Thursday, March 20, 2003

Artist master of disciplines

Storytelling work captured in painting, sculpture

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Artist Aminah Robinson faced a challenge when she set out to depict the winter home of one of the country's largest circuses.

The grounds of the 19th-century Sells Brothers Circus disappeared decades ago, gobbled up by the sprawling campus of Ohio State University on the west side of Columbus.

So, Robinson turned to old city directories and maps to create her 1992 painting, "Life in Sellsville 1871-1900," making sure she knew exact details of the vanished community, right down to the house numbers and the names of the people who lived in them.

Art blooms in the thin, brown hands of Robinson, who has built a homemade spinning wheel, sketched on deerskin during trips to the Holy Land and created a quilt, "Journeys," which is as big as the side of a house.

Her materials include buttons, wood, beads, thread, cloth, thread, leather and metal, as well as pen and ink and paints.

Symphonic Poem, The Art of Aminah Robinson, the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist's work, is on display at the Columbus Museum of Art through April 20.

Robinson is known in Columbus as the creator of murals that dominate the lobby of the downtown library. Her work has been displayed in the Women's Museum of Washington, D.C., and was included in the 1998 touring exhibition, Stitching Memories: African-American Story Quilts.

"One of the signatures of her work is she is an artist who uses materials so deftly that she makes herself accessible to every strata of any community," said art critic Leslie King-Hammond of the Maryland College Institute of Art.

"Sacred Pages," for example, a record of a 1998 trip to Israel, is a combination of paper, paint, graphite, buttons and music boxes that stretches 421/2 feet.

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