Bob Emser was born in 1954 in Illinois, at the height of the baby boom. Influenced both by the constant house construction of the era and his father, a mechanical engineer, he spent most of his early years building and playing with machines. This grew into a fascination with model airplanes that he shared with his father.
Emser's interest in structure lead him to begin his formal education in the study of architecture. Feeling the constrains of architecture and the excitement of his first art course, sculpture, he shifted his focus to the full time study of sculpture. After being awarded a full time graduate assistantship in sculpture, from Bradley University, Emser completed his M.F.A. in 1978. Gaining quick regional acceptance of his figurative laminated wood sculptures.
Emser was the youngest sculptor to have his work selected for prestigious Illinois Arts Councils Sculpture Exhibition. The sculptures were exhibited in and around Chicago and travel through out the state for over a year.
During his 25 year career Emser has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions. He has served as a visiting artist and has taught and at several universities and held a tenure professorship for 14 years. In addition to his commitment to the making of art he was the founder the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, a not for profit gallery that was the seminal push for the redevelopment of Peoria's riverfront.
Emser has also distinguished himself as an arts advocate and leader within the sculpture community. He served 2 years as Executive Director of Chicago's International Sculpture exhibit, Pier Walk. He has served the arts by holding seats on the board of directors of the International Sculpture Center and the prestigious Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. In 2004 he co-founded the Chicago Sculpture International and currently serves as the president. He received the prestigious Pollack Krasner Grant in 2010.
From the beginning Emser's work has dealt with the internal structure and how that structure supported or became visible on the exterior. Emser's current body of work is derived from and is a reference to pioneering spirit of aviation and nautical history. The titles of the works give us a handle into this reference, which only stands as a metaphor for his life experiences.
Today Emser splits his time between his Chicago and Eureka studios focusing his efforts on creating sculptures for public and private spaces, lecturing and consulting on contemporary issues in public sculpture.