Stepping into an exhibit of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s work is like visiting a multi-layered landscape of colors and textures. Her art is a combination of 2D and 3D pieces that include paint, writing, textiles and everyday objects such as beads and buttons – sometimes, all of these at once. Robinson was born in 1940 in the community of Poindexter Village, in which she spent the first 17 years of her life and would hold close to her heart forever. She attended the Columbus College of Art and Design, the Ohio State University, Franklin University and Columbus’ Bliss College. She would go on to travel extensively, receive the 2003 Ohioana Career Medal for her paintings, drawings and sculpture and win a MacArthur Award in 2004. Robinson was skilled in creating a visual experience that blends the senses to give the viewer a window into her own personal world.
The Columbus Museum of Art was cherished by Robinson and has long been one of the most avid collectors of her work. When she passed away in 2015, she bequeathed almost her entire estate to the museum, including her house in East Columbus. CMA immediately began efforts to use the new collection to spotlight Robinson’s work in detail. After more than five years of preparation, CMA debuted Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals in November of 2020, the first major exhibit on Robinson since her death. Alongside the exhibit, CMA completed a full renovation of Robinson’s home, preserving and honoring it as a place of creative freedom by adapting it into a fully-functional artist residence where artists can live, study and work. A companion book edited by CMA curator Carole Genshaft was released to accompany the exhibit and includes more than 200 full color illustrations of Aminah’s work and journals, as well as essays by her friends, family and fellow artists. Genshaft will be attending the 2021 Ohioana Book Festival with Raggin’ On; her prior book, Aminah’s World, was a 2019 Ohioana Award finalist.
The inclusion of Aminah’s journals illustrates that she was a master of the literary arts as well as the visual arts. The book, the exhibit, and Aminah’s newly-renovated home (which includes a “Writing Room” on the top floor) serve to celebrate every aspect of her artistry, including her writing. The preservation of Aminah’s estate, the exhibition of her work, and all further projects taken on in relation to Aminah are collectively known as the Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Legacy Project (ABLR Legacy Project). These projects represent a monumental amount of effort and care dedicated to helping Aminah’s work find new audiences.
February 18, 2021, marks what would have been Aminah’s 81st birthday. As she completed travels around the world to Africa, New York City, Sapelo Island, Georgia, Israel and Chile, she carried “the spirit of Home” with her wherever she went and maintained Columbus as her permanent residence. In each new place Aminah visited, she picked up techniques and experiences that would inform and shape her art. Much of her work is in fact based on her experiences in the various neighborhoods of Columbus, lovingly brought to life in murals, quilts and illustrations. “My work and life are about Columbus, Ohio…the community, ancestors, and spirits,” Robinson once told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals is now on exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art until October 3, 2021. To learn more about the exhibit, how to visit CMA during the pandemic, or to schedule a private tour, please visit: https://www.columbusmuseum.org/raggin-on-the-art-of-aminah-brenda-lynn-robinsons-house-and-journals/
For more information on Aminah Robinson herself and the ABLR Legacy Project, please visit the sources below.
The first artist resident is set to move into the renovated Aminah Robinson house in summer of 2021.