Robert Bullock is the founder and director of the Coalition Ingenu Self-Taught Artists’ Collective. Although Bullock was also a self-taught artist with a history of homelessness, he rarely included his work in exhibits with the Collective throughout the first 15 years of its’ existence. As CISTAC evolved further away from the social service organization that had begun by conducting open studios at homeless shelters and hospitals, and as Bullock retired from painting murals with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, he began allowing increasingly more time for his own artistic experiments. At first, he sought to distance himself from his role as director of the nonprofit and began signing his work simply with the nicknames of “Small Boy” or “Bullick”. He was hoping, by so doing, that he could treat himself like any other artist and promote his work the way he had for so many other artists and members of the CI Collective. He soon realized, however, that it would ultimately become impossible to pretend that he and “Small Boy” were not one and the same person. Still, the
nickname seemed to fit, especially since Bullock felt as though the imagery that was turning up more frequently in his work was coming from a return to the sensitivity that he remembered as a small boy. His work was a conscious effort to stop fighting the emotions that had once overwhelmed him, and embrace the sentimental and dramatic perceptions that had made his youth so troubling. Robert’s early schoolteachers had often referred to “Bobby” as a very “distracted” child living in “a world of his own.” A painful shyness made his early teens very awkward until he taught himself how to play the drums and joined a rock group. Music made him popular and sustained him in many ways throughout the next few decades, toward the end of which he toured with a band throughout the West and Midwest of the U.S. Bullock also worked a series of odd jobs and traveled quite a bit between each one, mostly in the style of the old time hobos – hitching from place to place – finding a little work where he could. Some of these trips would last more than a year. It was during one such trip –- a two-year soul searching trek throughout Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines – that Bullock determined that visual art was his passion and his calling.