Good Book Gone Wild

Eau Claire native paints Old Testament with psychedelic flair

Jake Johnston

TAPPING INTO SACRED VISIONS. Bible verses transform into vibrant abstract works of art throughout Eau Claire native Sam Robertson’s expansive catalog of psychedelic interpretations. The above is based on Ezra 10:3.

‘I’m bridging the gap between ancient times and the modern era. Creating something that also reflects how society has changed since it has been written.” That’s how Eau Claire native Samuel Robertson explains how the King James version of the Old Testament inspires his interpretive paintings.

Sam describes The Old Testament well: “It’s an early and colorful depiction of humanity’s violent path toward understanding and enlightenment through conquest and domination of the natural world, and each other. The Old Testament is the poster child for our tension between love and killing everything that gets in our way.” Sam is right, the words of the Old Testament are very colorful, but he takes it a step further with literal color. And just as an iconic Buddha statue can instill calmness, these illustrations are meant to convey some of the powerful sentiments of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is the poster child for our tension between love and killing everything that gets in our way.” – Sam Robertson, artist

Consider the painting accompanying this article, which depicts Ezra 10:3: “Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.”

Twin Cities art critic Pamela Espeland aptly described Robertson’s syle in a 2015 MinnPost article: “Robertson’s illustrations feature cowboys and construction workers, interviewers holding microphones, women wearing bikinis, swimming pools, volleyball nets, rodeos and diners. They crackle and buzz with color. At first, they make no sense at all, but the more you look at them and read the accompanying text, the more convincing they become.”

Nehemiah 13:8

Sam spent his formative years in Eau Claire, where his childhood teachers fanned his creative flame. He graduated from Memorial High School, but defected to the Cities to study art. This is his largest artistic undertaking to date. This venture revolves around bold colors, smooth line-work, and transcendent depictions, all inspired from the good book itself.

His use of latex paint in new and inventive ways, almost like watercolor, is perfect to capture these portraits of the human spirit, clashing against the natural world. He often draws on modern society in order to visually communicate words that were first written thousands of years ago. One of the biggest changes that Sam reflects on is consumerism. He frequently draws inspiration from advertisements to capture the byproduct of hollow capitalism.

With religion often being an afterthought in the wake of modernism, Sam’s work is refreshing. He wakes up at 4am to read the Bible and paint before going to work. It’s an authentic artistic pursuit. Humanity’s struggle for creative expression is stale, but this blend of philosophy and pop is as crisp as can be.

With 175 paintings completed, and 100 more well on the way, Sam is halfway through the book of Job with plans to publish it all when he’s finished. Personally, I’m pumped for Proverbs. In the meantime, you can view his surreal stylings at MisterRobertson.com.