On Sept. 17, 2023, AmpMediaProject.com launched its first feature-length documentary, ‘HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton,’ in a gala screening attended by nearly 300 viewers on the main stage of the Clay Center in West Virginia’s capital city. The hour-long film tracks a world-class artist’s life from trauma to triumph, from tribulation and deep loss, to equilibrium and mastery.
This searching documentary is a tale of many things. How soulful spirit and determination can overcome a traumatic, wounding childhood. What it was like to be a gay young man growing up in America back in the day. (Robert was ejected from art school in Richmond, Va., in a ‘gay purge’ and branded with a mental hospital diagnosis of ‘sociopathic personality disorder with sexual deviation.’) It is also a tale of an artist’s progression — from conventional imagery to award-winning abstract expression and, then, on into Robert’s ‘light paintings’ and ethereal, mystical horizon lines and clouds. These depict the meeting space between earth and heaven, which are at once both gorgeous and deeply spiritual.
Photos of Robert Singleton in different stages of life. At one point in the early 1990s, he stopped painting for nearly 20 years, as recounted in the film, hollowed out by his losses as the AIDS epidemic swept away a lover and some of his dearest friends.
The film is also a story of the spiritual devastation and losses from the AIDS crisis when it hit Robert’s circle hard in the 1990s, and how Robert came to know Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a pioneer in near-death work, who trained him in compassionately accompanying people as they pass. ‘HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS’ is, finally, a tale of a life well-lived and an artist who at 85, after all he has experienced, continues to paint and create at the top of his game, a jovial spirit on a remote mountaintop in the Allegheny highlands of West Virginia.
Some examples of Robert Singleton’s cloud and horizon line paintings.
REVIEWER: Rudy Panucci of the PopCult blog:
“I was not expecting such an emotional roller-coaster to be packed into a brisk, 60-minute film. Based on interviews with Singleton, and using several effective techniques, HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS tells a life story that includes a violent and traumatic childhood, a closeted existence as a gay man in the intolerant 1950s, his stunning success as an artist, coming to grips with his own sexuality just as AIDS was devastating his social circle, and a spiritual awakening that saw him giving end-of-life care to many people who had been shunned by their families. Throw in a 20-year dry spell where he couldn’t paint and the fact that, at 85 he’s still with us and producing incredible art once again, and you have a record of an amazing human being …”~ POPCULTBLOG.com REVIEW
REVIEW: John W. Miller at Moundsville.org
“It’s a beautiful film because it’s about a man who makes soulful, thoughtful art, but it’s also an ode to a life that has been beautiful in its reckoning with deep pain and suffering. And in capturing those in between spaces, Singleton tells us something about where we are. The in between is where crisis, death and rebirth, happen. And it matters that Singleton long ago chose a hilltop in West Virginia to live and paint in. This is a state where complexity and crisis wrestle every day with love and beauty.”‘The Horizons of West Virginia Artist Robert Singleton’