No matter how far Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s art has taken her – a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, an artist residency in Santiago, Chile – she has remained a local artist. Columbus, Ohio.
It was there that she was born in 1940. It was there that she died in 2015. It was there that she lived and created during the intervening years of a brilliant career which now occupies the fore performing in his hometown art museum, the Columbus Museum of Art, during the exhibition, “Raggin ‘On: The Art of Aminah Robinson’s Home and Newspapers” through October 3.
In addition to Robinson’s drawings, prints, paintings, sculptures and her famous mixed media, RagGonOns, the exhibit includes furniture she made for her home. Also on display are books from its impressive library, many of which have been annotated by hand. Visitors will see collections of buttons, fabrics, canes, beaded dolls and thimbles, works of art she traded with other artists, and photo enlargements of her living spaces and from its studios.
This material – and still in large volumes – was bequeathed by the artist to the Columbus Museum of Art upon his death. She even left her dog at the Museum.
Since then, AMC staff have sorted, cataloged and preserved the donation – which included more than 150 journals and mountains of personal correspondence, art supplies and found objects acquired throughout his life. The process continues to this day.
Aminah Robinson’s home studio
For Robinson, no separation between home and studio, between person and artist, existed. During the forty years that she has lived in the Sunbury Road home studio in Columbus, she has created a dynamic environment that has become an extension of herself. This allowed the many directions of his creativity to flourish. As such, almost any object in his house, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, gives an idea of the artist.
By preserving Robinson’s estate, the CMA takes care not only of its affairs, but also of the house itself.
“Those who visited Aminah in the house during her lifetime and those of us who worked there after her death felt a sense of awe and sanctity in the space,” said the co- curator of the Carole Genshaft exhibition at Forbes.com.
As part of its Aminah Robinson Legacy project which preserves and presents its works of art, the CMA has established an artist residency in its home which began this spring. The museum believes this may be the only residence in the country for African-American artists in the home of an African-American artist.
By sharing the personal belongings that filled Robinson’s home, “Raggin ‘On” offers an intimate glimpse into his life and artistic creation.
“The exhibit is designed to evoke the feeling of walking into Aminah’s home studio, sitting on her sofa and having a conversation with her about what matters most in her world: love, respect for family, community, ancestral history and raising awareness of black life in America and around the world – amplified by his art and writing, ”said Deidre Hamlar, the other co- curator of the exhibition.
Recently recorded conversations with family and friends and the rebuilding of Robinson’s writing room bring guests’ guests even closer to the artist.
“We hope that visitors will feel the same sense of awe that those who visited Aminah in her home studio, and that through over 200 examples of her work, they understand her mission – as she wrote. – “to fill the blank pages of American history” by documenting the lives and events of ordinary and extraordinary African Americans, “said Genshaft, who spent nearly 20 years working with Robinson on museum projects.
The Missing Pages of American History
“My works are the missing pages of American history,” Robinson believed.
An American story that has just received its due.
She grew up in and around poverty in the black neighborhoods of Columbus during the latter part of Jim Crow and the early stages of the Civil Rights Era. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington. She searched for her ancestors who were taken from Angola and enslaved on Sapelo Island, Georgia.
Equally important, she traveled extensively around the world – Africa, Europe, the Middle East – to see for herself how other countries and cultures treated black people.
It was during a trip to Egypt in 1979 where she received the name “Aminah” from a holy man.
A local artist with a vision of the world.
His travels introduced him to the concept of Sankofa. From the Twi language of southern Ghana, Sankofa translates to ‘come back and get’. Studying the past in order to navigate the present and plan for the future as explained in the exhibition catalog, which adds: “Robinson used this philosophy throughout his art through some favorite iconographic themes – slavery , civil rights, elderly women, ancestors, and the family of the near and distant past.
“For seven decades, Aminah has worked tirelessly to represent African Americans and events in neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio, which have been overlooked and avoided in the past in an effort to make the invisible visible,” Hamlar said.
Robinson’s celebration of the endurance and triumphs of everyday Black life and culture in his hometown as well as in remote places has his works of art with universal implications far beyond his local community. .
Raggin ‘On is the first major exhibition of the artist’s work since his death. The title refers to Robinson’s belief that her art and writing never ends, and thanks to the work done at the Columbus Museum of Art to further the extraordinary legacy she has created, it never will.