The Soul Vessels came into being in response to the AIDS crisis. Over the past 30 years I have lost many friends to the Pandemic. Often when they became sick they would return to their homeland or state, where their illness would progress and eventually consume them. Most of them had no memorial service or funeral where I too could be allowed to grieve for them. I needed a form that would not only enable me to mourn the loss of these people who had touched my life, but which would also celebrate their great soaring spirits, their joie de vivre. For 10 years I went through this situation of having no way to make a statement about these feelings of loss and love -- as well as of how lucky I felt to have been touched by these amazing spirits.
In 1991 I was on a vacation weekend in Miami Beach. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and I was sitting on the back steps of a friend’s apartment when I felt as if the Universe was speaking to me. I found some paper and started drawing the first Soul Vessels. Those drawings, like the beginning sculptures, were rough and rather stiff. But as the idea grew and developed, the drawings became more graceful and fluid: something grounded which nevertheless looks as though it might take flight at any moment. As I started making the sculptures, small ones at first, I was treading unfamiliar ground; my previous work had only been paintings and printmaking. Now I had entered a whole new world by working in three dimensions.
Over the past few years I have slowly developed the Soul Vessels. Each new piece brings a new discovery, as I feel myself being touched by the lives of all my lost friends -- always some new and exciting experience around the corner. Being able to create these sculptures has allowed me to see that Life does continue, that it is a process -- difficult at times, yes, but also exhilarating. The Soul Vessels also serve as abodes where the spirits can reside when they visit. Five being the number of freedom in numerology, each vessel has five holes, giving these spirits who have been set free the freedom to come and go as they need.
In 1995, when I was first diagnosed with HIV, I figured that, like my friends, I probably would die in about 2-1/2 years. I prepared to let go: I wrote a will and dealt with all the feelings that came as I faced my own mortality. But as my HIV progressed, I was lucky enough to have access to new drugs that can combat the virus and manage it. These medications worked for me, and after a strategic treatment interruption of a year and a half I am back on these drugs. None of the doctors really know what impact the long-term use of these medications will have on our bodies, and so the process continues in determining further treatments. I am now going into year 18 of my diagnosis. I still lose friends to this disease, but there is hope -- hope that one day a cure will be found and that no more of us will be claimed by this disease. The Soul Vessels continue to grow. Their dimensions are changing, developing. Like the lives they commemorate, they soar and rise above it all.
The Soul Vessel abstractions have grown out of the sculptures. After having to say goodbye to my dear pet cat, Arnie, I was sitting in my studio and the reflections on the building windows across the street shone in through my studio windows. These reflections created shadows from the sculptures onto the floor, and that moment brought me to making the Soul Vessel abstraction paintings. Like the sculptures, the paintings develop and grow -- with each new painting there is a new discovery.
In the past year I have continued to develop my paintings and break out of just using the Soul Vessel abstractions. The work has become more freeform and open. There is still the suggestion of the shapes of the Soul Vessels that appear in the new paintings, but the paintings have become more about evoking a feeling or emotion that becomes the painting/drawing.
On July 30, 2012, I experienced a subarachnoid cerebral hemorrhage. I was lucky to receive expert care in a very timely fashion, and after 19 days in the hospital, I am home recuperating. The healing time for a major brain event can vary anywhere from three months to a year. The doctors tell me I am making a remarkable recovery. While I cannot return to work full time, I am able to concentrate on making drawings on the computer and some collage work, as well as paintings on paper.
As part of my rehabilitation therapy I am making a drawing/painting each day and posting it on Facebook. When I started this process, I made a promise to myself that I would post the image no matter how I felt about the finished piece. My job is to make the art, not to be the critic. The images can be viewed at the link below.
For the past year or so starting in 2015 I have been working on a series of photo-collages. I call them "Life Patterns". They came about from a series of photos I helped style for a friends website. The inspiration was the vivid colors and glazes used on Mid-Century West German Pottery. Sometimes referred to as "Fat Lava" pottery. I use a series of shapes that are repeated in each piece. By changing the placement the shape appears to be different. The final collage creates a world within itself. At once somehow familiar, but not immediately discernible.
Daniel H. Roberts
Daniel H. Roberts
215 Avenue A Suite 4FS
New York, New York 10009
917 733 6283
email: [email protected]
Nov 10-Jan 11 “Soul Vessel Abstractions, CoCo, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Oct-Nov 2004 "Art of HAART", Washington D.C.,
Jan-May 2004 Reversing Vandalism, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, California
2000-2016 Postcards from the Edge, Visual AIDS, New York, New York
May-June 1993 Towards 2 Thousand, DCAC, Washington, D.C.
Feb 1994 “Blood from a Stone”, Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Store, N.Y., N.Y.
May 1993 Espaced'Art Contemporain, Lemans, France
July 1992 Sunday by the Bay, Stopping AIDS Together, Belport, New York
June 1991 ABC NO RIO Benefit, New York, New York
July 1989 The Michigan Gallery, Detroit, Michigan
May 1989 Miami...The Last Resort, Galaxy Gallery, Miami Beach, Florida
April 1989 Art in Motion, Club Nu, Miami Beach, Florida
Feb 1989 New York Artists in residence, The Leonard Beach Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
May 1988 Strange Fruit, Susan Bloch Theatre Gallery, New York, New York
April 1987 HEAL Benefit, ABC NO RIO Gallery, New York, New York
Bristol Myers Squibb, Princeton, New Jersey
Barneys New York, New York, New York
J. Mendel Fourierres, New York/Paris
Pope/Berg Collection, New York, New York
Mutchnik Collection, Ellicott City, Maryland
"France Ouest Journal", Lemans, France, May 1993
"Gymnasium Magazine", Paris, France, May 1993
"The New York Times", Home Section, May 4 1989
"The Miami Herald", Miami, Florida, May 1989
"Arts and Antiques", July, 1989
"Self Magazine", September 1989
"Miami Review", May 1989
"The Palm Beach Post", July, 1989
"The San Francisco Chronicle", May 1989
"German Elle", August 1989
"The Orlando Sentinel", May 1989
"Miami Today", March 1989
1975-1979 B.F.A. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas