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"This Isn't a Hobby."

Photo by Mark Lee
Richard Sober likes to paint small, partly because more people can buy his work. "Not that I wouldn't do large, but big paintings are for rich people. Besides, I like the intimacy," says the artist, whose works have appeared in dozens of art galleries and other venues, including the Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge, Mass., the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Spain's Casa de la Cultura.

Throughout his life, Sober has juggled a few day jobs-- house painter, truck driver, messenger, cook--in order to pursue his true vocation. On and off since 1996, he's shelved books and helped patrons at Hopkins's Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Sober paints richly colored scenes in oil on hardboard, which he buys and has cut at Home Depot. His work carries an element of everyday spun into fantasy; in the words of Baltimore curator George Ciscle, it is both "poignant and whimsical."

Sober likes indecisive spaces. In one painting, a suitcase lies open, exposing a hammer inside. In another, an oddly shaped outhouse sits by the side of the road, door ajar. Some images are slightly sinister, funny, or sad. In one painting, men in traditional Orthodox Jewish dress stand in a haphazard row, their backs to a corpse. "I'm not sure what that painting is about," he says, "though I did it at a time when there was death in my life." He pauses. "I think that one is about being alone."
--Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson

Return to September 2001 Table of Contents

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