Peter Rubino’s artistic ability goes back to childhood. His father was an accomplished artist. “I had the spark when I was young, and I would paint alongside my dad, and that was a lot of fun,” said Peter. “I was this kid in high school that everyone would go to for the art projects, and I was enjoying it. I didn’t think it was anything special at that time.” That interest, which seemed to be nothing special at the time, propelled him from becoming a talented teen to eventually achieving the status of a world-renowned sculptor.
Like many successful people, Peter’s path to fame wasn’t in a completely straight line. He first started his journey to adulthood in the military. “I was in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and that’s when things started coming together.” Peter realized he needed to figure out what he was going to do with his life afterward. Upon discharge, he searched around, looking for what he wanted to pursue.
One interest for the Brooklyn, New York, native was acting, where he found some success. In 1970 he played Jesus in a 30-second public service announcement called “aWARness,” that was sponsored by the Catholic Missions Board. Peter was also up for the Al Pacino role in the original Godfather. He was subsequently hired and had an extraordinary experience playing an army buddy of Pacino’s character in the famous wedding scene. In retrospect, he looks back on his acting days with a smile.
A few years later, Peter had turned his focus back to the visual arts. He was formally trained at the National Academy of School Of Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the Art Students League, all in New York. “Fast forward about a decade. I’ve dropped the acting and was teaching at those prestigious art institutes while exhibiting and selling sculpture. I specialized in portrait sculpture and started receiving portrait and figure sculpture commissions”, Peter said.
Peter set up his own studio space at the Ranieri Foundry, in NYC. While working on his sculpture at the foundry, Peter was approached by Ranieri himself, when one of his clients needed a sculpture for the science center they were building in Israel. This was a turning point in Peter’s career.
Peter was interviewed and chosen as the artist for the project. By 1983 he had finished and installed an 11-foot work entitled, “Mother of All Life,” at the Boyko Research Center at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel. And in the process, Peter had become an internationally acclaimed artist.
Peter was now thoroughly steeped in the world of sculpture. “I was teaching and presenting sculpture workshops throughout the US and abroad,” he said. Encouraged by my students and desire to share my easy to follow step by step sculpting methods to a broader audience, I decided to write two books on the subject first “The Portrait in Clay’ and then “Sculpting the Figure in Clay” for Random House publications. These comprehensive instructional guides are distributed worldwide and translated into five languages including Chinese.
This was an exciting period in Peter’s life. “I taught numerous workshops in Italy, which is where I really connected with the Renaissance art.” He told an amusing story about taking his art class to visit the “David” sculpture at the Academia Museum in Florence, where they do not permit unofficial tours. The viewing is usually a relatively quiet and private affair. “We would approach the enormous marble masterpiece which is set in a sunlit rotunda at the end of the main corridor, and I would begin my lecture. That was always fun because as I’m talking and pointing out the statue’s forms to my students, tourists would gather around to hear what I was saying. Within minutes security would come and shut it down.”
Peter also held workshops at a privately owned and restored 12th-century monastery called the Borgo San Fedele in Tuscany, Italy. However most of his teaching and sculpting centered around New York and Connecticut.
One of the things Peter is best known for is his sculpture performances. “I originated a live extreme sculpting performance act with music about 25 years ago”. Before devising the idea of the sculpture performance, Peter was already presenting sculpture demonstrations at schools, libraries, and community centers to promote classes. He would choose a person from the audience, for his model, and begin to sculpt a likeness in front of the crowd.
Deciding that was not as much fun or entertaining as it could be, Peter thought of choreographing these demonstrations as a performance. Peter said the idea was to sculpt “a recognizable person with identifiable music.” Eventually, he found himself at art festivals, concert halls, universities, corporate fundraiser and outdoor venues speed sculpting a 250 lb. monumental clay bust of Beethoven in 20 minutes, accompanied by the composer’s music and calling it “Symphony In Clay.”
In 2014 the Rubinos moved to Charlotte from Connecticut to be closer to their youngest son, his wife, and their two children. However, before coming down, Peter did some research to see what was happening in the arts. He decided that Charlotte seemed to have a nice art vibe.
The first year, he maintained a studio space with Clayworks Studio and exhibited his sculpture at Red Sky Gallery in Charlotte. He also traveled back and forth to tie up loose ends with projects he’d begun in Connecticut. He was a featured guest performer at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s 5th-anniversary celebration of the “Jazz At The Bechtler” program where he created a bust of jazz legend, Dave Brubeck.
This should have been easy since Peter had already created a bust of Dave Brubeck when Dave was 60 years old. However, Ziad Rabbi, who was both the Artistic Director of the Jazz at the Bechtler series, as well as the lead musician of the jazz quartet was providing the music for the performance and decided that Peter had to sculpt Dave as a younger man. The reason being, “Because that’s how the fans know him.”
Peter has now settled into a routine here in the Waxhaw area. Besides his association with the Charlotte art scene, he teaches workshops at Brookgreen Gardens, in Murrells Inlet, SC., the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, Fl. and the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach Fl.
Closer to home, Peter’s artwork is also starting to appear in local places. He has an artist/gallery relationship with both the Stewart Village Gallery and Eightlegs Gallery. A limited edition of his original patriotic sculpture, “Remembrance,” is now part of the Waxhaw Military Wall. Peter was also commissioned to sculpt the “Officer Of The Year” award for the Waxhaw Police Department. His bronze work, “HERO,” of a firefighter, bald eagle, and American flag, sits in the Scott Safety corporation lobby in Monroe, and his piece “Protector” is at home in the Levine Jewish Community Center in Charlotte.
“Karen Johnson, of Created in the Carolinas and the Waxhaw Entrepreneurs, has been extremely helpful connecting me with wonderful people and opportunities in the area. She also spearheaded the acquisition of “Remembrance” for the Military Wall. He also went on to talk about how local sculptor Rusty Gray invited him to join the Waxhaw Arts Council. “It was there where I met Bonnie Rusinko, who introduced me to Chief Eiss, which led to the commission of the Waxhaw “Officer of the Year” sculpture award,” said Peter. He credits both Bonnie and Karen for being extremely helpful in their roles of networking and being supportive of his projects.
Peter now has a small studio in the Created In The Carolinas co-op, where he enjoys connecting with other artisans and is busy working on his next project. You can find him there working on occasion and stop in to see his latest work in progress. He is also a member of the Waxhaw Entrepreneurs (WE), a small business incubator at the co-op. The town of Waxhaw will also soon have the opportunity to watch his talent in action. This spring, Peter will be presenting an Extreme Sculpting performance at the Kaleidoscope Festival in Waxhaw on Saturday, May 21st at 3:00. To see Peter’s works in bronze visit rubinostudio.com or contact him at email@example.com