Robert E Culligan: A Sense of Place

A sense of place... Surely it also had something to do with a settled way of life and with the awareness of local history that links successive generations living under the same roof and walking the same paths.  A sense of place depends most of all on a shared history.  A transient population does not sink roots in a place.
     - Hilary Thimmesh, OSB | Introduction, A Sense of Place

In the post-World War II era, multinational companies sprang up across the United States, and with them came a corps of American businessmen and their families who were uprooted and sent to the far reaches of the globe.  Geographic stability, as it had been traditionally defined, became a remnant of the past.

So, how does one stay grounded in the midst of a highly mobile, transient corporate lifestyle? For 3M businessman Bob Culligan, the recipe was simple: pursue an avocation of painting with passion, and capture the beauty, the wonder and the spirit of your locality - landscapes, buildings, churches and vistas from each newfound home.

Beginning in 1969, Bob Culligan and his family set out on a global adventure that brought them from their hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, to Milan, Italy, to Brussels, Belgian and back again.  Over the course of nearly 40 years, he painted, and painted and painted, mostly watercolors, but from time to time other media as well. 

Sense of Place is a retrospective of Culligan's local, national and international passage.  It could very easily have been subtitled: Places I lived and loved.  It is the story of one man's journey to set down roots in both familiar and foreign lands.

Sense of Place includes 40 watercolors: churches, basilicas and cathedrals in County Clare (Ireland), St. Paul (Minnesota), Milan (Italy) and Brussels (Belgium)... farms and barnyards in the Midwest and Europe... schools buildings at Notre Dame, St. Thomas Academy and Saint John's University... boats and shorelines in Minnesota (Duluth, Two Harbors, Split Rock) and Massachusetts (Rockport)... seaside Italian villages (Portofino, Camogli and Noli)... St. Paul landmarks such as the Schmidt Brewery and the Winter Carnival Ice Sculpture... and a variety of scenes from Saint John's Abbey and University including the Abbey Church, the Great Hall and the Stella Maris Chapel

Culligan's paintings are alluring and inviting - warm hues, soft light, verdant fields, vivid skies - creating familiar and hospitable spaces that beget a sense of familiarity... a sense of history... a sense of belonging... and a sense of place.


All of the artwork on display at the SJU Gallery is on loan from private collections; however, giclee prints are available of ten different scenes of SJU and CSB for $210.  Boxed sets of ten notecards by Culligan depicting winter at Saint John's are available for $15.00 each.  If interested in making a purchase , contact the SJU Gallery at 320 363-2701 or visit the St. John's Bookstore.

June 10, 2013 - September 13, 2013
Alice R. Rogers Gallery & Target Gallery, SJU