The Artists Who Inspire Me

Photo by Robert Sturman, featuring Ashika Gogna

Robert Sturman is a dedicated yoga practitioner and photographer who has captured scenes in locations ranging from the streets of Manhattan to the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bleak landscape of San Francisco’s San Quentin Prison. He shared with us seven of his heroes from the world’s rich history of art.

Vincent van Gogh was my first massive inspiration. He painted with so much heart. His work was of the people—the workers, the peasants.  The empathy he felt has been forever recorded in his work, and it has paved the way for my life as an artist.

Frida Kahlo painted with so much sincerity and honesty. She had a very difficult life. She had polio as a child and then was paralyzed from a traffic accident at 18. She devoted most of her work to deep self-exploration. She was the queen of self-portraiture and would pave the way for the modern self-portrait in art.

Michelangelo was simply a master. His work speaks for itself. I return to him over and over again for inspiration. 

Marc Chagall created from his heart. This quote has stayed with me since the day I saw his Jerusalem stained glass windows when I was only seven years old: “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

Pablo Picasso—his creative confidence floors me. The man had more mojo than anyone else in the entire history of art combined. Incomprehensible genius.

Dorothea Lange was a documentary photographer in the early 1900s who humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography. Her work touches the heart deeply.

Jackson Pollock has been a great inspiration to me, showing me clearly how art could consist of nonrepresentational, rhythmic subject matter that speaks to me on a cellular level. He found the zone so often and, whether he was throwing or dripping paint, he did it in a way that required centered oneness. That was a great teaching. And, just as great as the teaching I received from this artist about creation was the teaching of responsible living. His life was abnormally destructive—emotionally, mentally, physically. Because of him, I decided to start doing yoga. At first, just because I had a hunch that it could teach me to live a more relaxed life—mindfully breathing, sitting still, not running, not desperate—willing to burn in the fire (while on my mat).

I love artists and I love appreciating their work, whether they live up to it as human beings or not. But at the same time, I love when the artist has the sense to create a masterpiece of their own life. And I love that we have yoga—and that the lives of so many human beings will be more beautiful because of it.

Robert Sturman is a dedicated yogi and photographer who has increasingly focused his work on capturing the timeless grace and embodied mindfulness of asanas.

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