October 20, 2021
Las Vegas resident Robert Henssler’s art is now on view at the Ray Drew Gallery at Highlands University. The exhibition, titled Flora, Fauna and Somewhere In Between, can also be viewed online, and features photography, painting, ceramic work, and wood prints.
Henssler said he picked up his first camera at age five and started painting in junior high school.
“Then I took about 50 years off and worked and had a life and retired and came back to it,” Henssler said. “I’ve been painting again for about 10 years now.”
Henssler grew up in Colorado and credits his dad for his interest in art. He said his dad took him to art galleries and museums regularly when he was growing up and they frequently visited New Mexico, too, to pan for gold. Though they never found any gold, Henssler said the trips helped him appreciate the landscape of northern New Mexico which is a frequent theme in his painting.
In his show at the Ray Drew Gallery, there are several paintings of Hermit’s Peak from various angles and vantage points. In one painting, Hermit’s Peak is surrounded by a vibrant blue sky and various shades of green. In another, the peak is closer to the viewer and surrounded by a thick evergreen forest. The peak appears lilac in a third painting, and in a photograph, Henssler captures the mountain in winter.
“Just about everything I paint is taken from a photograph that I’ve taken,” said Henssler. “My photographs and my work that is taken from photographs is about emotion primarily.”
Henssler said he works primarily in oil when he’s painting because it’s very forgiving, but he said he’s also experimenting with watercolor now, and has been exploring a variety of artistic mediums in art classes at Highlands. He said he’s been taking classes there for five years, and appreciates the range of mediums he’s been able to learn from professors David Lobdell, Todd Christiansen, and Shereen Lobdell.
Of the 30 pieces in his exhibition, Henssler favors a couple, including a block print of his father and a photograph of a white buoy floating in the water. He also enjoys his abstract paintings and the different interpretations they invoke in viewers.
“I don’t name my art because I think if you name your art, you’re giving people preconceived notions of what it is or what it shouldn’t be,” said Henssler. “I think you bring yourself to the piece and you take away from it what you want.”
Most recently, Henssler said the beauty and balance in Gustav Klimt’s work has been inspiring him to use gold leaf in his paintings, and he also hopes to incorporate elements of pop culture into other work.
“My art is very eclectic,” said Henssler. “I see so many things that I that I want to paint, so I think it’s a well-balanced show.”
Henssler described himself as a perpetual student and plans to continue taking art classes at Highlands to expand his range and technique.
“As you know, practice makes better, and so I just keep practicing,” said Henssler. “The journey is always what it’s about.”
To see view Henssler’s work, visit the Ray Drew Gallery in the Donnelly Library, or view his work on the Ray Drew Gallery webpage: http://galleries.nmhu.edu/ray-drew-gallery/.