Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson and Elijah Pierce

I’m pitched new museum and gallery exhibitions to write about every day. I can’t write about them all of course. For one, I don’t have the time. Secondly, they don’t all interest me. Much of what I choose to write about simply comes down to a gut reaction I have upon first seeing the work. As soon as I saw the work of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson (1940-2015), I knew I would write about her.

Vibrant, animated, flush with story.

“Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals” at the Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art is the first major exhibition of the artist’s work since her death and a celebration of Robinson’s vision and the home and community she cherished. On view through October 3, 2021, “Raggin’ On” presents more than six decades of Aminah Robinson’s art and writing.

She created sculpture, large complex works she called RagGonNons, rag paintings, paintings on cloth, and drawings. She also created books about her family and community, African American history, her travels, and the stories she was told by her elders. Much of this is on view in the exhibition, as is an opportunity to digitally peruse a sampling of Robinson’s journals revealing memoirs filled with poetry, prose, illustrations, imaginative doodles and detailed pen, ink and watercolor depictions.

I reviewed the exhibition in detail at Forbes.com.

What I didn’t have room to mention in my Forbes article was Robinson’s connection to another legendary Columbus artist, woodcarver Elijah Pierce. Robinson considered Pierce her “spiritual mentor and friend,” often including him in drawings and paintings. These remarkable intersections of art history always fascinate me.

“He lived around the corner from her and they took long walks together,” exhibition co-curator Carole Genshaft, who spent nearly 20 years working on Museum projects with Robinson, told me. “She also visited him in his barbershop where she drew while he worked both as a barber and a woodcarver. Aminah believed that Pierce was anointed–that he had the ability to see into the souls of others and offer them healing. During a period when Aminah was floundering as a single parent with little financial means, Pierce encouraged her to keep pursuing her art.”

I have written about Elijah Pierce previously at Forbes.

As her hometown museum and the institution to which she bequeathed most of her estate, the CMA holds the most significant collection of Robinson’s work in the world and is a central location of her archives and library.

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