Robert W Milnes

Robert W Milnes

About the Artist:

Robert Milnes holds a PhD in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, a MFA in Ceramics from the University of Washington, and a BA in Philosophy and Fine Arts from Claremont McKenna College (1970). His artworks have been included in over 180 exhibitions nationally including 28 one/two person shows. His artworks are included in the collections of the Renwick Gallery (Smithsonian Institution), Seattle Arts Commission, Arizona State University Ceramic Research Center, San Jose Museum of Art, Louisiana State University Museum, Erie Art Museum, Edinboro University of PA, San Jose State University, and private collections nationally.

Milnes served as Dean of the College of Visuals Arts and Design at the University of North Texas from January 2006 to his retirement in August 2014, when he moved to Asheville, NC with his wife Karen, re-establishing Arbitrary Forms Studio there. A sculptor and ceramist, he served previously as Director of the School of Art and Design at San Jose State University in California, Director of the School of Art at Louisiana State University, and as Chair of the Art Department at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He taught at the Penland School of Crafts in 1972 and 1979.

Milnes is the past president of the National Council of Art Administrators and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. He has served as a consultant or evaluator for more than sixty universities, colleges, and independent schools of art in the US and abroad and served in Dallas on the Board of Directors of the Business Council for the Arts and as Chair of the Community Advisory Board for KERA, the NPR station for North Texas. He was recently named a Fellow and Lifetime Member of NASAD and served on the Board of Directors of the Center for Craft in Asheville, NC and as co-chair of the Blue Ridge Public Radio Strategic Planning Committee.

He is a member of the Southern Highland Crafts Guild and his sculptures are represented by the Bender Gallery in Asheville, NC.



1987     University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, Ph.D., Higher Education Administration, Dissertation Title “The Impact of State Governing Board Policies on Programs in the Fine Arts in Postsecondary Education”

1984     Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, College Management Program

1974      MFA, Ceramics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

1970      Philosophy and Fine Arts, BA, cum laude, Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna College), Claremont, CA




2014                       Cohn Drennan Contemporary Art, Dallas.  One Person Show.

2012                       Brookhaven College. Farmer’s Branch, TX. Two-person show w/ Jerry Austin

2004“Buddha Code” The Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA

                                Tercera Gallery, Los Gatos, CA Featured Artist

2001                       Tercera Gallery, Los Gatos, CA. Featured Artist 

1999                       Tercera Gallery, Los Gatos.  “Modernisms” Featured Artist.

                                Tercera Gallery, Los Gatos.  “Gods and Monsters” Featured Artist.  April

1997                       D.P.Fong Gallery, San Jose, CA

1990                       McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA

                                Baton Rouge Gallery, Baton Rouge, LA

  1. Cross Creek Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  1. Clarion University, Clarion, PA
  1. Meredith Contemporary Art, Baltimore, MD

                                The Clay Place, Pittsburgh, PA

                                Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA

1982                       Kern Graduate Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

1981                       Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA

                                Blossom Center, Kent State University, Kent, OH

1980                       Theo Portnoy Gallery, New York, NY

                                Slippery Rock State College, Slippery Rock, PA

1979                       Bloomsburg State College, Bloomsburg, PA

1978                       American Hand Gallery, Washington, D.C.

1977                       Erie Art Center, Erie, PA

                                Theo Portnoy Gallery, New York, NY

                                Daemen College, Amherst, NY

                                SUNY Fredonia, Fredonia, NY

1975                       Erie Art Center, Erie, PA

                                Bowman Gallery, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA

1974                       Northwest Craft Center, Seattle, WA

1973                       Northwest Craft Center, Seattle, WA

1972                       Cornish School of Allied Arts, Seattle, WA




                                Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

                                F W Bacon, Erie, PA

                                Elaine Cardinale, San Jose, CA

                                Robert Caret and Liz Zoltan, Baltimore, MD

                                Lucia Cha and Jerry Huira, Los Gatos, CA

                                Betty and Ray Cyphers, Los Gatos, CA

                                Clarion University of PA, Clarion, PA

                                Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA

                                Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA

                                Federal Reserve Bank, Cleveland, OH

                                Diane Fraiman and Josh Hoyt, Saratoga, CA

                                Heritage Bank, San Jose, CA

                                Ann Killough, Los Gatos, CA

                                Katherine and Ed Levin-Lau, San Jose, CA

                                Saul Levin, Beverly Hills, CA

                                Lombard and Wall, New York, NY

                                Louisiana State University Museum, Baton Rouge, LA

                                Kimb Massey, Santa Cruz, CA

                                Sandra Moll and Rick Holden, San Jose, CA

                                Moore Engineering, San Jose

                                OM Investments, San Jose, CA

                                Theo Portnoy, New York, NY

                                Ralph and Sheila Pickett, Saratoga, CA

                                Robinson and Conner, Erie, PA

                                Jay Rodman and Wendy Wilkins, Placitas, NM

                                P Rosenberg, Morristown, NJ

                                San Jose Museum of Art

                                San Jose State University            

                                Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle, WA

                                David Shrader and Judy Stewart, Denton, TX

                                Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC             

                                Charles and Debbie Johnson Stafford, Denton, TX

                                Sony Corporation, Atlanta, GA

                                Westinghouse Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA

                                H Zimmerman, Memphis, TN


GROUP EXHIBITIONS (* denotes competitive exhibition)

2019                       Carolina Artisan Crafts Market, Raleigh, NC*

                                Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, Asheville, NC. “Into the Blue: Introductions 2019”

                                Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC. Focus Gallery “Seeking Balance”

                                Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC . New Members show

                                Southern Highlands Craft Guild. Asheville, NC. Summer Show

                                Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC. New Members Show.

2018                       Folk Art Center, Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC “Wabi Sabi” SHCG Members show Appalachian

                                Commission, Washington, DC.

2017, 2018           Potters Market Invitational, Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC.

2017-2019            San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Auction

2017                       Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco, CA. Auction

                                Materials Hard and Soft. Denton Arts Council Gallery, Denton TX International juried      exhibition. Joanne Edwards, Director, Museum of Craft and Design, Juror. *

2015-17                KSBDA (Korean Society of Basic Design and Art) Annual Spring International Invitational Exhibition. Catalog Publication only.

2015,17                 Penland School of Crafts, Annual Auction Exhibition.

2012                       UNT on the Square, Denton, TX.  CVAD Ceramics Group Show.

2011                       Escuela de Bellas Artes, UAEM, Toluca, MX.  University of North Texas Ceramics Exhibition

                                Texas Regional Ceramics exhibition.  University of Dallas (Travelling to Midwestern State University)

                                Best of Texas Ceramics Competition, Fort Worth Community Center. Honorable Mention.

2010                       VAST National Show, Visual Art Center, Denton, TX*

                                Contemporary Clay National competition. Western Colorado Center for  the Arts, Grand Junction, CO*

2006-10                University of North Texas, School of Visual Arts.  Annual Faculty Show.

2004Scripps College, Claremont, CA. 60th Scripps Ceramics Invitational: Standing Room Only*

2003,04                 Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA. Monotype Marathon (sponsored artist)

  1. Tercera Gallery, Los Gatos, CA

2002                       Thompson Gallery, San Jose State University, Faculty Exhibition (Also 1990, 95, 98)

2001                       Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA. “Winter Work.”

2000                       Heritage Bank, San Jose, CA.  6th Anniversary Show (curated by Jane Salvin)

1999                       Heritage Bank. SJSU Faculty and Student Exhibition (curated by Jane Salvin) 

                                John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI.  Invitational Auction

1998                       SOFA Chicago, International Arts and Crafts Fair  (October, 1998)

                                Institute of Contemporary Art (Annual Auction Invitational) (Also 1991-93,95-97)

                                Western Art Directors Miniature Art Auction

                                Works Gallery (Annual Art Auction Invitational)  (Also 1996)

1997                       Zoller Gallery, Pennsylvania State University.  State College, PA. Crafts National*

                                Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA.  Kiddush Cup Invitational

1994                       The Clay Place, Pittsburgh, PA. Twentieth Anniversary Gallery Artists Exhibition

                                DP Fong Gallery, San Jose, CA. Gallery Artists

1993                       DP Fong Gallery, San Jose, CA. Gallery Artists

1991                       LaMar Dodd Art Center, LaGrange College, GA, LaGrange National Art Exhibition*

                                Lenaxa National Art Exhibition, Lenaxa, KS*

                                California State University, Los Angeles, CSU Art Chairs Invitational Exhibition

1990                       Mazur Museum, Monroe, LA, Louisiana Festival of the Arts*, Honorable Mention, Sculpture/Crafts

                                Downtown Gallery, Baton Rouge, LA, Upriver Artists

1987-90                Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Faculty Exhibition         

1989                       Media Gallery, Kansas City, MO, NCECA Invitational

                                Still-Zinsel Gallery, New Orleans, LA, Design in New Orleans*

                                The Clay Place, Pittsburgh, PA, Cup and Bowl Show

                                Union Gallery, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, New Dimensions in Sculpture*

1988                       Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA, Southern Abstraction

                                Baton Rouge City National Bank, Musicality

                                Carnegie Mellon University Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, Pennsylvania Sculptors

                                Indiana University of PA, Indiana, PA, Pennsylvania Artists

1974-87                Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA, Faculty Exhibition

1986                       Maryland Art Institute, Baltimore, MD, Clay in the East

                                Cross Creek Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Gallery Artists

                                Glass Growers Gallery, Erie, PA

                                Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, State College, PA, Sculpture Exhibition*

                                Governor’s Mansion, Harrisburg, PA, Pennsylvania Sculptors

                                Chautauqua Art Gallery, Chautauqua, NY, National Painting and Sculpture Exhibition*

1985                       Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA, Society of Sculptors Exhibition*

                                Cross Creek Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Gallery Artists

                                Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA, Clay National*

                                Carnegie Mellon University Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, Seventy-Five Years of Pittsburgh Art              

                                Pinch Pottery, Westbeth, CT, Cast Clay Invitational

1984                       Clay Place, Pittsburgh, PA, Furniture by Artists

                                Meredith Contemporary Art, Baltimore, MD, Gallery Artists

1984                       Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA, Spring Show*

                                Kuban Gallery, Cleveland, OH, Summer Exhibition

                                Scripps College, Claremont, CA, 40th Annual Scripps Ceramics Invitational

                                Craftsman’s Gallery, Scarsdale, NY, Invitational

                                Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA, Society of Sculptors Exhibition*, Juror’s award

1983                       Eve Mannes Gallery, Atlanta, GA

                                Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Spring Show*, Juror’s award

1982                       Allegheny College, Meadville, PA, Biennial Sculpture Exhibition

                                DBR Gallery, Cleveland, OH, Ceramics Invitational

                                DelMano Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

                                Eve Mannes Gallery, Atlanta, GA

                                GMB Gallery, Birmingham, MI, Ceramics Invitational

1981                       Theo Portnoy Gallery, New York, NY, Multiples by Gallery Artists

                                Towson State University, Towson, MD, Low Fire Clay Sculpture

                                Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center, Portsmouth, OH, About Faces

                                Contemporary Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD, Ceramic Sculpture Invitational

1980                       Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC, American Porcelain Travelling Exhibit and Permanent Collection

                                Scripps College, Claremont, CA, 36th Annual Scripps Ceramics Invitational

                                Arts and Crafts Center, Pittsburgh, PA, Associated Artists Annual Show*

                                Purdue University, Lafayette, IN, Clay Plus

                                American Hand, Washington, DC, Making it in Clay

                                Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Spring Show*

                                Westmoreland County Museum, Greensburg, PA

1979                       Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Exhibition*

                                Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, White Clay

                                Craftsman’s Gallery, Scarsdale, NY

                                Jerel Gallery, Buffalo, NY

                                Gallery G, Pittsburgh, PA, Gallery Artists

                                Lock Haven State College, Lock Haven, PA, Local Clay Deposits II*

                                Renwick Gallery Museum Shop, Winter Show

                                Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, The Unpainted Portrait

                                Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Spring Show*

                                The Elements, New York, NY

                                Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, Art From Craft

1978                       Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Local Clay Deposits

                                Associated Artists Gallery, Arts and Crafts Center, Pittsburgh, PA

                                Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Spring Show.

                                Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, Multiples from Molds

                                The Store, Verona, PA, Crafts for the Castle

                                Roberson Center for the Arts, Binghamton, NY

                                Renwick Gallery Museum Shop, Washington, DC

                                Arts and Crafts Center, Pittsburgh, PA

                                Thiel College, Greenville, PA, 100 Teapots

                                The Clay Place, Pittsburgh, PA, Director’s Choice

                                Theo Portnoy Gallery, New York, NY, Gallery Artists

1977                       The Store, Verona, PA, Wall Hangings

                                Mano Gallery, Chicago, IL

                                Allegheny College, Meadville, PA, Crafts Biennial

                                Clarion State College, Clarion, PA

                                Gallery G, Pittsburgh, PA, Gallery Artists

                                Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, Cup Show

1976                       NCECA Conference, Baton Rouge, LA, 50 Americans*

                                Three Rivers Art Exhibition, Pittsburgh, PA*

                                The Store, Verona, PA, Toys for Adults and Children

                                Millersville State College, Millersville, PA

                                Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Impressions, Juror award

                                Thiel College, Greenville, PA, Ceramics Invitational

1975                       Contemporary Crafts Gallery, Portland, OR, Clay Dreams

                                Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Expressions*

                                Allegheny College, Meadville, PA, Crafts Biennial

                                and/or, Seattle, WA, Ourselves

                                Erie Art Center, Erie, PA, Handmade

                                Marietta College, Marietta, OH, Crafts National*

                                Stockton State College, Stockton, NY, Ceramic Sculpture Exhibition*, Juror award

1974                       Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA, Invitational

                                Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Co, Contemporary Crafts of the Americas*

                                Northwest Craft Center, Seattle, WA, Group show

                                Cornish School. Seattle, WA, Faculty Exhibition

                                Arts and Crafts Center, Portland, OR, Teapots

                                Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, Supermud, Ceramics Conference

                                Polly Friedlander Gallery, Seattle, WA, What a Dish

                                Thomas Mansfield Gallery, Seattle, WA, Hiccups

1973                       Northwest Craftsmen Exhibition, Henry Gallery, Seattle, WA*, Juror award

                                Arts and Crafts Center, Portland, OR, Salt Glaze Invitational

                                Arts and Crafts Center, Portland, OR, Group Show

                                Fairtree Gallery, New York          

                                Seattle Center, Seattle, WA, Ceramics Invitational

                                Helen Drutt Gallery, Walnut St. Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, Another Cup Show

                                Gail Chase Gallery, Bellevue, WA, Salt Glaze Show

                                Eastern Washington State College, Cheney, WA, Ceramics Invitational

                                Cheney-Cowles Museum, Spokane, WA, Northwest Craftsman Invitational

                                Fairtree Gallery, New York, NY, Group Show

                                Modest Proposal Gallery, Seattle, WA

                                Mainstreet Gallery, Seattle, WA

1971                       Object Makers ‘71, Salt Lake City, UT*

1970                       Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Exhibition, Bellevue, WA*

                                Northwest Craftsman’s Exhibition, Henry Gallery, Seattle, WA*

                                Second Storey Gallery, Seattle, WA, GroupShow



2006-14                University of North Texas, Denton, TX

                                Dean, College of Visual Arts and Design

                                Dean Emeritus effective September, 2014.

1990-2005            San Jose State University, San Jose, CA

                                Director, School of Art and Design. Professor

1987-90                Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

                                Director, School of Art. Professor

1974-87                Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA

1987                       Assistant to the President for Academic and Administrative Affairs

1986                       Presidential Faculty Intern

1981-86                Chair, Art Department

1980-81                Assistant Chair, Art Department

1974-87                Professor, Ceramics

1972,1979            Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC

                                Instructor, Ceramics (summer sessions)

1971-74                Cornish School of Allied Arts, Seattle, WA

                                Head, Ceramics program

1970-71                Garfield High School

                                Instructor, Ceramics


Shapes and patterns that question cognition

I have been working in ceramics since 1969.  Other pages on this website focus on recent work. Pieces on this page include early geometric forms that are concerned with placement in space, often combining clay and copper or steel, to more figurative works. All of them are based on approaches to objects I have learned through linguistic philosophy and observations from artists internationally.

I re-opened Arbitrary Forms Studio when Karen and I moved to Asheville in 2015. I create unique functional objects and sculptures that explore shapes that I have made and the ideas that formed them over the past 40 years. Under the studio name Arbitrary Forms Studio, I also produce ceramic vessels. My practice focuses on sculptures that are based on combinations of positive and negative, volumetric shapes with surfaces that include binary symbols based on Morse code and other systems of representation. They question symmetry, order, and meaning. Brain wave patterns are also used as a formally derived calligraphic or abstract expressionist brush mark.

Prominent sources for many of the pieces are the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the 20th century Austrian philosopher. The sculptures are not derived from quotations, but they grow around them. Imagistic vessels from the last decade involved questions that start with “W,” inquiries like “What,” “Where,”  “When, “ Why,” or “Who.” In all of the works, significant influences also include linguistic and pragmatic philosophy; Neolithic and early classical Chinese and Japanese pottery, sculpture, and calligraphy; the pottery of the Peru and the American Indians of the Southwest; the wood carving of the Northwest Indians; and the stone carving of the Mayans. They reflect my appreciation of many contemporary artists working in clay and other materials as well. In college, I studied with abstract expressionists and minimalists, political and linguistic philosophers. In graduate school, I studied with imagistic artists and artists whose work referred to vessels. I believe I learned from all of them as well as the artists I have known since.

I am enough of a modernist to believe in principles, enough of a minimalist to believe in the primacy of materials and forms, and enough of a post-modernist to understand these are arbitrary, historically shaped beliefs.  I have had the good fortune to grow up and study on the West Coast of the United States and to live and work throughout the country.  I have been able to visit sites in the US, China, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey where some of the ancient pottery and carved forms were made which have influenced my work and thought. Artists’ concepts and palettes are tremendously influenced by their visual environment and that is certainly true for me in the past and now in Asheville.