Spokane, Washington 1943
Originally photographed by Chuck Rosenak. Image is courtesy of the Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material, 1990-1999, in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Luce Artist Quote
“It’s my mission. I take my paintings to the streets. People come by, and that’s how I start to talk to them about Jesus.” Robert Roberg, quoted in Joe Rich, “Homeless Poets,” Versus, November 1990, from the Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material, 1990-1999, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Roberg has preached his evangelistic message from Tennessee to Florida. He has used his paintings to illustrate his sermons. Despite the naive quality of his paintings, Roberg is widely traveled and a well-read, published poet, who earned a bachelor's degree in English in the late 1960s.
Tom Patterson Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2001)
Luce Artist Biography
Robert Roberg traveled widely throughout his life, preaching and painting his “visions” from God. After spending time in Peru with the Peace Corps, he was drafted into the Army but deserted after a few weeks and left the country again. He traveled around Mexico, Spain, Israel, and India looking for God and telling the world that he was the next Messiah. Roberg experimented with drugs until the late 1970s, when a vision changed his life: “I was lifted off the earth by a blinding light and there was Jesus. He said: ‘Work for me!’” (Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Contemporary American Folk Art: A Collector’s Guide, 1996) He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to start a congregation and drew pictures on the sidewalk to illustrate his teachings. This attracted a crowd and he soon began painting images from the Bible on cardboard in bright Day-Glo paint. (Robert Roberg, Eagles Never Die, A Mini-Autobiography, Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material, 1990-1999, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)