Art Exhibit – Robert Simon

Works by Robert Simon

Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge is pleased to be hosting an exhibit by local artist and retired ORHS government teacher Robert Simon.  This art show, located in our Imagination Gallery, will have its grand opening during our International Festival on Saturday, February 15th.

Artist Robert Simon workingWhat is outsider art, or Art Brut, as it is known in Europe?  Jean Dubuffet, a French psychiatrist, early in the last century, sought out and collected what he defined as artistic works in the “raw” state, uncooked by cultural and artistic influences, and often created by patients in mental hospitals and those on the fringes of society.  At the very least, outsider artists work outside the fine art “system” of schools, galleries, and museums.  They create for themselves and of themselves, with works that owe nothing to tradition or fashion, creations that have not been culturally indoctrinated or socially conditioned.  Outsider Art is visual creation at its purest, a spontaneous psychic flow from brain to paper.  The pure outsider is entirely and obsessively driven to create.  This defines Robert Simon.

Starting at age 13, Simon began obsessively drawing boxes and triangles in the margins of his notebook paper, then shading them in.  Fifty years later, he is still drawing, only the figures have and continue to radically change.  They are mirrors of his soul, expressing stream of consciousness thoughts, some of which he cannot articulate to others or even to himself.  Refreshingly original and raw, each piece is unique but has his imprint on it.

“Drawing is and has been an incredible escape for me throughout most of my life.  I have to do it or my world feels out of balance.  When I am drawing, my heart rate slows down and my mind is focused but not fixated on any specific thought.  They come and go, and are free-flowing.  I’ve never drawn the same thing twice.  I can’t.  When I try to, which I have with things I really like, they are never the same.”

People frequently ask what certain drawings mean.  Simon feels art evokes thoughts and feelings in the viewer that are solely his/her own, and to dictate what they should interpret interferes with the process of self-knowledge. Each person is free to input whatever meaning they wish on his work.  However, one of the themes that he sees played out in all of his work is a constant battle between chaos and order. There is much about his work that at first seems chaotic, confusing, with patterns and figures spinning or gyrating multi-directionally. On closer examination, however, one can see the order of constantly repeating patterns that coalesce to form a larger entity.  But, as Simon says, “It is important to note that what one sees in my art reflects as much or more about the viewer as it does about me or my work.”

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To get more information and to view additional works, please visit

The Robert Simon show at Children’s Museum may be viewed through the end of March.

(Pictures and biographical material courtesy of Robert and Kathryn Simon.)