Robert Blood, known for eye-catching sculptures, dies

Blood leans against one of his sculptures, displayed in his Regent St. home, and laughs at one of his own jokes. Photo by Rebecca IsenhartBlood leans against one of his sculptures, displayed in his Regent St. home, and laughs at one of his own jokes. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

Colonial-style homes with neat, well-kept yards line Regent Street. But there is one house motorists will often come to an abrupt stop to look at.

Six large, striking metal sculptures adorn the lawn, setting it apart from the rest of the neighborhood and marking it as an artist’s residence.

That artist is Robert Blood, who died Dec. 1 at the age of 92.

“It’s fun to watch people slow down as they drive by just to look at them,” said neighbor Mindy Whisenhunt.

To those who might not be familiar with Blood, his work can be found across the Capital Region.

His life-size sculptures reside in Albany Law School, at the Saratoga Springs Harness Race Track, in three Jewish community centers, and at the Schenectady Museum, now called miSci, as well as other venues.

Blood was born in Niskayuna and eventually moved back into the Regent Street home in which he was raised.

Peter, Blood’s son, said his father was fond of telling people about the day he discovered what he wanted to do.

Blood’s artistic flare began before he even had an understanding of what art was.

“When he was 5 years old, someone gave him some clay to play with. Right then, he knew what he wanted to do,” Peter said.

Chance meeting
After attending high school, Blood joined the military in 1943 and served for three years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a sergeant.

When he returned from the service in 1946, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on the GI Bill. But in his third year, he left for the New York City skyline.

It was there that he met Esta.

“My father met my mother under a piano,” Peter Blood said. His father was at a crowded party and felt he needed a break from it, so he dove under a piano that was in the apartment. There, he met Esta, who had also taken cover there.

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Esta is an artist as well, though she is more musically inclined. Together Esta and Robert created mixed-material jewelry for several years in New York City.

“These pieces were really unique . . . usually made of wood mixed with metal. Everyone I know who owns a piece of it will not give it up,” said Peter.

But after a few years, Robert decided he was more of a small-city person and moved with Esta to Niskayuna — to the house his grandfather built many years before. The couple married in 1955 and worked on their jewelry designs using ebony and rare metals.

In 1960, Blood was hired by the Schenectady Museum as an artist-in-residence. He lived in the museum’s Steuben Street location with Esta and Peter until 1967.

During his residency, he taught sculpting classes and worked on his own pieces.

“The thing about my dad’s sculptures that always struck me is the amount of time and energy that he put into each piece,” Peter said.

After the family moved back into the house on Regent Street, Blood worked more than ever in the studio just outside the home — sometimes for 14 hours at a time.

Esta joked that there were days when he would only come out of the studio for meals.

Some of his most famous pieces include, “Family,” which is displayed in the Schenectady Jewish Community Center; “Sanctuary,” which is on display at the Unitarian Church in Schenectady; and “Portal,” which is at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. Some of his works are also in the J.P. Morgan art collection in New York City.

Blood gained a following for his perspective as much as for his artwork.

“There was a constant stream of people going in and out of the house,” Peter said of his family’s Regent Street home.

Fellow artist Christopher Murray was among the frequent visitors.

As a former neighbor and an art teacher at Shenendehowa High School, Murray grew close to Blood by chance. He and his wife were searching the streets of Niskayuna, looking for a new home, when they found the house across the street from Blood’s home.

“When we talked to the real estate agent, she thought it was going to be a challenge to sell the house due to the fact that the neighbor’s lawn was completely covered with monumental-sized metal sculptures,” Murray said. “I told her I was an artist too and considered it a sign that this was the place where we were supposed to be.”

Passionate about art
During their time as neighbors, Blood and Murray would often discuss their latest projects.

Blood’s energy for and perspective of art inspired Murray’s artwork and teaching style.

“He often referred to a connection between the energy and movement of the artist developing an artwork and its illustration in the form itself,” Murray said.

That perspective was not lost on Aliza Mesbahi and her husband, Embarek, who run the Promenade Art Gallery in Schenectady and live in the same neighborhood as Blood.

“We have an open door here, and so did Bob,” Aliza Mesbahi said.

Blood exhibited in the Promenade several years ago, but the Mesbahis and Blood became more like family than fellow artists. “He actually spent Thanksgiving with us this year,” Mesbahi said.

Blood drew part of his energy and love for art from the passions of those around him.

“He was so excited during the primaries. . . . We would always talk politics,” Mesbahi said.

It was that excitement that kept him working up until his death.

“But he was also so humble about his work,” said Carla Page, a close friend of Blood’s and a former student.

Over the past decade, Page became a part of Blood’s family and got to experience not only his passion for his own work, but for the people around him.

“Robert Blood is in every piece that he’s created,” Page said. “His work will live on, and that’s what he took pride in.”