If you’ve heard of artist Royal Robertson, chances are you heard of him the same way I did: via Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan’s most recent album, The Age of Adz, was inspired by Royal Robertson’s art and features one of his pieces on the album cover.
Robertson (1936-1997) was born and lived most of his life in Louisiana. He left school at age 13 and in his late teens apprenticed as a sign painter in the western US. Later in his life, when his wife of 19 years – and mother of his 11 children – left him for another man and took all their children to Texas with her, he descended into paranoid schizophrenia. He declared himself a prophet and began to record his visions in his paintings. Frequent themes in his paintings included spaceships and aliens, futuristic cities, Biblical and religious references, numerology and misogyny, the latter apparently spurred by his wife’s betrayal.
In this video, Sufjan Stevens talks about Robertson and performs “Get Real, Get Right” with some of Robertson’s images appearing on the screen behind him.