Detail from “ The Hardened Hand ” ( 2021 ), 12.5 ” H x 6.5 ” W x 4 ” D , Mixed Media / Assemblage .
Above : Rob ’ s desert finds spill outside of his container studio , a clutter of sun-bleached wood , rusted bolts and nails , bones , and other curiosities .
displayed along one wall . They function as shadow boxes for vignettes assembled from Rob ’ s desert finds . A delicate upraised hand wears a sun-bleached cow vertebra in place of a shirt cuff that looks more like a bow than a bone , and sharp cactus spines protrude from its fingers as graphic reminders of the unforgiving realities of desert life . Rusty springs , bits of driftwood , a nest and little figurines — a skeleton and a priest — take the stage of these small wooden boxes , called “ Reflections of living in the Chihuahuan desert .”
The passage of time is palpable in his work , as are the four elements — air , water , earth and fire — either in abundance or scarcity in day-to-day desert life .
Starry night skies , angels , crowns , eyes , skulls , and ancient texts are repeating motifs imbuing a sense of the mystical .
“ In my work , I try to lead people to contemplating spirituality or God , but not in any specific religious context ,” he said .
He hopes the symbols will speak to someone . He considers his art a trail of breadcrumbs of life lessons , a way for the shy artist to be known by others .
Yet the former city recluse has found a sense of liberating openness in the desert . Since making the move to Terlingua , Rob has been more social than ever . He attributes the change to the feeling of freedom that comes with living in the midst of vast wilderness . There are many acres between the Dampiers and their neighbors ; he can revel in privacy at his home studio , surrounded by resplendent vistas of Nine Point Mesa and allencompassing sunsets . He spends more time socializing at The Little Burro than he ever did anywhere in Galveston . The Little Burro is a general store where Tish works part-time , and the hub of social life for the remote dwellers and societal outcasts of the desert flats .
It ’ s a growing community of people not unlike Rob and Tish : people drawn to the elemental , raw lifestyle of winging it in an often inhospitable environment . People looking to escape overcrowded cities , with a penchant for nostalgia and building things in
this modern day in a way they wish things were . People willing to work together and give one another space to be individuals . Rob ’ s art is at home here .
Rob and Tish are both active members of this defiant desert community , participating in art shows and , in general , helping to grow a defining culture of big city refugees . The Dampier ’ s long-term plans include creating earth bag structures on their property to support struggling artists with artist-inresidency programs .
This summer , one of Rob ’ s sculptures , entitled Zaphod , was shown in a Texas Sculpture Group exhibit at San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts . The exhibit , entitled The State of Sculpture : an All-Member Exhibition , was a collection of sculptures from some of the most talented artists across Texas at this time . But true to form , only Tulisha attended the art opening , bringing a car full of Terlingua friends with her .
A collection of Rob ’ s work , dating from the present to 2003 , can be viewed online at RobertDampier . com .
Cenizo Fall 2021