We had the good fortune of connecting with Robin Howard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robin, what role has risk played in your life or career?
As an artist, risk-taking has been foundational for me in the last few years. Experimentation and innovation are what I enjoy most, but I can’t ever be sure the market is going to react to the result. Every piece is a risk, but I also think that element is what draws people to my work. I like to spark curiosity, and that requires doing things that haven’t been done before. There aren’t any guarantees what works for me in the studio is going to work, in terms of sales, in a gallery. That’s a risk I’m willing to take for the sake of innovation, and I am so grateful for the gallerists who give me that latitude.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
One of the things that sets me apart is I’m not out to express myself through art. My only intention as an artist is to bring back a sense of mystery and magic to the world. Besides love, I think curiosity is the most delightful experience we can have in this life. In a world moving at machine pace, any time a viewer stops what they’re doing and gets absorbed in one of my works, even for a few seconds, it makes me feel happy and fulfilled. It means I’ve created a moment of wonder out of thin air. I’m an assemblage artist, and my greatest challenge has always been the technical side of creation. I’ve had to learn to work with wood, weld, make paper, work with wax and adhesives, spin yarn, and weave and sew, and so much more. What I’m most proud of these days is aligning the creation process with my values. Last year my husband and I committed to going as close to zero-waste as possible. That meant I had to become incredibly thoughtful with art materials. I have challenged myself to use local materials and to not use any new materials if I can help it. After 20 years of being an assemblage artist, it’s added a new layer of complexity, but it’s been fun. I’m enjoying this age as an artist; I’ve learned to go with the creation success/failure cycle without judgment. I’ve developed such gratitude for the gallerists who have given me a platform over the years. I’m profoundly honored that there are people who interact with my posts and invest in my art. I think what I’d tell beginning artists is that you’re embarking on a long journey with no map. Business books and art school are helpful, but ultimately you’ll build a unique and fulfilling life by hacking your own path through the jungle. I wish I’d known that 20 years ago, I would have enjoyed the journey more. What I want people to know about my art is when I create, I’m thinking about you. I’m thinking about how to surprise and delight you, how to get inside your brain and tinker around, how to connect with your little-kid self. When that happens, I want to clap my hands and jump up and down. It makes everything worth it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Charleston, but love to visit ATL because it’s so exciting and vegan-friendly. If I were showing you my favorite spots, on Friday night we’d have dinner at White Oak Kitchen + Cocktails. Their food is creative and nurturing, and the restaurant is really beautiful. We’d spend Saturday morning at the High Museum of Art, then lunch at the Slutty Vegan for their world-famous burgers (and I would buy you a t-shirt.) After lunch we’d visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which will give us lots of hings to talk about over dinner at Life Bistro. You will never want to eat anywhere else after that, but I think you will make an exception when you see the Sunday brunch menu at Cafe Sunflower.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shoutout to Sarah Miller, owner of Miller Gallery in Charleston, SC. Sarah’s efforts to bringing contemporary art with a raw, urban edge to one of the most traditional fine art meccas in the country is visionary. Sarah and the gallery’s assistant director, Rachael Nerney are unfailingly supportive, patient, and encouraging to all of the artists they represent (most of whom are women). Artists can’t thrive in a vacuum. I have to thank Sarah and Rachael for allowing me to take risks and evolve.
Photos courtesy of the artist