Rob Neilson

Rob Neilson is the Frederick R. Layton Distinguished Professor of Studio Art and Professor of Art at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Born and raised in Detroit, he received a BFA in Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies. A professional artist since earning his MFA in sculpture from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rob has exhibited his sculpture, installations, and drawings at galleries, museums, and alternative spaces nationally and internationally.

Neilson has created public art commissions throughout the United States, including projects in California, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, and North Carolina. In 2006 Rob completed a 6-month residency at the Kohler Arts/Industry program where he fabricated 54 iron castings for a public art project commissioned by the Los Angeles Metro Transit Authority.

Equal parts artist and educator, Rob has been a visiting artist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Virginia Tech University and Longwood University (Virginia), Dickinson College (Pennsylvania), Millikin University (Illinois) and California State University.

Upcoming Exhibition

Purgatory Misplaced: New work by Rob Neilson

September 7 - October 26, 2019

Reception: September 7, 5-8pm

Open during Milwaukee Gallery Night & Day: October 18 & 19

Artist Talk: October 19, 2-3pm

The term purgatory comes to us from the Latin purgatorium,meaning “a place of cleansing”. The content of this new body of free standing and relief sculpture is centered on the exchange between the idiosyncratic and collective associations borrowed from the imagery of the iconic depictions coupled with the form of classical bust sculpture: Specifically, the form of the double herma with its implications of borders and boundaries.

With the ethos that in an absurd world only the farcical is truly genuine, Neilson creates sculptures that tease at the liminal spaces existing somewhere between truth and fiction, joy and suffering, redemption and damnation. All in an impish attempt to divulge the significance we give our individual narrative – be it reliable or not.

Rob Neilson Interview by Brainard Carey, Praxis Interview Magazine, wybcz Yale Radio. 4/23/19

Past Exhibition

Credo Quia Absurdum: New Work by Rob Neilson

August 12 - September 16, 2017

In this new body of sculptural works, Rob Neilson concentrates on the exchange between the idiosyncratic and collective connotations borrowed from the individuals depicted. Exploiting the traditional genre of the portraiture bust in a way which combines iconography and incongruity, Neilson creates art constructed from layered MDF (medium density fiberboard) and finished with handmade milk paint to consider the space where the iconic encounters the absurd.


Available Works

To inquire, please call 920.559.7181 or email

To inquire, please call 920.559.7181 or email