Aminah Robinson talks with the community about her life, art installation in Baker
March 9, 2007
By Meryl Smith
The vibrant scenes in the terrazzo on the floor of Baker University Center are hard to miss. The artwork depicts scenes from Poindexter Village, one of the country's first federally funded housing developments, where the artist, Aminah Robinson, grew up. Those who attended the grand opening celebration on Feb. 10 had the chance to meet Robinson at a fireside chat sponsored by the School of Art.
Robinson was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where she continues to live and work. She has presented her work in a number of museums and galleries including the Columbus Art Museum, the Akron Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem and recently her works were featured in a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. A showing titled "A Symphonic Poem - the art of Aminah Robinson" is on tour throughout the country and is scheduled to have an opening at the Toledo Art Museum.
Here are some excerpts from her fireside chat:
About the art installation
What is the origin of your inspiration for the art installation in Baker Center?
The work came through the book "A Street Called Home." I wanted to reach our young people and perhaps inspire them to go back to their communities, to the elders of their families and communities and begin to talk with them because once they're gone, it's over. That's a whole library that we're missing pages to. So that was part of my idea -- that the youth would be inspired.
What were you trying to convey, particularly to the students who walk through this building?
I just hope it reminds them to go back into their communities, to their family just to spark some response and idea and inspiration. A lot of what I do is for the young people. My work is made specifically for future generations. And maybe they, even if it's just one, will become inspired.
Do you have any feelings regarding the transition of your artwork from paper to the terrazzo?
I feel the transition is marvelous. It's the first time that I've ever had any work translated on this scale. I do have a mural at the main library in Columbus, Ohio, but it is nothing like the terrazzo. I think it's wonderful.
Where do the characters come from?
They come from the elders of my family and my community. They are real people that I've come across in my life. Everywhere you go, in every community, you will find the universal figures such as the scissor grinder man, the chicken foot woman, the sock man. They are everywhere. Everywhere I go there is always one of these characters. Even though I grew up with them, they're all over the world today.
Some people might not immediately understand the sense of community that you are trying to convey. How would you explain it?
It's very simply said: Those characters are what make up the community. They are a part of a greater community. When you find the interaction between the characters of the community in the way they sing out their wares to the people, that is community.
About the artist
What is your regimen – do you get up at a certain time each morning and put in studio time?
Well, I don't consider myself an artist. I consider myself a walker through life. Art is a way of life. It is simply a consistent, persistent, everyday way of life. At ten or eleven I will be in my reading, fall asleep, and then I will be up again at 4 a.m. It's been that way since the 50s; I don't know anything else. It's just a way of life.
How long have you been creating your art work?
Since I was three, seriously.
According to your bio, you have created over 20,000 pieces of art.
That was in 1978, I don't know how many I've created since then.
I understand that you've gone on some extensive travels – you've been to Africa, the Middle East as well as Israel. How does travel relate to your work?
My main reason for going on these trips is to bridge friendships. I think the work that I'm doing is a tool to meet people because there are people who are interested in the work and you make friends that way. I do take my (art) stuff and I go walking – I don't know where I am, but I go walking and meet people. It's been a wonderful journey. I've met some pretty nice people.
About her work
Do you have a particular discipline or medium that you like working with the most?
No, I love all of it. It's like eating your meals; you don't want corn flakes every day.
Do you see your works as specific narratives or as universal things that come together?
Well I never think about it. However, life never begins with one self. Everything that has come before affects us. That's why we have to go back to find out who we are so that we can write wonderful novels and produce wonderful works with understanding and insights.
Do you ever allow the political events to inspire your work?
If you really study my work, it is political. It is also a call for justice. It is very subtle, but very political.
Meryl Smith is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.