By Melissa McKenzie
From barbed wire to pointed spheres, and colorful designs to locks and keys, Saratoga artist Bob Knight knows how to make hearts unique.
Using various types of wood, Knight cuts the well-known shape and incorporates it into his artwork. Whether the heart stands alone or is hidden in some of his mixed-media pieces, Knight reinvents the symmetrical symbol of love.
"I used to make a couple a year for a Valentine’s show that they used to have at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art … [and when the show stopped] I just kept making hearts," says Knight.
Knight’s favorite piece, however, is one where the heart is subdued. In “The Journey,” four figures stand on an inverted triangle. Ropes protrude from one side and a moon amid a dark blue sky occupies the top portion of the triangle. A red heart lies, on its side, encased in a bubble. It’s an interpretation of life’s journey.
Each figure represents a different stage in life - one plugging forward, another turning back, a third helping the person straying and the fourth facing the world. “That’s the journey,” says Knight. “You fall down and you have to get up and then you fall down again. You don’t just fall once. It’s about falling down and getting back up. The whole world going around and doing whatever it’s going to do, and you don’t have any control over that, but you have some control over whether you get up.”
A lifetime artist, Knight knew he wanted to create as a young child and decided in junior high that a career in art was the only choice for him.
"If I want to be at peace with myself, I have to make art," Knight says. "I’m an artist. People were saying ‘you know. Bob, you gotta have something else to fall back on.’ And I’m going, ‘Well, if I can’t make it as an artist then I’m not falling back on anything."
Training under Ron Tatro, John Battenberg, Fletcher Benton and David Middlebrook, Knight learned the sculpture trade and helped create Benton’s piece on Santa Clara University’s campus.
Until recently, Knight only painted in primary colors. But, when he saw the Lynn Powers show at the Triton Museum of Art in 2010, Knight returned to the museum multiple times - a rarity he says - to examine her work. It was through one of those visits that he met the artist. Through that meeting, his outlook on painting changed - although he’s quick not to call himself a painter.
"I just want to make stuff," says Knight. "I don’t want to compare myself to [Pablo] Picasso, but I want to be like that and get up in the morning and go, ‘I think I’ll work with clay today’… And then the next day say, ‘I want to paint.’ Then the next day do something different. He didn’t care. He just did it."
"I don’t make [art] to fit in," he continues. "I make it because I don’t fit in, and it’s not going to make me fit in, but it makes it easier to live with myself … It helps me live."
Knight always has pieces at Santa Clara’s Studio Bongiorno, 500 Lincoln St., and will be part of the gallery’s upcoming November show along with members of the Silicon Valley Artists’ Collaborative. Visit http://www.robertjknight.com/ to see more of Knight’s work or to contact the artist.