They say that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, but who wrote the history we learn in the first place?
No matter how far Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s art took her–a MacArthur “Genius” grant, artist residency in Santiago, Chile–she remained a local artist. Columbus, OH.
That’s where she was born in 1940. That’s where she died in 2015. That’s where she lived and created during the intervening years of a brilliant career that now takes center stage at her hometown art museum, the Columbus Museum of Art, during the exhibition, “Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Robinson’s House and Journals” through October 3.
In addition to Robinson’s art–drawings, prints, paintings, sculptures and her famed, mixed media, RagGonOns–the exhibition includes furnishings she made for her home. Also on display are books from her impressive library, many of which she annotated by hand. Visitors will see collections of buttons, fabrics, canes, beaded dolls and thimbles, art she traded with other artists and photo enlargements of her living spaces and studios.
This material–and great volumes more–was bequeathed by the artist to the Columbus Museum of Art upon her death. She even left her dog to the Museum.
CMA staff have been sorting, cataloguing and preserving the gift–which included more than 150 journals and mountains of personal correspondence, art supplies and found objects acquired throughout her life–ever since. The process continues to this day.
For Robinson, no separation between home and studio, between person and artist, existed. During the forty years she lived in the home studio on Sunbury Road in Columbus, she created a vibrant environment which became an extension of herself. It allowed the many directions of her creativity to thrive. As such, nearly every object in her home, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, provides some sense of the artist.
In preserving Robinson’s estate, the CMA is taking care not only of her stuff, but the home itself.
“Those who had visited Aminah in the house during her lifetime and those of us working there after her passing experienced a sense of awe and sacredness in the space,” exhibition co-curator Carole Genshaft told Forbes.com.
As part of its Aminah Robinson Legacy Project which preserves and presents her artwork, the CMA has established an artists’ residency in her home which began this spring. The Museum believes it may be the only residency in the country for African American artists in the home of an African American artist.
By sharing the personal effects which filled Robinson’s home, “Raggin’ On” provides an intimate glimpse into her life and art making.
“The exhibition is designed to conjure the feeling of entering Aminah’s home studio, sitting on her couch and having a conversation with her about what matters most in her world–love, respect for family, community, ancestral history and elevating consciousness about Black life in America and around the world–amplified through her art and writing,” Deidre Hamlar, the exhibition’s other co-curator, said.
Newly recorded conversations with family and friends, and the reconstruction of Robinson’s Writing Room, bring guests even closer to the artist.
“We hope that visitors experience some of the same sense of awe as those who visited Aminah in her home studio, and that through more than 200 examples of her work, they understand her mission–as she wrote–‘to fill in the blank pages of American history’ by documenting the lives and events of both ordinary and extraordinary African Americans,” Genshaft, who spent nearly 20 years working with Robinson on Museum projects, said.
“My works are the missing pages of American history,” Robinson belived.
An American history just now receiving its due.
She grew up in and around poverty in the Black neighborhoods of Columbus during the latter part of Jim Crow and the early stages of the Civil Rights Era. She participated in 1963’s March on Washington. She researched her ancestors who were taken from Angola and enslaved on Sapelo Island, GA.
Just as importantly, she traveled widely around the world–Africa, Europe, the Middle East–seeing for herself how other countries and cultures treated Black people.
It was on a 1979 trip to Egypt where she received the name “Aminah” from a holy man.
A local artist with a world view.
Her travels introduced her to the concept of Sankofa. From the Twi language of southern Ghana, Sankofa translates as “to go back and get.” Studying the past in order to navigate the present and plan for the future as explained in the exhibition’s catalogue, which adds, “Robinson employed this philosophy throughout her art by way of certain preferred iconographical themes—slavery, civil rights, women elders, ancestors, and family of both the near and distant past.”
“For seven decades, Aminah worked tirelessly to depict African American people and events in neighborhoods of Columbus, Ohio that have been overlooked and avoided in the past in an effort to make the invisible visible,” Hamlar said.
Robinson’s celebration of the endurance and triumphs of every day Black life and culture in her home city as well as distant locations possess her artworks with universal implications far beyond her local community.
Raggin’ On is the first major exhibition of the artist’s work since her death. The title references Robinson’s belief that her art and writing never end, and thanks to the work being done at the Columbus Museum of Art to further the extraordinary legacy she established, it never will.
Utopia: an unattainable goal of societal perfection, and even here, the best we can do is a temporary one. Tucked in the corner of the parking lot between Cafe and Restaurant, the Temporary Utopia Greenhouse is hosting the knick-knack/art/curiosity shack: FLOWERSHOP, a once-a-week pop-up featuring printed socks, objects and leisure wear by Strathcona (Ryley O’Byrne strathconastockings.com), with Tiny Moon Flowers (Kyra Power, on Instagram: @tinymoonflowerfarm). Only Sundays, 10ish to 6 p.m. For more info: temporary-utopia.com.
The Gumboot Nation’s new groove! As Kronk says, “Oh yeah, it’s all coming together!” This Creek Daze is a rich example of our DIY attitude – we can’t wait for someone to make our fun, we make it ourselves! Sunday, Aug. 22, bring your Gumboot pride to the school at 10:30 a.m., the parade will begin at 11:11. The Mandela stage runs from 11:30 to 7 p.m. and the Slow Sundays stage, noon to 6 p.m. There is the “The Heart Centre” kids zone, hosted by the amazing Kelsey O’Toole, and a couple of food vendors lined up (more are welcome!). If you want to help, shout out to email@example.com.
Hawthorn Ceramics open house Saturday, Aug. 7 (that’s tomorrow if you managed to get the paper on Friday like I do, or yesterday if you waited till Sunday to read it, but I digress …), 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 1551 Lockyer Rd. At the end of the driveway, ground floor of the house, you will find the studio filled with fresh fired usable art to buy and take home. Hang out on the back deck and have a cuppa Davis Bay tea. Also, check out the basket of seconds and experiments for sale.
A new art piece at the mouth of Roberts Creek has some along the waterfront tilting at windmills. Almost immediately on its installation, far into the tidal foreshore, this guerrilla art raised a few eyebrows in the neighbourhood, with cries of “how long will that be there?”
The artist(s) have assured me that, with the help of our watchful community, any errant parts will be dealt with and should it come apart, it will be picked up and recycled. I have been told we may expect more, in among the pylons, in what some hope will become the Gumboot Nation sculpture park.
This week, Aug. 8, Slow Sundays presents Whirlwind Woodwind Quintet (Heidi Kurtz, John Storer, Danielle Stephens, Meredith Bingham and Yvonne Mounsey) at noon, followed by teen singer/songwriter Kaishan at 1 with Martini Madness Band (Kevin Crofton, Andy Amanovich and Graham Walker) closing the afternoon. Always free, bring a seat and your love of music.
Our Little Legion hosts a group jam Friday evening, but be sure to catch the Burying Ground, Saturday, Aug 7, as they blend prewar blues, early jazz and American rural folk music traditions into their own material. Find tickets to all shows at rclegionevents.com.
Next week Phantom Limb Syndrome, melodic hard rock all the way from Gibsons, B.C. They are Dylan Clark, Dylan Brackett and Scott Reinson (mind if we call you Dylan to avoid confusion?) with guests Redwhyn, Friday, Aug 13.
I’m picking up what you’re putting down, firstname.lastname@example.org.
August is a busy month for us at the Parrott Art Gallery, and we are pleased to be sharing even more exceptional artwork with the public.
Throughout this month, visitors to our third floor gallery will be able to view a selection of artwork by Florence Lennox. Thanks to the recent, very generous donation by her daughter, we are pleased to present several pieces from our Permanent Collection by this popular Belleville artist, now hanging in our corridor gallery.
“Expressions”, the Quinte Arts Council’s juried exhibition and sale, continues in Galleries 1 and 2 until Thursday, August 12. This show has delivered on quality and content, with artwork in a multitude of different mediums.
While the show is available to view online, it is well worth the trip to our Gallery to experience this artistic collaboration in person. We encourage everyone to vote for their favourite piece as well. A People’s Choice Award will be handed out at the end of the show and you can vote online through our website or in person.
Tom Ashbourne’s upcoming show, “County Artist, County Art” will open on Saturday, August 21 in Gallery 1. Featured in this summers’ edition of Watershed, this Wellington artists’ sculpture has been steadily gaining local and international recognition, and has been accepted into exhibitions in London and Florence this year.
Ashbourne also topped the list in World Biz Magazine’s, “Artists to Collect in 2021” which features 30 artists from around the world. In his upcoming exhibition at the Parrott Gallery you can expect to see a large assortment of Tom’s stone carvings and multimedia assemblages, accompanied by a selection of work from his personal art collection, by County artists like Barb Whelan and Celia Sage just to name a few. We hope you’ll come to see for yourself why Ashbourne’s sculpture is winning such high acclaim.
At the same time in Gallery 2, Linda Mazur-Jack will be presenting a show called, “Memento: Alzheimer’s, A Personal Journey.” Using multi-media installations, sculpture and painting, the artist will be offering her testament to the ongoing devastation of the terrible disease that took her husband’s life.
Mazur-Jack will be transforming personal items, found objects, paint, words and more, in a visual experience that cannot help but move the viewer. This show can only be experienced in person, and is guaranteed to be like nothing you have seen before.
While we are still unable to hold in-house events, we are continuing to offer our online art workshops, including Sheila Wright’s “Acrylic Pouring Workshops” and Rachel Harbour’s “Monday Zoom Classes”. These workshops are suitable for new and experienced artists. We will also be holding a zoom webinar on Thursday, September 2 from 7–8:30 p.m., called “Presenting your Art in Today’s Online World”. This webinar will feature the insight of sculptor Tom Ashbourne and the advice of photographer Mike Gaudaur and we hope that this free webinar will help artists improve their chance of exhibiting both locally and further abroad.
Information about all of our current and upcoming programming is available to view on our website. We are here to answer your questions, and we look forward to seeing you at the Gallery in August!
Wendy Rayson-Kerr is the Acting Curator of the John M. Parrott Art Gallery.
They say that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, but who wrote the history we learn in the first place?
As someone who has been deeply passionate about the arts from a very young age, I’ve often found myself at odds with this question. Over the years, my interest in the arts has led me to take classes throughout high school and university. I’ve also volunteered at the Woodstock Art Gallery, where I currently work as a front desk attendant summer student.
Throughout my exposure to the arts, I’ve learned the discipline, like many others, is built upon the works and contributions of those who came before. Ultimately, within the uniqueness of every piece of art, something innately human is revealed. Yet, the more I read about old masters like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Raphael, the more I can’t help but wonder – where were all the women artists? When I gathered the courage to ask my former art teacher why the majority of our art history curriculum catered to white men, the answer I was met with was simply this: “It is difficult to learn about female artists in art history because there’s hardly any significant female artists to talk about in the first place.”
So why is there a lack of female artists to begin with?
Many, including myself, might at first assume that women just aren’t as capable as men in terms of artistic ability. In her 1971 essay, Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists, art historian Linda Nochlin writes the mere question “falsifies the nature of the issue at the same time that it insidiously implies its own answer: ‘There have been no great women artists because women are incapable of greatness.’” The fact that these assumptions still linger is a testament to the shortcomings of art history. What is the actual reason behind the distinct gender gap we see in art today, and to what extent has historical bias influenced our current perception of the art world?
It goes without saying that women’s underrepresentation and lack of recognition in Western art history is complicated. Women were historically excluded and actively discouraged from partaking within the same spheres as men, including the artistic sphere. Women were likewise barred from entering art academies, undergoing formal artistic training, or even acquiring an education in general – the very building blocks to becoming an artist in the first place. The quintessential middle-class, white, male archetype associated with the default “ideal artist” prevailed because aspiring female artists were excluded from these institutions that helped cultivate artistic proficiency.
As Nochlin explains, one example of gender-based institutional discrimination can be seen through women’s access to life drawing during the 19th century. Due to the rising popularity of history painting at the time, life drawing was seen as a mandatory prerequisite to one’s artistic cultivation. Even once women were finally allowed into life drawing classes, they were burdened with the responsibility to have their works remain modest – a restriction that did not apply to men – despite the common belief that “there could be no great painting with clothed figures.” The male administration specifically prohibited nude models from appearing in anything less than “partially draped.” While men could undergo artistic training without restraints, women often faced hostility when fighting for equal footing within those same institutions.
All in all, to truly learn from history, we must also understand the foundations on which it was written. Though notable names such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Berthe Morisot and Frida Khalo have gained considerable mainstream notoriety, it remains true that the number of male artistic masters still outnumber the women. While we cannot rewrite the past, we can add nuance to how it’s told.
As I’ve learned in my time at the Woodstock Art Gallery, one place we can start is right here at home. The gallery’s 2019 exhibition, Given Her Due: Oxford County Women Artists 1880–1908, showcases the work of talented and sometimes overlooked female artists of this region, including Eva Bradshaw, Betty McArthur, Jaquie Poole, Fryke Oostenbrug, and more. You can explore a 3D virtual tour of this exhibition online at www.woodstockartgallery.ca. The gallery’s permanent collection also highlights the artwork of Florence Carlyle, who broke boundaries as a prominent Canadian painter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Carlyle – along with other notable female artists in the collection – is featured in the current exhibition My Favourite Artwork, which launched when the Woodstock Art Gallery reopened on Aug. 3.
Vicky Lin is the front desk attendant at the Woodstock Art Gallery. The Woodstock Art Gallery acknowledges the support for this position, which is funded by two federal student employment programs: Young Canada Works and Canada Summer Jobs.
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