HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton

Huntington, West Virginia | Film Feature

Biography, Documentary

Douglas John Imbrogno

1 Campaigns | West Virginia, United States

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This campaign raised $12,125 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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Help fund post-production & promotion of a documentary on a singular artistic life. Everything in Robert Singleton's often harrowing early life stood against him as an artist. But at 85 he continues to create at the peak of his powers in the spirit of his autobiography's title, "The Core of My Joy."

About The Project

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Mission Statement

Storytellers Douglas John Imbrogno and Bobby Lee Messer live to tell rich tales of heart and soul that otherwise may go unheard in an age distracted by superficial, social media soundbites. 'We tell stories' is our AmpMediaProject motto—the oldest of crafts. This artist's story needs sharing.

The Story

Everything in the often harrowing upbringing of Robert Singleton in the historic confines of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, stood against his dreams of becoming an artist. From indifferent, often brutal parents, to a series of attempts on his own life, to living as a closeted gay man in the middle of the 20th century—which included being outed and ejected from art school and landing in a mental ward to be ‘fixed,’ for his 'social deviance'—it might seem the deck was stacked against him achieving his dreams of exploring the depths of his being and mysteries of the world through art.

One day, crossing America by car, Robert encountered the enigma of the horizon line — the line separating heaven and earth, but which also joins them. This signpost led him onwards, to explore in countless artworks the deepest mysteries of light and of the human spirit, from abstract work, to enigmatic boundary lines, to his evocative, signature explorations of clouds, shadow and light.

“HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton” by the team of Douglas John Imbrogno and Bobby Lee Messer, traces the many twists and turns in the life of an intriguing, complex artist and human being. The documentary will have its world premiere on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Clay Center in Charleston, WV (PURCHASE TICKETS HERE), in a screening presented by the W.Va. International Film Festival. Robert has lived on a remote West Virginia mountaintop since 1978, while crafting a body of work of great significance. He initially rose to wider fame in his 20s as an abstract expressionist, influenced by the great Hans Hofmann, a pivotal figure in Abstract Expressionism. Robert's work featured organic shapes in juxtaposition to hard-edged, geometric shapes, the images amplifying each other by virtue of contrast. Represented by a New York City gallery, his painting and cutting-edge printing techniques were seen in exhibits far and wide, including a multimedia Kennedy Center show in Washington, D.C.

Then, he found he had no more to express via abstraction. The realization came one day while on a painting retreat at the McDowell Colony, a half-finished, large abstract work resting on an easel in his cottage in the woods. “I’d reached a point with one painting and thought, ‘This is as far as I can go with this’ — this wild, emotional, organic brush stroke and color, put in juxtaposition to a hard-edged square," Robert recalls. Realizing he had hit a wall in his creative life, he fell into a funk. He took a walk with his dog. He lay back on grass and nodded off. He awoke. His depression was gone. He realized what he wanted to paint moving forward. Clouds and horizon lines and their interplay of light, color, and shadow. “Clouds are the perfect organic shape. Over the years, as I’ve developed my craft, they are basically vehicles for capturing light in the atmosphere.”

His career took off in a new direction as a painter of light and of the resonant mysteries and depths of the horizon line between land, sea, and sky. Yet the gravestones of nine friends, lovers, and life companions beneath a tree atop a hill on his property on a remote mountaintop in eastern West Virginia speak to a rich life with dear friends—and another turn in the story of Robert's existence. The gravestones are also markers of devastating loss from HIV-AIDS and other exits too soon of loved ones. Robert accompanied many dearly loved people at their bedside as they died, coming to train with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her methods from her international best-selling book “On Death and Dying" and later joining the board of this influential figure's organization, whose work revolutionized care of the terminally ill.

Worn spiritually, he ceased painting for almost two decades, retreating into his house atop a ridgeline in the Allegheny Highlands. But with some key encouragement and loving support, he began painting again a decade ago. His work is now seen and shared widely again. He was honored in 2022 as a Master Artist of the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts in West Virginia. The celebration of his work and life includes a cutting-edge international and virtual multi-gallery exhibition, which traces the arc of his creativity throughout his long, challenging, productive, and open-hearted life:

At age 85, Robert continues to create at the peak of his powers. As his work has ever done, his paintings channel the spirit communicated by the title of his artistic and spiritual autobiography: “Core of My Joy.” Join us in helping to cover the many costs of the documentary's creation, post-production and further wide promotion upon release, as we hope to stage multi-city screenings of "HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton," while submitting the documentary to film festivals across the nation and world.

HELP US WITH THE MANY EXPENSES associated with crafting this worthy tale of a creative life well lived—and still creating at 85! We thank the Jeff and Deb Lamb Family Trust for a generous seed grant that got this documentary off the ground. Now, we ask for your kind support in sharing with the world an inspiring tale that track a life lived from trauma and loss through to artistic and spiritual triumph and balance.

HERE'S THE OFFICIAL TRAILER for 'HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS' (Click the text 'Full screen' to enlarge the player!):

AND HERE'S WHY WE MADE 'HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS (If you skipped past the video above!):

PS: The soundtrack of the documentary is also a showcase of some striking musical performances. Among those featured: 1) Recent W.Va. Music Hall of Fame classical pianist Barbara Nissman; 2) National flatpick guitar legend Robin Kessinger; 3) Acclaimed alt-guitar impressario Spencer Elliott; 4) Noted national furniture maker turned dulcimer whisperer Jim Probst; 5) Singer-songwriting ace James Townsend; 6) Rebecca Davy, the organist at the historic Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg; and more.

BE WELL | THE FILMMAKERS: Douglas John Imbrogno and Bobby Lee Messer






READ A PROFILE OF ROBERT'S CAREER: "The Cloud Painter and the Berlin Musician"


KYLE VASS AUDIO INTERVIEW with Robert on caretaking friends and lovers during the HIV-ADS crisis:



Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Post-production Editing

Costs $7,000

These funds will help us bring it all home, editing scores of hours of footage into the final film, plus 3-D modeling and animation costs.

Festival Submissions

Costs $2,000

We'll submit "HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS" widely to international filmfests. This can get costly given multiple submissions worldwide & promotion.

Film Screenings

Costs $3,000

We plan to screen and promo the doc in: Lost River; Charleston; Huntington WV; Washington DC and elsewhere. This can get costly!

About This Team

The documentary "HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton" is a production of AmpMediaProject, a small, but mighty award-winning multimedia production shop, whose video and documentary work has been featured in festivals around the country and world. We are selective in the projects we take on as we are a small shop and wish to work on projects we believe in and which are suited to our storytelling focus. The tools change, but the need for clear, evocative tale-telling hasn’t changed since the communal fires around which the art of the story began.

AMPMEDIAPROJECT was founded in May 2020 by Douglas John Imbrogno, a lifelong storyteller in word and image. He was for decades a feature writer, feature editor, and multimedia producer for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette and Gazette-Mail in the capital city of West Virginia. where he launched the state's first online multimedia magazine. These days, he is editor of the multimedia writing website TheStoryIsTheThing and producer of documentaries, video features and experimental short multimedia via AmpMediaProject. He is at work on a "sorta memoir" titled "CRAZY DAYS: Confessions of A Fallen Altar Boy" and is editor of "WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions on Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully" by Bhante G (Wisdom Publications 2020). The "HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS" Videographer, editor and co-producer is Bobby Lee Messer, of Messer Media in Huntington, WV. He has decades of experience in shooting and producing vibrant video storytelling and documentary work with heart and style. He is also a master of aerial photography and has one of the finest libraries of aerial photography in the Mid-Atlantic region seen. (He’d be more than happy to fly his drone-for-hire, named Minerva, for you if you need fresh views from on high.) 

WE ARE HAPPY TO BE PARTNERING with the W.Va. International FIlm Festival and Delford Chaffin in presenting the world premiere screening of "HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS" on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, on the main stage of the Clay Center in Charleston, W.Va. FOR A LINK TO PURCHASE TICKETS, click here.

Current Team