In 1957 at the age of twelve, Robert Durham, otherwise known as Bobby Bridger, began his life-long career as a painter. Although his early art training was in figurative, realistic styles and techniques, he came to focus on abstract expressionism through college and the 1960's. Bridger has a B.A. in Art Education from The University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1968. He taught art at West Monroe High School for three years.
Bridger pursued abstract expressionism exclusively as a style both in painting and in sculpture, and enjoyed reasonable success with exhibitions and sales. In fact, his A Ballad of the West could be considered a form of abstract expressionism, or at least partially influenced by it. Bridger's work in this genre has been influenced by Franz Kline, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollock.
While in college, Bridger also began playing folk music and soon these two careers took up most of his time. By the late 1960s, his music career took center stage as he signed his first record deal with Monument, and would soon sign with RCA for a multi-record contract, taking most of his attention away from full-time painting. Nevertheless, whenever he wasn't touring, producing, or playing music, he continued to paint and sculpt throughout the 1970's and 1980's.
In 1986, Bridger toured Australia with his A Ballad of the West. The tour was landmark; aside from white missionaries, no one -Australian or American- had visited these remote communities to perform music or theater. During the final weeks of the tour, he lived with and performed for several Aboriginal communities and the Pitjantjara tribes. Although he had seen "dot-paintings" in a gallery in Adelaide, he had not encountered the paintings actually being done, and it was there in the Pitjantjara communities that he witnessed what they called "Dreamtime Paintings," or "Papunya-tula.". Bridger was the first Caucasian to paint and exhibit in the papunya-tula style at this time, eventually fusing the Australian Aboriginal style with the bead designs of North American Plains Indians. He completed over one hundred twenty major pieces in this style and sold all but six of them.
Recently, Bridger has gravitated back towards abstract expressionism, and continues to work in this style, as well as in geometric abstraction. He continues to sell his work on a regular basis.
Got a Robert Durham/Bobby Bridger painting?? Keep your eyes peeled for the Painting Forum - coming soon to the site, where you can post a picture of your Robert Durham/Bobby Bridger piece and share your story about your piece. We'd love to know where Bobby's work is now located, so we can build a centralized archive someday for many generations to come.