Rob Tarbell (b. Findlay, OH, lives in Richmond, VA) earned his BFA in Painting and Graphic Design from Auburn University and an MFA in Drawing and Painting and an MS in Curriculum & Instruction in Art Education, both from the University of Tennessee. He has taught at Ringling College of Art and Design, New College of Florida, Piedmont Community College, James Madison University and Limestone College. Currently, he teaches at the Virginia Commonwealth University in the School of the Arts. Over the past twelve years, he has developed a unique smoke-based process as well as work in porcelain. In 2017, the Tampa Museum of Art featured his smoke and porcelain work in the exhibition Skyway Selections: Curator’s Choice. Rob’s work is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, which hosted his solo exhibition This Much is True in 2017. His work has been shown in more than 20 solo exhibitions and 75 group exhibitions throughout the U.S. as well as China, England and Japan. He has been included in more than 50 articles published worldwide, including New American Paintings, The Huffington Post UK, Daily Mail UK, and Kultura Zabaikalya in Transbaikalia, Siberia. His work is in numerous collections, including Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art, Auburn, AL; Fralin Museum of Art and Martha Jefferson Hospital, both Charlottesville; St. Regis Hotel, Houston; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Orlando; Bradley University, Peoria, IL; Roanoke College, Salem, VA; Tampa Museum of Art, FL; and Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Statement from the Artist:
In 2006, a failed portrait attempt using cigarettes and liquor collided with a lingering question: What if I burned my credits cards and used the smoke to make marks? The first attempt at burning credit cards yielded a deep black with seductive wispy grays no brush could deliver. My penchant for embracing unorthodox methods and materials was then fully focused on the potential of capturing and creating with smoke. I continue to pioneer and push my smoke technique through a rigorous trial and error and with the adaptation of tools and the creation of equipment to suit each new discovery and advance the smoke process. To create the smoke, credit cards, gift cards, and, now, 35mm slides of my artwork are burned to remove their growing presence in daily life – an ironic nod to a self-help technique of burning sentimental things to remove their emotional burden or historical connection. The smoke process involves directly permitting or preventing its accumulation, or by indirectly encouraging or discouraging the flow of smoke on the surface.