‘Emerging Horizons’

Robin L. Washburn’s metal patina art is included in a current group show of 9 artists. Emerging Horizons a new curated art show is on view at Olson-Larsen Galleries alternative new space called O-L Living Room at 201 5th Street in West Des Moines’ Valley Junction. To view in person or by small group, call 515.277.6734. Curator Chaden Halfhill, founder and CEO of Silent Rivers Design+Build, assembled a show with work by artists who have successfully planted the seeds of inspiration and collaboration amidst personal and artistic transformation throughout their careers. Chaden specifically asked us to tell the story of our off and on collaboration during our nearly 30 years together.   With the exception of Crow’s Nest, the show does not include these collaborative sculptures.  Instead, the text and photos are used to illustrate how our collaboration has influenced Robin’s solo which is featured in the gallery.  The following is the text we sent to tell this story:

Sculptor Robin L. Washburn studied art in high school and junior college, and was active in making sets for community theatre. From there he acquired unusual training making ice sculptures for banquets and special events, a medium he describes as formative in order to learn to let go of his work.

In 1991, Washburn married artist Sharon Matusiak, a figurative painter with a BFA in painting and drawing. Matusiak had recently begun experimenting with mixed media on wood, which led the couple to collaborate. Washburn said he’d been waiting for her since he was seven, having had an epiphany at that age about collaborating with an artist in their later years.  The two bought twenty acres of woodlands in Southern Illinois on which they built their home and studios.  Their initial collaboration was making sculptural art furniture including elaborately carved tree-like jewel boxes, one-legged tables and mirror frames.  For each piece, they collaborated on the design process with Washburn responsible for the carving and construction and Matusiak finishing the work, by adding texture and pigment.  Through their collaboration, each learned from the other their respected skills; Sharon now able to carve wood and Robin learned the value of color and texture.  This collaboration culminated in a series of mixed media sculptures depicting goddesses nestled inside a canoe shaped cocoons.  Several years later they returned to that theme for one last goddess of the grove, titled The Return of Beatrice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their collaboration continued until 1998 when Washburn was injured while carving and was unable to sculpt.  At this time they decided to develop two individual bodies of work in the event of one artist becoming permanently disabled.  While Washburn recovered, Matusiak continued her mixed media on wood relief sculpture often using a circular format inspired by its link to heavenly bodies. This series became known as Jewelry For the Wall.  Queen of the Night, below, was inspired by a gift from Washburn, a book of photographs taken by astronauts and cosmonauts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time Washburn pursued his desire to work with patinating metal. For the next five years he learned to weld and braze while developing a concept for his future work.  He built a new studio to house equipment, tools and provide space for fabrication and patination.  Refining a very painterly approach to his surfaces by exploring an extensive list of chemicals, he also learned to employ various means of application. This work drew on the landscape around him, and was informed by his earlier collaboration with Matusiak that valued the colors and textures of nature. In addition, Washburn’s approach was influenced by architecture and had a refined and subtle sense of balance.  Exhibitions followed in 2004 along with many awards including Best of Metal in 2008 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show and Best in Medal also in 2008 at the Des Moines Art Fair.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking new ways forward in the wake of the 2008 recession, the couple began to collaborate again this time focusing on mixed media on wood pieces. In this new work they combined the ideals of minimalism from Washburn’s work with the vivid color and dramatic texture of Matusiak’s work. This collaboration culminated in the series TWITCH!, works which examined questions of purpose, balance and harmony.  The first image below is of Divided Space a relief that incorporates a crackled, hand painted surface with enamel on copper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downtown, shown here in its installation over a fireplace, integrates several panels of copper, stainless steel, copper screen and enamel on copper with a lush green painterly backplate evoking a cityscape on a park-like setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After working with abstract geometric design for several more years, in 2015 the couples work grew to include symbolic imagery.  They utilized the iconic forms of boats, nests and books. To them the boat is the symbol for the spiritual journey, and as such, offered meaningful  exploration.  The boat has been used in funeral rites, for exploration, travel and trade around the planet, and for the gathering of food, waging war and recreation.  Foregoing realism, they favored the idea of each boat, seeking meaning in its shape, utility and accoutrements. Likewise, they utilized the idea of books to represent the physical embodiment of knowledge and enlightenment, stories, secrets, and the ongoing record of history. Each sculpture stood as a testament of their artistic journey, both as individuals and collaborators.  These sculptural icons also embodied their fear of important cultural symbols fading into oblivion.

Crow’s Nest a play on the name of the lookout of sailing vessels, was the largest boat the couple created together, measuring 5’W and 2’H.  Washburn carved the shape of the vessel, turning it over to Matusiak to finish with a crackled surface and acrylic paint.  He then made the deck of the boat from hickory with brass nails symbolic of a railing, and constructed a base of copper clad wood which he hammered before adding chemical patina. Lastly, he sculpted a nest, symbol of home and security, from recycled copper wire and pipe.

Crow’s Nest

 

Through this work, Washburn recognized the dimensional possibilities of cladding copper over wood, which gave him the freedom to work with lighter weight materials and create tactile physical texture in addition to visual texture. In 2018, the couple decided to again pursue solo work, with Matusiak returning to her artistic roots with figurative work, this time in clay, and Washburn venturing deeper into his fascination with the coloring of metal.

Since then he has experimented with a variety of tools for hammering and embossing the surface such as an antique meat tenderizer, box wrenches, antique adjustable wrench and numerous types of hammers, each of which creates differing impressions. This surface treatment creates a different effect by allowing light to play off the physical texture adding to the color variations. Washburn has also added form-folding to his repertoire.

@DesMoinesArtsFestival #DMAF2021 #gowhereittakesyou #olsenlarsengalleries
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‘Emerging Horizons’, a new curated art show is on view at Olson-Larsen Galleries alternative new space called O-L Living Room at 201 5th Street in West Des M… 

Creating a New World

Our world is moving at lightening speed.  The 2019 way of being no longer exists and adaptation is imperative.  Now is the time for searching out new answers to old problems, evolving the way we perform and re-evaluating goals.  Humans are creative beings and that is not a talent belonging solely to artists.  The most challenging times hold the seeds for transformation, amazing growth and answers to our most perplexing questions.  We can meet the test of our time, but not with old solutions that no longer work.  Governments can and should be more responsive to the needs of its citizens. With creative solutions it is also possible for corporations to make profits for shareholders while addressing the plight of ordinary citizens and the environment.  Our times can no longer afford shareholder interests to outweigh all others.  Answer the call to create a new world.

And to artists the world over, don’t forget in this time of crisis that as a creative you have an obligation to communicate to the world through your art.  Yes we are going to suffer in various ways.  Use your time now to expand your mind, honor your visions and sing your wisdom.  This hour too shall pass and then you will be prepared for the new world, its challenges and gifts.

As I continue work on my memoir, Robin is fast at work in the metal studio. Unfortunately some shows are being cancelled, check our web-site for the latest on the schedule. Some of his new work, with descriptions below each:

“A Time Piece I” 18″ sq. copper clad over bentwood form, hammered, chemical patina, pocket watch gears. $950

12″ Sq Fold formed copper & stainless steel w/ multiple chemical patinas $350

Robin’s Extraordinary Metalwork

The quality that makes Robin L. Washburn’s work exceptional is his masterful patina on metal. Rarely can you see patina with the variety of color and patterns as his. Those luscious surfaces are the result of his years of experimenting. Recently he’s added hammering techniques to his repertoire to enhance the effects of the chemical oxidation. Cladding copper and brass over wood has enabled the hammering of the surfaces and also the ability to create three dimensional forms. His sculpture for the wall is truly unique and worthy of a closer look.

Unfortunately, back in 2010 I sidelined his career temporarily with a poor business decision for us to collaborate. We created some nice work together, but the metalwork aspect of it was minor and it stifled his ability to shine. 2018 was our last year of collaboration and since then Robin has grown his work considerably. The new metalwork takes up where he left off and moves into new territory. This winter he has experimented with new chemical formulas to grow his art and the results are beautiful. I am working on my memoir and standing back just watching him grow!

Following along as I post photos of both his work in progress and completed pieces on our facebook page, his Instagram page, our webpage and in our newsletter.

 

www.wolfcreekstudio.com 618-964-1217

email: artformyplanet@gmail.com

Instagram.com/robinlwashburn

Facebook.com/WolfCreekStudio

Blog: artlifebusiness.wordpress.com

 

Studio Hustle

In the depths of Winter Robin and I are each pursuing our own goals.  Robin is showing solo, a decision we made jointly last year.  He has come to like cladding copper over wooden supports–it is much lighter weight than his previous work.  Before we began collaborating 6 or 7 years ago, his sculpture was a much heavier copper, brass or steel sheet that he mounted onto bronze or steel angle framework.   He still intends to do some of that, but most of his new work will be copper cladding. We had to stop showing his former work because I had three accidents, one surgery and one broken bone all in one year and could no longer safely help him load and unload the van, set up the booth, etc.   So, yes I wrecked his career, just when he was creating marvelous work, getting into all of the top shows and winning important awards.  As I type I can hear him in his studio, tap.tap.tap  In two weeks he’ll be headed for Winter Park, FL for their wonderful show.  He will be taking new work that you can see here in progress:

2′ x 5′ Bentwood, copper clad

Several new 12″ Expressions undergoing patination

Meanwhile I’m having a bit of a second childhood playing in clay.  My latest sculpture is one with the working title “Tree Woman”.  She’s small, only just over a foot tall, without a pedestal.  Haven’t decided how she will be finished after firing. 

 

Robin’s New Work & My Retreat

The Other Side

After a 6 year hiatus, Robin will be showing his incredible patinated metal art next year!  We’ve been collaborating since 2012, a decision that was made after breaking my elbow, having shoulder surgery, a torn bicep tendon and 2 dislocated fingers.  I couldn’t help Robin hang his work at the shows, because at that time, all of his work was very heavy, being made from a heavy gauge copper or brass with bronze angle framework on the back.  During the past 6 years he’s learned more skills and come up with ideas for making his work much lighter weight.  Some of the metal will be clad onto bentwood frames to give added dimension and all will feature his extraordinary patina work that is very painterly in approach and feel.  I’m so excited for him.  During the eight years he showed his work he did it all—got into the nations’ top shows, sold well and won many prestigious awards, including Best of Metal at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.

I will be taking a much-needed retreat from the art shows.  I’m getting burnt out from the relentless pushing of a theme for the past 25 years.  Not many people outside the profession understand the hoops an artist must jump through just to get into the shows.  The part that is holding me back just now is that it can be a whole year or more from the time you finish a piece, photograph it, apply to shows with 5 or 6 other pieces that all visually make sense together and then actually do the show.  This makes it very difficult to explore different avenues, as the work you have in your booth must be like the images you juried in with.

I’ve got a persistent urge to work in clay, probably stemming from my pre-school years spent making mud pies!  Several years ago I did a series of clay torsos which was a very emotional response to my family situation.  Having moved on past that, the clay work I’ve done the past couple of years making flowers for our wooden boats, isn’t enough for me.  So while Robin shows his metalwork next year, I’ll be on a self-proclaimed sabbatical, exploring new themes.  I will accept commission work during this time, for anyone that wants a boat or Jewelry for the Wall sculpture.