A visit with Aminah Robinson, artist and MacArthur Fellowship winner

The first time I saw Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s work at the Columbus Museum of Art, I was astounded. When you see a Monet, you know it’s Monet. Same with Picasso, Van Gogh, Cassatt, Renoir, Dali, Matisse. Seeing one of these artists’ works is an “I know you experience” that is grounding. At least, it grounds me.

The first time I saw Aminah’s work was also an “I know you” happening. Perhaps it’s because her subjects capture the essence of people and community–a pairing of the African American experience with the African by connecting the present with the past, and then connecting those ideas to the notion of what makes us universal. The ideas about what makes us human with spiritual connections–with soul, is also what I gather from Aminah’s work. It’s one of the threads of my own life. It’s what I kept looking for when I was in the Peace Corps. I think the search for connection is what calls people to world travel.

Aminah’s work pairs fabric arts of rag paintings, and RagGonNon (her own creation) with storytelling. She also creates fantastical sculptures and music boxes using a method she calls Hogmawg which incorporates found objects and roughly carved wood. Each piece chronicles an aspect of history and culture.

This past Sunday, Aminah, a Columbus native, made an in-person visit to the Columbus Museum of Art as part of the closing to the exhibit of her latest endeavor, “Along Water Street.” For the closing, she gathered the audience’s children around her while she read the book, To Be a Drum, one she illustrated. A young drummer beat time to her voice in the right spots and the children leaned in with their ears to the floor when Aminah leaned down, listening for the drum’s heart beat. This was one of those rare magical moments of spontaneous connection pulled together by her energy.

Now Aminah’s work and story are on the Web. Aminah’s World provides an opportunity to visit her studio, find out about her life, create Aminah style work, and find out where her artwork is on exhibit. Here’s the link that tells where. There’s a video of her studio and one of her talking about her influences. Also, you’ll see why she was given the MacArthur Fellowship. The fellowship is for “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

For more about Aminah talking about her work, check out this page of the Columbus Dispatch where there is an audio interview.