We had the good fortune of connecting with Rob Grad and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rob, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ― Maya Angelou
I love this quote. Progress isn’t usually pretty. It’s easy to say, “I know that.” But when I’m in the weeds, in the thick of a crisis, it’s hard to recognize that this is part of an arc and things are going to be fine. I have a tendency to think, “This is different.” But it’s almost always not.
Is the caterpillar afraid when it builds its cocoon? Does it resent, procrastinate, or dread it? It appears to just go about its duty, with an internal knowing that this is the way. It doesn’t question. It just spins its cocoon and trusts that the transformation will take place. Perhaps not even knowing what’s to come. And something beautiful inevitably emerges.
Nature embodies so many secrets of life. This is why I focus on the environment in my artwork. It’s not just vast and beautiful. It’s also brutal, honest, and wise. Watch the news on any given night and it’s easy to think that the world is coming off the rails. But I think we’re in a perpetual global cocooning process. A constant parade of caterpillars walking in one side of the cocoon, being broken down, and rebuilt into butterflies that eventually fly out the other.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
This is a big question! Ok…let’s see…. I make photo based sculptural art. Right now, I’m into making personified vignettes of nature, exploring a more active relationship with nature and the wisdom it embodies, rather than viewing our environment simply as a space to be inhabited and controlled.
I was a miserable teenager. First I went to drugs to ease the pain. But once those stopped working, I sobered up, and started down a path of seeking wisdom. I thought, “Earth is a pain in the ass. So if there is a point to it all, I want to find out what it is.” That was when art entered the picture. What better way to absorb and explore life and what it all means than making some form of art?
I look back at the things I’ve done, and I do feel generally good. I signed a record deal at 20 years old. Toured. I was on MTV when MTV was a thing. I did a TEDx talk. I’ve shown my art coast to coast in the US, and in Europe. At 40 years old, I decided to switch my focus to visual art and basically restarted my career. That wasn’t an easy thing to do. I’ve always been driven by this feeling inside that there is something I was BORN to do in this life. I still can’t shake the feeling. So I follow it. I don’t want to die not having had the courage to figure it out and do it. Some of the people I knew when I was younger swam for calmer waters. I’ve always felt like my best work is still in front of me. And I still do. That’s what keeps me going.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Let’s assume this person isn’t visiting during the worst pandemic in 100 years 🙂 I grew up in LA, but I never fully appreciated it until I traveled. Moved away for a short bit, and then came back.
First night in town, a quick dinner at In-N-Out Burger and a walk in my neighborhood in Eagle Rock. Gotta relax and be low key after a long day of travel. The next morning, a quick breakfast sandwich at D3 in Mount Washington, and then a hike in Griffith Park near the Observatory. Then a mango lassi and lunch special at India Sweets and Spices on Los Feliz Blvd. followed by an afternoon stroll around the Americana in Glendale. I think dinner at Little Beast in our neighborhood would be nice after that.
Next day, off to the West side! I lived in Venice for 18 years. So much to see. A walk down Venice beach of course. Cliche, but necessary. It’s changed so much though, so not worth spending too long there. Cruise down to Manhattan Beach for another walk. Just to see the area. We’d of course have to stop by to see my 32 foot sculptural mural at the Hudson Pacific Properties building in Brentwood. Have to share a bit of my work!
I’d get tickets for the Hollywood Bowl, and take them to Casa Bianca Italian in my neighborhood as well for dinner. I’d probably set up drinks with some of my artist friends. They’re about as interesting as people get. Then before leaving, a night gallery hopping on Saturday, and hand rolls at KazuNori downtown, and a walk through the arts district.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It’s hard to pick just one. My path is lit up by a long line of people, a pile of books, and a slew of moments where some person said the exact right thing at just the right time. I truly believe we don’t get anywhere good without help.
There’s my wife, Ellie, who without her, none of what’s going good for me right now probably would be. Since we met 11 years ago, she’s given her honest opinion on all my work, supported me unwaveringly, and believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. There’s honestly so much to say here, I don’t even know where to start.
There’s Renee Warren, who owns REN Gallery in LA. She took a shot on me when I really hadn’t shown much. We’ve been working together for years now and done some amazing things.
There’s RCA Records, who in signing my first band, helped me understand that my creativity had value over and above my enjoyment of it.
And there’s Andi Campognone. She’s the curator at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH). She and her associate, Robert Benitez, not only gave me my first museum show, but also have become friends and mentors. And by entering her orbit, she has introduced me to a whole community of supportive artists and professionals who I love and learn from every day, as well as helped me to view what I do in a new light. Making art is just one part of being an artist. And my relationship with Andi has opened a huge door for me into a world I only hoped existed.