by Cecile Oreste
Before settling down in the Dupont-Logan area more than two decades ago, sculptor Robert Cole lived across the United States– from Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he was born, to Pennsylvania, Louisiana and California. Cole has also lived in both Japan and Germany, and also traveled throughout Europe to experience the art of the region first hand.
Family matters eventually brought Cole to the DC area where he began networking with local artists. But it was a club owner in the U Street area that commissioned one of his first metal sculpture projects in the District.
Today, Robert’s pieces can be found all over the world, from Maryland and Connecticut to Florence, Italy–where he won a gold medal at the Florence Biannual for his sculpture, “Madre Della Pace” (Mother of Peace).
Cole’s metal sculptures are part of the neighborhood landscape with work featured at Studio Cole off 15th Street, in the city dog park at 17th and S Streets… on the front of Dupont Optical, Java House and Adams Bank, all on 17th Street NW. His work is also a fixture at Lotus Lounge and Tattoo Bar, two clubs in downtown DC, as well as the Naylor Road Metro station.
When asked about the inspiration for his work, Robert explained that he is influenced by the challenge of opening up and modernizing the human figure.
“Most of my work has a philosophy behind it and an element of human truth. I am a philosopher and I represent philosophy in my sculpture, kind of like a reverse Socrates,” he said. “I give you just enough information about the human figure, and you fill in the rest.”
According to Cole, the financial reward from his sculptures is not the main incentive to continue his craft: “I am more interested in the connection between people and sculpture. I do this because I love to build things. I don’t need the fame.”
Cole holds two open houses per year Robert Cole Studios, a converted carriage house, which ones enters through an alley off 15th Street north of R Street NW. Visitors are welcome during Mid City Artists Open Studios weekends. Photos of the studio are online at Apartment Therapy.
When he is not busy creating sculptures, Cole enjoys spending time with his wife, Susan, at several Dupont-Logan restaurants or playing music together in the basement of their Logan-area house.