Robert Masla: Gratitude: The Unrecognized Essential Workers Series

Recent Paintings by Robert Masla

October 2020

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Earlier this year, Robert Masla was hard at work on his upcoming exhibit, Catching the Light: Then and  There- Here and Now, scheduled for October 2020. Then came COVID-19 and his attention shifted. Along with his landscapes, this new collection of paintings depict the various unheralded but much needed essential workers that have come into the spotlight during the COVID era. Included in this group is the burgoening protest movement, essential now more than ever.

Most of us are acutely aware of the Essential Workers who are obvious to us during these challenging “Pandemic Times”; Health care workers, Doctors, Nurses, etc. Hopefully this time has also brought a heightened awareness and appreciation to those that are often overlooked but are no less essential to a whole, functioning, prosperous human society. Though providing these Essential Services, they remain unrecognized in their value to society at large. Certainly this is true in the way they are grossly underpaid but the list can continue to cover most of society; the teachers, service persons, postal workers, immigrant farmers, artists, musicians, writers, EMT’s, custodians, poets, social workers, dancers, repair persons…etc.etc. Perhaps the most impassioned of these, (and unpaid), are the “Defenders of a Real Democracy”, who are formed by all of the diverse members and occupations of society and depicted most specifically in the paintings “Take a Knee: Rural Communities in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter” and “The 30th of May, 2020: Persecution of the Defenders of a Real Democracy.”     – Robert Masla

Take a Knee: Rural Communities in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter | 24 x 72 inches | Oil on Canvas

Essential Worker Series

Farmers (Late Summer), 48 x 72 inches, Oil on Canvas



30th of May,2020 Persecution of the Defenders of a Real Democracy, 48 x 72 inches,  Oil on Canvas


30th of May, 2020 Studies




The Sound of Surf, 12 x 36 inches, Oil on Canvas



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From the Artist: On Style – Intention, Inspiration & the Spiritual in Art

Throughout the length of my 40+ year career my work has moved from visionary and symbolic paintings, to landscapes, (particularly from, but not limited to the areas around my homes and studios, in western Massachusetts and Studios South, in Boca de Tomatlan, near Puerto Vallarta, MX). My work has moved from trompe-l’oeil still lifes to abstract collages to portraits to murals. All of these executed in a variety of methods, (some would call “styles”), and a variety of media, oil paint, alkyd, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, digital collage, charcoal, water soluble graphite, sumi-e ink…. I do not call my self a watercolorist, or “oilist” or “portraitist” or “landscapist”, or either impressionist, surrealist, realist or abstractionist. When students have asked me at workshops, “Bob, what is your favorite medium, I always say – Paint”. I have never liked labels. We all like to box things into nice little compartments, easy understandable sound bytes of reality, “styles”, (it’s certainly easier for marketing a “product”). And even though I make a living as an artist, Art to me is more than a product. It is a process as well, it is also a way of life, of seeing, being and doing – of connecting with myself and with the Universe around me. Art, like life, is not so easily defined, it is a reflection and part of the Great Mystery we call the Universe, (some would call God). Back in the 70’s, when I was constantly grappling with such existential questions I coined the term Spiritrealism, to refer to artwork and a lifestyle that reflected these concerns, and had no “stylistic boundaries”. Like my artwork and life, my understanding of Spiritrealism has grown and expanded ever since.

Years ago, when an undergraduate at the Museum School in Boston, I took some inspiration from the writings of the “founder of abstraction”, Wassily Kandinsky in his essay, On the Spiritual in Art. The inspiration was in regards to many things, but this quote, though not his full intention, resonated with me particulalry in regards to both approach and choice of materials, “…Thus the spiritual value seeks materialization. Matter is here a storehouse from which the spirit, like a cook, selects what is necessary in this case.” In the creation of my artwork I have 2 intentions; First is the constant underliyng Rasion d’etre, using the art process as a vehicle of awakening – to remember to be in the moment, to connect with the creative flow of nature that surrounds me and is me, to interact and play my part as co-creator. The second intention is whatever is inspiring me towards that action of connecting, this is the inspiration for the particular work in the moment. That inspiration could come to me in many ways; light hitting a tree in a particular way, objects sitting on a shelf, a vista, feelings such as joy, awe, contentment, and on rare occasion angst. The thing about inspiration is one has to be open to it, to be working and ready for her visit. And when one is visited, one must be prepared to act. Once you have this second intention – the inspiration for a particular work, then all the other aspects of the creative process follow suit, the choice of materials, the composition, the method of application, the colors, etc. all have to follow and be in harmony with the intention for the work to be a complete whole – to embody the spiritual – the in-spirit. When an artist follows their intentions and inspiration, it is an expression of their true self and becomes their signature, their style.

There have been countless artists, both past and present that have informed and inspired my work. In this exhibition some notable figures of influence have been Casper David Friedrich, (see my watercolor Standing Firm). And of course I am inspired, admire and learn from all the great painters, and have a particular affinity to the landscape painters, Turner, Sargent, Sorrolla, to Church, Moran, Monet, and van Gogh to name a few… to colleagues such as McVicker, Evansen, MacDonald, Eber and Bryden – and so many more, there is no lack of great painters both past and present. Last fall while in Spain and Morrocco with my wife Monica, we had the fortune to see 2 of the most powerful anti war, anti fascist paintings ever produced, Picassos’ “Guernica” and Goyas’ “The 3rd of May: Execution of the Defenders of Madrid”. The later giving me a great deal of inspiration for my painting, “The 30th of May, Persecution of the Defenders of Real Democracy”, (oil on canvas 48” x 72”).


-Robert Masla


Read the article on Bob in Outdoor Painter magazine.

Read the article on Bob in American Watercolor  magazine.