Rotberg captures the essence of family in sculptures

by Alex Ashe


Family is important to Jay Rotberg. One can assume that without meeting the Greensboro-based sculptor. His work makes it painstakingly clear.

A former college professor, Rotberg, 79, began sculpting full time in 1989, and moved to Greensboro soon after. He made a business of it in 1997, when he opened his own studio, JMR Sculptures. In April 2012, Rotberg opened the downtown studio to the public, allowing visitors to directly purchase his pieces at studio prices.

His studio is tucked away at the end of a long hallway on the first floor of the Old Greensborough Gateway Center on the corner of Elm and Lee streets.

The gallery space doesn’t take up much of the studio. The smaller pieces tend to be displayed along the gold-tinted, brick walls, while the larger ones are positioned on small tables in the middle of the room.

Additionally, there’s a group of pieces strictly for display purposes that takes up half of the gallery’s backwall. Across from it, there’s shelf space for Rotberg’s works in progress, roughly 100 of which fittingly are located in between the gallery and workshop space.

Woodworking, which has long been a hobby of Rotberg’s, served as a gateway to his sculpting career. These days, he works primarily with marble resin, although his main collection, Simply Love, consists of bronze sculptures.

The collection is rooted in the concept of family, expressing themes of togetherness, compassion and understanding between loved ones. They feature distinguishable yet somewhat vague models of human shapes embracing. Though the bodies are often very detailed, the figures are faceless. The elegant pieces have smooth contours, which, combined with the subject matter, give the sculptures a warm, comforting feel.

The collection includes pieces that represent a variety of familial relationships. Some show lovers hugging. Others show a dog and a human embracing. In some, a child rides on a parent’s shoulders, while in others a couple holds their small children.

Because Rotberg sells so many sculptures, through both his studio and website, there are multiple versions of many of the pieces. One such piece, “From Generation to Generation,” differs from the rest of the statuesque collection. It serves as candleholder, representative of the cycle of life. The piece portrays a members of extended family, young and old, holding hands in a circle.

Last year, Rotberg sent 27 candleholders to the families in Newtown, Conn. who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Rotberg’s other collection on display, Mythical Whimsies, is a stark contrast from Simply Love. The colorful, lively pieces depict various animals, and are inspired by mythologies.

“A long time ago, this is what people prayed to,” Rotberg said. On each piece, Rotberg has painted a symbol of two interlocking infinity signs in the form of a flower, representing the subject’s eternal spirit. The thin, metal sculptures are laser-cut and then painted.

There are 13 pieces from the collection currently on display, 15 if you count the large display stands they’re resting on, that are designed within the same theme.

Rotberg’s work never ceases to exude love and emotion. He acknowledges the massive influence of his family on his work, but also points out the importance of his connection with young people after teaching so many over the years. He sees young people as a crucial thread of humanity, and remains intent on interacting with them today.

“I’ve worked with children all of my life,” Rotberg said. “I talk a lot to young people to help guide them and see if I can help them in any way with the process of living.”


JMR Sculptures; 620 S. Elm St., Greensboro; 336.389.0333;