My introduction to art came from my father, Ernest C. Gilbert, Sr. who was a painter and whittler. My interest began early in grade school with painting scenes for school plays and landscapes. Carving started with a bi-winged airplane then on to boats and animal heads. I painted and carved throughout high school. In 1974, an industrial accident left me disabled and unable to continue the type of physical work I was trained to do. Since art had always been part of my life and given me so much enjoyment and satisfaction, I made it part of my rehabilitation.
My first professional piece was a large totem. This work utterly drained me emotionally and spiritually, but with a lot of perseverance I was able to participate in my first art showing at the Mazza Gallery. The sculpture generated a great deal of interest from the community and Ms. Rebecca Hoffburger, founder of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Maryland. This experience led me to explore doing larger pieces.
After several years of work and with the help of a fellow sculptor, ‘William Brooks, we completed a work called “Compassion,” a 12-foot piece made from cherry wood (1986-88). The work generated a great deal of interest from the community and other art enthusiasts. In 1988, I became a student of sculpture at Prince George’s Community College, under Mi. John Krurnrem and Bruce Gugliuzza to enhance my technical skills in wood and bronze.
Most of my works are either social sentiments or family relationships. The human form or facial features in abstraction are also portrayed. When the characteristic shapes are in human form. I try to only suggest the form rather than clearly defining it. I try to use a range of thoughts and vision to create rhythms in my figures. I use a range of thoughts and dreams from my unconscious to my hands, then to my preferred medium, wood. The sculptural forms I create are always given a title. To take a quality piece of wood from trie variety of woods available and then create a sculpture with dignity is the objective.
In the fall of 1997. I taught a course entitled “FUNdarnentals of Sculpting in Wood” at Prince George’s Community College. This was a series of three separate classes that helped students to progress from the beginning stages to advanced levels of sculpting in wood. Those students who were already familiar with sculpting in wood could start at either the intermediate class level or the advanced class level, depending on their skill.
While I’m an inexperienced wood carver who has had no life studies, I know the classical sculpture in the museums and am continually learning.