February 6, 2001
by Michael Smith
Randy Moberg was born in California. When his father's navy hitch was completed, Randy and parents returned to Mobile where Randy would grow up, though he often spent summers on the water of Weeks Bay. After completing high school at Shaw in 1978, Moberg threatened life and limb as a tree trimmer for a short period and served as a poor waiter for three months before enlisting in the navy four years for engineering training.
Aided by the Military Assistance Program, Randy returned to Mobile and enrolled in an engineering curriculum at U.S.A. He was encouraged by a counselor to take one class for his enjoyment outside of the structured schedule set for him. He signed up for a drawing class, but was apprehensive about spending the time it would take; because he did not wish to go through South's dreaded Drop/Add procedure, however, he completed the course, loved it, and soon switched his focus of study.
Moberg soon sold one of his first drawing assignments, a copy of an Old Master's Drawing. He later sold work at student exhibitions and won a cash award for a pen and ink composition entered into the bi-annual regional competition at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. These remunerative rewards motivated him to complete his B.F.A. in 1988 at South where he majored in painting and minored in drawing.
After college, Randy worked at Gayfer's for one year, drawing layout for newspaper advertisements. He then spent six months doing display work at Dillard's. Following his department store days, Moberg began painting houses and office space part-time for contractors. During this period of a year, Randy began to establish himself as a painter and drawer, doing any work he could get. He painted murals, faux marble finishes, a toy chest, and a shower curtain, among other things; he also drew houses for owners.
Randy worked the art fair circuit for eight years, regularly showing at the Mobile Museum of Art's annual September gathering at Langan Park. He also traveled to Pensacola, St. Louis, and Denver to display his work. Two years ago, however, Moberg was asked to provide original paintings and prints to six J. Alexander Restaurants sprinkled throughout the country. The commission of approximately twenty works, which depicted working musicians, gave him the opportunity to walk away from road rigors and focus on his painting.
Moberg has supported himself as an artist for ten years; he has eaten well for the last five.
Randy no longer has to paint or draw "virtually anything" to get work. He now paints only in oil and prefers large canvas painting, saying, "It suits my personality." His subjects are generally figures, landscapes, and still lifes--"traditional subjects in a nontraditional manner." There is no method or formula to the way he works. For example, he does not routinely paint a dark canvas and then introduce light and color; his paintings are not carefully planned or laid out. Rather, he "paints by the seat of his pants."
Formerly, Moberg leaned heavily on color, painting his subjects with wide swaths of bold hue. One example, "Blind Faith," is a work from ten years ago which features a small group of children gathered under a flying national flag; the bright bands of color throughout the painting grab and hold the viewer's vision much like the waving banner captures the children's attention.
Randy now subscribes to the presumption that a little bright color goes a long way as he balances the subject and abstract composition. While still using intense colors, they are now more evenly distributed throughout the painting. "These works are more representative of life, though not so visually sweet." Paintings now are more subtle--"gray with touches of color." One such painting, "Rachel," reveals a nude woman lying on a bed with her back to the viewer. While the red in the painting is brilliant, it is not manifest alone in the sheets, the hazy atmosphere that serves as the backdrop, or in Rachel herself; rather it permeates the work, illuminating all that is there.
Light also plays a significant part in Moberg's work. He sometimes uses photographs or slides as a reference to insure that light and shadows maintain the appropriate integrity on the canvas. Randy discovered, though, that he relied too heavily on those tools in his early painting and that they limited him. Now those props serve only as a point of departure and are needed less, both overall and in each painting as it nears completion.
A painting is not finished, however, until Randy has looked at it in low light as well as sunlight. He also views each painting upside down and sideways so that he can approach it with a fresh look. These perspectives help him see and correct compositional errors and/or a lack of color coordination.
Randy paints most every day. He knows not from where his ideas come, though he points to his head as a glazed look wells in his upturned eyes. "I show up and paint every day and the muse will arrive. She rides a very fickle horse."
Moberg regularly exhibits his work at the Little House Gallery in Birmingham, the Bennett Street Gallery in Atlanta, and the Bennett Gallery in Nashville. Prints can be seen and purchased locally at Ashland Gallery. Original works can be seen at Randy's studio, over Red Barn Antiques, by appointment.
Randy currently has a show at the Eastern Shore Art Gallery in Fairhope. For the month of February, viewers can see a ten-year retrospective of Moberg's labor. The forty-piece exhibit, comprised of oils and drawings, is the largest selection of Randy's works compiled in one show. He has borrowed pieces not publicly seen in years from private collectors. The exhibit, "Full Circle," is so named because the new work includes many elements from work in his earlier career that he had gotten away from. The difference, though, is that he now feels more confident in his use of color and has a clearer understanding of what he is trying to say.
"Full Circle" will be up through February 28. Gallery hours are eight-to-five on Monday through Friday and ten-to-one on Saturdays.
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