Yesterday was the opening of the Aminah Robinson/Faith Ringgold show Shared Stories at Hammond Harkins gallery in Bexley. Without expecting either one of the artists (whom I idolize) to be in attendance my friend Ken & I went to the opening reception for the purpose of viewing the artwork. Now, I adore Aminah Robinson. I first met her when I was a college freshman, got to visit her home/studio, sat on her couch, she gave me some buttons, I probably cried afterwards once I got home, and hardly remember any more than that because I was so elated. It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that she is the reason I ended up going to art school at CCAD. Between my fondness for Aminah's work and the fact that I grew up reading Faith Ringgold's book Tar Beach, this was not an exhibition to be missed.
So we walked around the gallery and surveyed the artwork, Faith's work on one side, Aminah's on the other. I drank some white wine and tried not to look like I was the youngest person in the room. Openings at fancy galleries are so funny. There are more expensive looking older couples to be found there than anywhere else perhaps a country club. Sophomore year when president Denny was the guest speaker in Studio Professions class he was giving advice on how to go about selling one's artwork. He asked: Why do people buy artwork? A: To hang it up in their homes so that they can show it off to their friends. This is what I was thinking about.
Then I noticed that one side of the gallery had emptied considerably because there was a gathering of people flocked around Aminah Robinson who was in fact there live and in person. I like to avoid crowds so I just watched. Then Ken went and introduced himself to Faith Ringgold who was sitting on a little sofa in the middle of the room, relatively unsurrounded. I wasn't entirely sure that she was Faith Ringgold because the only picture I've ever seen of her is the one above. She's 80 now and looks quite different. But it was her and she had a fantastic patterned dress on, a longgg grey braid down her back and these wide elaborate glasses. I'm so shy in situations like that, but I shook her hand and told her my name and how much I love Tar Beach. I'm not sure that she heard me, but she smiled at me and said hello.
I've met Aminah Robinson four or five times now and I'm still so starstruck. It's ridiculous. She's such a tiny person and her clothes disguise her thin thin frame, but she has this commanding regal personality, like you can't look away. Ken asked her for her advice on how to make it as a young artist in the fine art world. Aminah said something to the effect of, "You have to keep going, don't let anyone stop you. Be like a rock. Art cannot be a career, it has to be your life...But you can always teach." I think that's exactly what I needed to hear from her. I've had a tough go getting my work into shows lately and it's been discouraging coming to the realization that the work I'm making doesn't quite fit in to the gallery scene here in Columbus, Ohio. In a city where people are looking to buy primarily landscape paintings and still-life paintings I'm busy constructing these colorful modern monstrosities. In fact, Tyler & I are putting some serious consideration into a move to California in the very near future. But until then I'll just keep on making. I put a little sign above my art makin' table that says your work is great just in case I forget.