Susan Hallsten McGarry
Art is an act of communicating experiences.
For Priscilla Robinson, the journey begins with observation. Nature and earth elements are her muses. Inspired by the petals of a flower, the cleavage of valleys, the topography of mountains or the motion of waves, Robinson returns to her studios in Taos and Austin where she distills her subjects down to their essential shapes of circles, rectangles and triangles.
Rhythm is achieved through dynamic combinations of these shapes, complemented by color. Once the abaca, cotton or flax fibers are lifted from their watery origins and dried on forms, Robinson lavishes them with acrylic pigments that bond with the paper to create remarkably durable surfaces. Fiberglass or wood mounts support these three-dimensional works, letting them vibrate, pulse or rush along the breadth of a wall.
The combination of organic plant cellulose and space-age synthetics allows Robinson to experiment as she pursues the physically demanding processes of beating and hauling pulp and constructing supports. Driven by a childlike curiosity, she uses her formal education as a painter and her years of experience as a papermaker to pursue ever larger and more complex projects - forms that defy the medium, taking on personalities uniquely their own.
For those who experience Robinson's work, the emotional journey seeps into the psyche like the pigments that bleed from edge to edge of the paper's terrain. Pooling in a depression here, thinning over a smooth spot there or exploding like lava across a deckled edge, the colors invite you to step up close and explore the embossed surfaces with your fingers. Or to stand back and let your mind take flight on the wings of butterflies or meditate on a beam of light that penetrates translucent veils to reflect off virgin paper.
As with the mountains she views from her Taos studio, Robinson's three-dimensional forms have a loftiness of spirit that centers on communion between Earth and the Cosmos, between human invention and spiritual guidance. The meeting is a joyous encounter. It permeates every fiber of her handmade paper and every dimension of her sculptures, carrying us along on the artist's delight in giving form to the ebb and flow of life.
Examining the veins of a leaf or the pattern of light in a bend on a
river, Robinson translates the natural world into their essential
Gazing at one of Robinson's leaf skeletons is an experience of
"show and tell" adults will most likely not have encountered
since the kindergarten days of wonder and awe.
Robinson's sculpture... triangles aglow with color... gleefully scud
along like a giddy abstract sailboat.
The artist is particularly adept at immortalizing the fragile beauty
of spring flowers... textural and sensual, like skins of the earth
extrapolated into fine art.
Austin's ranking visual artists, Robinson: handmade paper with a twist.
Circles and Colors that dance, Priscilla Robinson pursues the
complexities of nature.
The back and forth, the rhythm of the road and the passage from one
landscape to another has impacted her life and work... larger
universal forces of nature are explored.
Poised to fly off the wall, these are sensuous, undulating shapes...
much to admire here and certainly inspirational.
All the world is an energy in constant spiral flux. All that matters is how you transform the world.
Perusing the list of materials Priscilla Robinson puts into her handmade paper/mixed media work one comes across this lovely English word: aspidistra - the houseplant immortalized by prescient writer George Orwell. By the act of putting this plant matter, nandina, oak, and tree leaves as well, into a piece like "Transformation" she literally joins her domestic surroundings to the gallery wall, making of the ordinary, something extraordinary.
In the alchemical, something from nothing art, of papermaking, the process of pulping organic matter is associated with the late autumn of the year, the endless and ever beginning most secretive point of nature's cycle when the crops are tilled back under the earth to magically compost under winter snows, and provide the nourishing material for the upcoming summer of forms. The hand of the papermaker and plant nurturer alike, create from a soup of natural substance, through cooking, watering and drying processes, fundamental changes in the world around them.
The seeds of Priscilla Robinson's abstracted forms lie already in the matter sea of her paper pulp, and take only the artist's patient skills to blossom into full-blown life. Priscilla Robinson was trained as a painter, and her cast paper relieves are paintings in a sculptural dimension. In a mixed media, paper and wrought iron piece like "27 Resting Butterflies" she gathers her strength to engage the physical space of the viewer in a mode of transform and transport. Is this a section of the wing drying moment at the long end of dawn, before migratory flight? Or the first physical actualization of life beyond caterpillar consciousness? Or is it an origami invitation to afternoons spent in the topsy-turvy gravity of butterfly time?
As materials from her Taos garden find their way into her Hollander beater, so nature and her cycle of birth, growth, death, decay, and rebirth inhabit the center of Priscilla Robinson's centrifugal output. Have a dream of flying upward on the great white wings of "Transformation" in an open expanding spiral. Aspidistra and all, these scale-defying wings are the skin shed by a changeling angel, or a moth you might ride to the moon.
Priscilla Robinson's communion with the natural world governs her artistic intentions. Whether rhythmically undulating, or rectangularly situated, her muses live in the spectacular soaring heights and sunlit sights of the Southwest. Donning and shedding their resplendent robes, the seasons observe in succession the processes of "Procession." The artist evokes rites of planting and passage, spectacular celebrations of abundance, and generous days of atonement and gratitude whereby the great gardener might return us to respect for our planet and ourselves.