Oral history interview with Robert Trotman, 2005 September 14
Trotman, Bob, 1947-
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Penland School of Handicrafts
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 51 pages.
Originally recorded on 4 sound discs. Reformated in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 25 min.
An interview of Robert Trotman conducted 2005 September 14, by Carla Hanzal, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at the artist's studio, in Casar, N.C.
Trotman discusses how he first became involved and attracted to woodworking while living in northern Virginia in the 1970s; his early involvement with the Penland School of Crafts, Penland, N.C., and its influence on his work; his first visits to galleries in New York, including the Paula Cooper Gallery, the Heller Gallery, and the Holly Solomon Gallery, in the early 1980s; the difference between art and craft, and where his work fits in that continuum; why he stopped making furniture in 1997, and what he hopes to accomplish as a sculptor; his major artistic influences, including Martin Puryear, Judith Shea, and James Surls; his academic background in philosophy, which was his major in college, and his attraction to existentialism, especially the writings of Franz Kafka; his upper-middle class childhood in Winston-Salem, N.C., where his father was a banker and his mother a homemaker, who was interested in early American furniture and antiques; his view of America as puritanical and of the American upper classes as "wooden," lacking feeling and soul; his uncle, Frank Trotman, a gallery/frame shop owner who lived a Bohemian lifestyle in Winston-Salem in the 1940s, and exposed him to the artist's lifestyle; his fascination with his grandmother's collection of wooden figures, which consisted of four- and five-inch-tall European peasant characters; his interest in human psychology, and his attraction to writers such as Slavoj Zizek and Jacques Lacan in particular; the pleasure he gets from working with wood and the strengths of its unique qualities; his commissions and how he feels they fit into his oeuvre overall; his teaching experiences; and the influence and support of his wife, Jane Trotman, on whom he relies for advice and feedback. Trotman also recalls John Brooks, Sam Maloof, Tom Spleth, Stuart Kestenbaum, Ron Mueck, Evan Penny, John Currin, Robert Lazzarini, Julie Heffernan, Stephan Balkenhol, George Adams, Robert Morris, and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Robert Trotman, 2005 September 14. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Robert Trotman (1947- ) is a wood artist from Casar, N.C. Carla Hanzal is a curator from Charlotte, N.C.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001