Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals
Explore the Ohio artist’s beautiful and thought-provoking body of work at the Columbus Museum of Art through Oct. 3.
Combining found objects, bits of fabric and vibrant oil paintings, Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s art defies categorization so much that she invented a word for it. Dubbing her pieces “RagGonNons,” the trailblazing artist created a body of work spanning seven decades on display in “Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals” at the Columbus Museum of Art.
The exhibition, which runs through Oct. 3, takes visitors on a comprehensive tour of the MacArthur Fellow’s work, from her “RagGonNons” to handcrafted furniture and richly detailed books she wrote and embellished with drawings, stitches and beads. The collection also ventures into the late artist’s home through a life-size photo of her living room and interviews with frequent visitors to the space, which doubled as her studio.
“Aminah was focused on being an artist from very early on,” says Deidre Hamlar, co-curator of the exhibition. “Once you walk in, you recognize how her life was truly dedicated to being an artist 24/7. It was her purpose.”
A Columbus native, Robinson had her first piece displayed in the Columbus Museum of Art as a teenager. It was the start of a lifelong relationship with the institution, which culminated with her bequeathing her entire estate to it upon her death in 2015. The museum then created the Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Legacy Project to archive and display her work and the contents of her home, and to establish an artist residency for Black artists in Robinson’s now-renovated house.
Inspired by trips to the history-making March on Washington in 1963 and to Africa in 1979 as well as by her community in Poindexter Village, the Columbus public-housing unit she lived in, Robinson’s art sought to bring the breadth of the Black experience to life.
“People others might pass by, she turned into heroes and heroines and interesting characterizations of individuals,” says co-curator Carole Genshaft.
As a result, the artist’s works are a mix of joyful moments in pieces like “Easter Egg Hunt,” featuring a Poindexter Village celebration, and heartrending works like “Dad’s Journey,” a handcrafted book that shows African people jumping from a boat, choosing certain death over enslavement.
“She helped to shed light on the dignity and humanity of people that were marginalized long before it was popular,” says Hamlar. “You see these images and you can’t move forward the same way you came in. We hope people go out of the exhibit differently, in a better way.” 480 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215, 614/221-6801, cmaohio.org