Robert Hartman

artist artwork
Hartman’s photographs are more than aerial maps of land. He uses infrared film to capture the landscape, resulting in photographs that transform the land into riotous colors and shapes. “As an ex-painter,” Hartman explains, “I really react to color. Infrared film has color galore. It also puts a measure of ambiguity and non-recognition on the image.”

Hartman recognizes the important role of his airplane in the creative process. He fell in love with flying on his first flight at around age five. As a high-school graduation present his father gave him flying lessons, and, when Hartman was 21 years old, he had earned his pilot’s license. In 1969 he bought a plane and, until recently, flew solo while taking snapshots of the land below. He would shoot pointing the camera out the rear half of the window, his left shoulder turned and his knees and feet controlling the plane. He says, “I celebrate the nobility of the one-to-one, equal encounter between a man and a miraculous machine, and the departed time when that was possible.”

As an Oakland resident and professor of painting at UC Berkeley for 30 years, Hartman spent much of his life laboring in the studio. He taught academic realism until he followed the call of abstract expressionism in the 1960s. For years while he worked in the studio, Hartman felt a yearning to be in a plane, to get out of the studio and make art by experiencing life. “There’s so much to see and revel in,” Hartman says. His photographs are not composed. They are, instead, a document of his wonder and enthusiasm for the beauty of the land, a testament to the important role of conservation, and a record of his experience in the plane as he discovered the environment from above.

Honored with numerous awards as both a painter and photographer, exhibited in many solo shows throughout the country, and included in group exhibitions at the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Whitney Museum in New York, and the Photo Museum in Osaka, Japan, Hartman has established an international reputation. His photographs are included in the collections of museums such as the Princeton Art Museum, The Corcoran Gallery, Long Beach Museum of Art, North Dakota Museum of Art, San Jose Museum of Art and the University Art Museum in Berkeley.

Reference Credit: Oakland Museum of California