Aminah Robinson: Voices That Taught Me How to Sing

Posted Sep 29th, 2010 by Teri Sharp  Category: Arts & Entertainment,


Aminah Robinson: Voices That Taught Me How to Sing
Toledo Museum of Art Introduces Body of Work Spanning Artist’s Career

TOLEDO, OHIO–Ohio artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson (born 1940)
combines traditional art materials with found and everyday objects to create
enchanting two- and three-dimensional works of art. Densely packed with
imagery and materials, her sculptural work is a cross between folk art, quilting
and high art.

Her extraordinary Ragmud Collection, recently acquired by the Toledo Museum
of Art, is showcased in Aminah Robinson: Voices That Taught Me How to
Sing, which opens Nov. 19 at the Museum. The exhibition will remain on view
through Feb. 27, 2011 in Gallery 4 at the Museum’s Glass Pavilion®.

The Ragmud Collection is a set of books that contain sculptural pieces,
drawings, poems, stories, books-within-books, extended pullouts and cases.
Never before shown publicly, the 10 volumes together cover the artist’s
entire career and every kind of work, story and method of art making, says
Amy Gilman, the Museum’s associate curator of contemporary and modern

In 2007, after TMA exhibited the traveling retrospective of Robinson’s work,
Symphonic Poem, Gilman and the Museum’s director at that time began a
discussion with Robinson about acquiring her work for Toledo’s permanent

“It was during a visit to her home that we discovered this body of work in
book form that had not been seen by anyone else,” Gilman recalls. “It had
never been exhibited; in fact, no one other than Aminah knew it existed until
the visit to Columbus.”

All of Robinson’s work incorporates storytelling of some kind, whether it
references the historical past, her family history or her explorations of her
ancestry. Recurring themes in her work are memories of growing up in
Poindexter Village, a Columbus, Ohio neighborhood, and her experiences
traveling through the African Diaspora. Several works specifically explore her
close relationships with family.

Another central component of the artist’s work is her incorporation of
everyday objects, such as men’s ties, in creative ways. She repeatedly uses
buttons for everything from eyes to the borders of pages.

“Making do” with readymade materials provides a strong link to Robinson’s
ancestors who were brought from Africa with nothing but their culture and
traditions. Another link to her ancestry is her use in her sculptural work of
hogmawg, a mixture of mud, pig grease, dyes, sticks, small rocks, glue and
lime that her father taught her how to make.

The Ragmud Collection was created over a span of 22 years—some additions
were made after TMA curators first saw the books—to continue the
storytelling traditions she inherited from her family and her community.

Essential to understanding the collection and the stories they tell is knowing
that Robinson originally conceived them as whimsical sculpture, Gilman notes.
The Ragmud Collection: Books by Aminah Robinson, a publication issued in
conjunction with the exhibition, seeks to provide that scholarly context with
essays by Gilman and Barbara Tannenbaum, director of curatorial affairs at
the Akron Art Museum and an expert on artists’ books.

Because form and content are completely interdependent in artists’ books,
the creators of the exhibition catalog have sought to evoke the sculptural
aspect of Robinson’s work through the use of paper engineering, such as pull-
out pages, in conjunction with images from Robinson’s books themselves.

The Ragmud Collection: Books by Aminah Robinson can be purchased at the
Museum Store and Glass Pavilion® café for $29.95. The artist will be at the
Glass Pavilion® for a book signing from 1–3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.

Admission to Aminah Robinson: Voices That Taught Me How to Sing and to
the Toledo Museum of Art is free.

The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of TMA members and is
supported in part through the sustainable grant program of the Ohio Arts
Council, which encourages economic growth, educational excellence and
cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

Teri Sharp, Public Relations Manager

Kelly Fritz Garrow, APR
Director of Communications
419-255-8000, Ext. 7408

Exhibition Related Programming
FREE Aminah Robinson Book Signing
Nov. 20: 1–3 p.m., Glass Pavilion®
Meet the artist and purchase The Ragmud Collection: Books by Aminah
Robinson. This new book and others by and about Robinson will be available
at the Museum Store and at the Glass Pavilion® café.

FREE Hands-on Activity: Make a RagGonNon Book
Nov. 27: 2–4 p.m., Glass Pavilion®
Discover the amazing world of Ohio artist Aminah Robinson and become
inspired to make your own
RagGonNon (books that can go on and on) using a wide variety of materials.

FREE Hands-on Activity: Hogmawg Sculpture
Dec. 3: 7–9 p.m., Glass Pavilion®
Aminah Robinson uses a wide variety of materials as she creates her artwork.
Learn what Hogmawg is and create your own sculpture using materials you
would never have imagined.

FREE Presentation: Tales of the Storyteller or Afternoons with Aminah
Jan. 7, 2011: 7:30 p.m., Green Room
Barbara Tannenbaum will reminisce about her quarter century friendship with
Aminah Robinson. She also will discuss the growth and change in the artist’s
work during that period. Tannenbaum, who is director of curatorial affairs at
the Akron Art Museum, organized Robinson’s first solo museum show held
there in 1987. The exhibition contained ragmud sculptures and cloth
paintings, but no books.

FREE Hands-on Activity: Storytelling Figures
Feb. 11, 2011: 7–9 p.m., Glass Pavilion® GlasSalon
Tell your own story by making popsicle stick figures that represent the
important people in your life using a variety of materials.

FREE Celebrating the Art of Storytelling
Feb. 11: 7:30 p.m., Glass Pavilion® GlasSalon
Local storyteller Odessa Rowan brings to life different cultures from around
the world in the same spirit as Aminah Robinson has shown us her world.
Rowan has told stories in New York City as a children’s librarian as well as in
Indianapolis and Baltimore. A member of Frogtown Storytellers, she now is
often found telling tales in Michigan and Ohio.

FREE Hands-on Activity: People in Your Neighborhood
Feb. 27, 2011: 2–4 p.m., Glass Pavilion® GlasSalon
Who are the people in your neighborhood? Let Aminah Robinson’s stories of
life in Poindexter Village inspire you to create your own illustrated

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