity”. This is a mottled blend of glowing colors hints of figures drawn seemingly in pen and ink and the occasional pool of wax embedded with small metal objects. Mr. Eustace’s craftsmanship continues on the back of the canvas, which has a silvery skin, and around the rim, which is covered by what appears to be lead sheeting.
from an article by Vivian Raynor, “20 Years of Art in a City Without Walls”,
The New York Times, Sunday, June 11, 1995, p. NJ, 17
….”Several artists are fascinated by the transfiguration of banal matter into emotive symbols…. Using a layering process, Robert Eustace embeds found objects and bits of matter in the fragile surface of paper. His works are like fossils or ancient, unearthed maps, navigating unknown, internal territory…. Beyond the visual, they share a spiritual outlook. Sifting through the refuse of a scorched and disfigured landscape, they are prospectors, seeking symbols of hope”.
from: “URBAN ALCHEMY” catalogue by Katherine Parker and Leah Jacobson –
curators 1991, City Without Walls Gallery, Newark, NJ
1992, The Organization of Independent Artists, NYC
….”The mixed media work of Robert Eustace utilizes a process of layering, embedding images and objects between layers, and then selective removal by means of various abrasive techniques. This partial removal of layers provides a notion of aging or weathering much akin to that seen in an abandoned billboard. The effect lends the work an association of historicity as the surface attests to the wear and tear of either human usage, as in the ancient ritual object, or the ravages of time. The surface also assumes a flesh-like quality as the “deterioration” tends toward the organic rather than the hard-edged.
Robert’s art also incorporates an architectonic vocabulary derived from traditional altars and temples of worship from the early Roman and Byzantine eras and other sources. These quotations may assume a plan view of cruciform church design as preserved in numerous 2nd and 3rd century sites, and as epitomized in the floor plan of St. Sernin, of Toulouse, built in 1100 A.D.”
from: “Creative Spirit II” catalogue, Art Exhibition and Symposium on
Christianity, the Imagination and the Arts
1993, Austin Christian Artists Fellowship, Austin, TX
….“The debased and the transcendent merge in the six small mixed media works by Robert Eustace. Into handmade paper, he bleeds and marbleizes various colors and presses metal objects in rather decorative forms such as discs and filigree. His Biblical titles call the viewer’s attention to the suggestions of concentric-circle eyes and halos in the swirling atmospheres”.
from an article by Eileen Watkins, “Artists seek to extract objects of beauty
from urban blight”, The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ, Sunday, April 7, 1991