Inspired by greatness: Center for Faith and the Arts hosts reception for artist Robert Toth
By Katie Scarvey
“Greatness” is the theme of an exhibit of the work of Salisbury artist Robert Toth that will open Thursday, July 24 at the Center for Faith and the Arts with a reception from 5-7 p.m.
Toth, who has been a professional artist for more than 40 years, is well known for his portrait sculptures, many of which will be on display.
Toth, who is also a prolific painter, says that he is inspired by greatness and believes in paying tribute to the best of human achievement.
“As an artist I’ve always been drawn to things larger than life,” says Toth in his artist statement.
“The theme running through all my work is greatness.”
One of Toth’s favorite figures from history is Thomas Edison, whose New Jersey home isn’t far from where Toth grew up. In the mid 1970s, he met Theodore Edison, the last surviving son of the inventor, who helped Toth create a portrait bust of the great inventor for the Edison Historic Site Museum in West Orange.
The two men became friends, and Toth gave Theodore a bust of his father, which sat on his desk for the rest of his life, he says.
Theodore’s only critique, he says, was that the eyebrow’s on Toth’s interpretation of Edison were not bushy enough.
Toth did a series commissioned by Lincoln Center called “Great Men of Music,” which includes one of his most popular sculptures: Ludwig van Beethoven.
Toth’s most recent sculpture is a portrait bust of Edgar Allen Poe, which he created for the Poe Museum in Richmond, Va. That will be unveiled next Thursday.
He is also working on a bust of Copernicus for The Life and Science Museum in Durham. Small busts will be sold in the museum store, along with his busts of Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin,and Albert Einstein.
Toth says he “borrows” the features of real people he knows when he works on his portrait bust. When he met Frank Selby, he says he noticed that Selby’s nose resembled that of of Isaac Newton. And Robert Crum, he says, reminded him of Robert Burns. Tom Wolpert, one of the owners of A Step in Time, was a perfect model for Socrates, he says. And Foster Owen? Frank Lloyd Wright.
Toth’s work has wound up in some interesting places ó and on some famous desks, like that of the writer Anne Rice, who wrote that she wants to be a heroic artist in the model of Beethoven.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts gave Toth’s bust of John Marshall as a gift to Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter.
His latest project is a portrait sculpture of Edgar Allen Poe that will go to the Poe Museum in the writer’s birthplace, Richmond, Va.
Toth’s busts have also appeared in several major motion pictures, including “Scary Movie 3.”
Although he’s no longer a young man, Toth’s enthusiasm for creating art only seems to grow. Passion, he believes, is key to doing good work and being happy.
“I do what I want because I can’t do anything else,” he says. “I go with my strengths.”
Doing many different types of art ó from portrait sculptures to landscape paintings to jewelry and chess sets ó keeps Toth energized.
Toth graduated from the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art in Newark, NJ, in 1966. After finishing school, he worked as a designer for Congoleum ó his last “real job,” he says.
Toth devotes most of his waking hours to art and he doesn’t neglect the marketing side. He saw the marketing potential of the Internet early on, and his Web site generates business from around the country and the world.
In the fall, Toth will be teaching a class on art and creativity at Waterworks Visual Arts Center.
The exhibit of Toth’s work will continue at Center for Faith and the Arts, 207 W. Harrison St., through Aug. 29. The exhibit can be viewed 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Toth will have items from his Historic Salisbury Collection available for sale at the opening.
To learn more about Robert Toth’s art, go to www.roberttoth.com.
For more information about the exhibit at Center for Faith and the Arts, call 704-647-0999.