On October 5, 2016, the Wilmington art community was devastated by the passing of one of their own. Rick Mobbs, a talented painter and sculptor, was a founding member of ACME Art Studios. Ultimately, he was one of the driving forces behind the local art scene as we know it today. In his memory, preserved in his paintings, drawings and sculptures, ACME Art Studios will host a retrospective exhibition of Mobbs’ artwork lent from family, friends and private collections on July 28.
“Rick inspired so many of us to be better artists with his incredible work ethic,” ACME member and event curator Fritzi Huber says. “It was almost unorthodox how he was always working. He was an incredible painter, very spontaneous, and always had a creative eye out.”
Mobbs was particularly known for his versatile style. From his whimsical paintings of myth and imagination, to realistic landscapes and portraits, Mobbs’ abilities adhered to a wide range of genres. He lent his skills to the sets of over 80 films, including “A Walk to Remember,” “The Notebook,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” and “The Book of Eli.”
“I met Rick in 1990,” Huber states. “I went to see a group doing life drawing on 4th and Castle streets, at the suggestion of Pam Toll, another ACME founder. We crossed paths a lot since he was a painter in the film industry, and my family was involved in the film industry as well. We became fast friends. He was a great person to be around.”
During this time, Mobbs and several fellow artists—with the common goal of igniting community creativity and involvement in the arts—were having weekly meetings at Mobbs studio. The small space on Castle Street served as home base for coordinating community art shows—until the group decided to move into the old carpet warehouse on N. 5th Street—now known as ACME Art Studios. With the new large space, the group was able to open the doors to more artists over the years. It has made ACME a haven for creativity, to which Mobbs was a mentor to many ACME artists.
“He would bring items to the studio out of the blue sometimes,” Huber recalls, “whether it was roof tiles, suitcases or whatever, and ask if we felt inspired to use them for a new project. It wasn’t like anyone was ever really looking for a project, but his enthusiasm was so contagious.”
Mobbs eventually moved from Wilmington to New Mexico with his wife Naomi Swinton and family in 2006. This impact he left on the art community in the Port City, however, has always lingered.
“It’s funny: Everyone I’ve approached about loaning Rick’s pieces for the show have all been very happy to be a part of it,” Huber says. “I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started collecting the pieces for the show. There will even be a few select pieces of his for sale.”
While most on display are Mobbs’ paintings, some works are collaborations with other fellow artists from the ‘90s. The exhibit will include a series of silhouettes cut out of rusted sheet metal, and even unconventional work, like a white dinner jacket painted over with battle scenes.
“We’ve all come by his work in different ways,” Huber mentions. “I’m showing one of his pieces that he traded me for one of mine. We also have a few people that received his work as gifts, but most of it was purchased.”
Huber recalls stumbling upon one of Mobbs’ creations at a friend’s house by coincidence. “After I realized it was one of Rick’s, I told them about the show and asked if they would like to lend it,” she says. “They took it right off the wall and handed it to me.”
Throughout her collection process, Huber has noticed the number of newer Wilmington artists taken with Mobbs’ work. “A lot of artists in town weren’t in Wilmington during the time Rick was here, and when they see his work they’re blown away,” Huber adds.
The opening reception for Rick Mobbs Memorial Exhibition will take place at ACME Art Studios on Friday, July 28, 6-9 p.m. The exhibit will remain on display through August 20. Admission to the exhibit is free to the general public. Some prints and select works will be for sale.