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Studio Visit with Robin Antar

August 5, 2010

Robin invited me out to the wilds of Brooklyn for lunch a few months ago, mostly so she could show me her studio but also so that we could meet instead of talking on the phone or exchanging emails. Now don’t get me wrong, I grew up in Brooklyn, but this was a part of Brooklyn I wasn’t familiar with. So it was a good thing that Robin had me use the local pizza joint as a geographic anchor. That was a lot easier than “keep the duck pond on the left and watch for the red barn roof a ways down the road”. Anyway, after only one wrong turn, I rang the right doorbell.

Robin is very high up on my list of most talented, most creative people. I love the images we show of her abstract work. As Michelangelo said ( or as I’m paraphrasing his saying): the work is in the stone, I simply fee the work from the stone. That’s my sense of Robin’s abstract sculptures.

Stone sculpture is the most mysterious of the fine arts. The stone sculpture is working in an almost unforgiving medium. Tap the hammer (or these days, rev up the band saw) the wrong way and you might break the stone. You might also find that the stone is ugly (I have friends who swear that no stone, like no cat, is ugly but that’s a really extreme statement). Anyway, do something wrong and you’re done. You can’t paint over it and you can’t shoot another image at a higher speed. You’re just done, unless you can think of something else to do with the rock.

Back to Robin. She has an innate sense for the stone. When she starts cutting, I suspect her mind’s eye knows exactly how it will look. Robin’s abstract work is relatively small scale, not something you realize when you see her work online, despite the measurements. When you see it in person, you realize that it’s a comfortable scale, appropriate to most of our homes or offices. (if you live in a McMansion, well, I don’t know what to say.)

So I knew that Robin was talented and creative. I also knew that she has an almost insane level of energy. But I didn’t know that she’s honest and funny, and doesn’t take herself seriously. Don’t get me wrong – she takes her work very seriously. But talking to Robin about her work or anything else, is a lot of fun. She has insight, she’s bright and she’s irreverent. Two hours flew – and we hadn’t gone to her studio yet to see her works in progress and her working environment.

Robin’s entire house is her studio and showroom. She works downstairs, puts the finished pieces on the living level, and stores new stone in the garage. Reminds me of the days when everyone was surrounded by their work – not that I’m that old, but I’m a medieval/renaissance history buff.

Here’s what I don’t understand. When you talk to Robin, she always want to talk about her realistic pieces. (Love the giant M&M bag!) It’s remarkable how perfectly lifelike (if that’s the right word for a pencil or a cookie or a boot) they are. Yes, she captures the item perfectly. But her genius is in creating expression through her abstract pieces.

Robin has gotten recognition for her boots and hats. She’s been on TV and there’s a You-Tube video. But I wish she’d get even more recognition for pieces like All Twisted Up, Sea Horse or her various Knots and Unknots.

She plans to finish this summer with all of the pieces she’s started and left half done. That means religious wall hung sculptures, boots, hats, bags and other things. Let’s hope that means room and time to explore the inner life of the stones piling up in the garage.

One last thing: she’s a good cook! I still can taste her onion and red pepper bread. Yum. Typically, Robin will tell you that she doesn’t cook, she shreds, mashes and dries. But still Yum.

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