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Robin Cruz McGee

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating?
I can remember drawing very early on but mostly the airplanes and rocket ships that every young boy draws. Around 3rd or 4th grade the airplanes and rocket ships started needing something to land on - trees, for some reason I can't remember. Then the airplanes and rocket ships (I have a bet going on how many times I can say airplanes and rocket ships) disappeared and my great love of landscape started. I have drawn landscapes since then. I have carved landscapes out of plaster and stone. I make landscapes out of metal. Most of what I do is centered on my relationship with the landscape. It is only recently that I have discovered a connection between my landscape and figure work. I think it was always there but not something I was aware of. Often we don't know all the motivations we have for the work we do. Just one more thing, airplanes and rocket ships. Trevor, you owe me.
What is your medium of choice?
Oh, that's an easy one. I was trained as a commercial jeweler before going to art school so I like metal, in general, but it seems 80% of my work is in silver. My specialty right now is Repousse' and Chasing, two techniques that are somewhat rare today because they are labor intensive and require a lot of patience. Sterling silver is a metal that is easy for me to manipulate. It stretches easily and takes a texture readily. I also like the range of colors I can develop using chemical patinas.
What are your motivations for creating?
Motivations? How do you stop it? (Not that I want to!) I see the visual and textural richness in the world and want to use it to tell a story or just delight in the sensual nature of the stimulation. I think touch is an important aspect of interacting with the world. Often that is enough justification for a piece. In addition, language and word play has become an important part of my work. I have lost most of my hearing in the last decade due to inherited nerve deafness, so I have become sensitive to the way words twist and turn when there are gaps and misinterpretations in the flow of language. This past year I did a series of badges that had words and phrases stamped into them. Often the messages had several interpretations due to the ambiguity of their placement or the incompleteness of their wording. Much of the point of what I try to get across is informed by the struggle I have every day just to understand and interact with other people.
What other artists and movements inform your work?
René Lalique for his break with traditional jewelry style by using semiprecious stones and innovative materials. Albert Paley for his large scale forging and blacksmithing. Hoss Harley for his take on the American landscape. Thomas Mann for his use of iconography. Van Gogh for his use of impasto. I also like Edward Hopper, David Hockney, Paul Gauguin, Picasso, and the people who designed the new Cadillacs.
What do you find stimulating right now? How does this influence your creative process?
I have just recently moved into a new house and studio in the country. Some of the property is wooded. I have been watching all the plants as they came alive this spring and have taken a lot of pictures. Much of this comes out in my metalwork in the texturing and surface treatment I use. I also like to travel and see the different terrain as you cross the country. Oh, and, yes, people! I just came back from the annual conference of the Society of North American Goldsmiths and found the other people there visually stimulating. Any time you get 890 artists together in one place, there is going to be a lot to look at.
Read anything good lately?
"The Mind & The Brain" by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., and Sharon Begley. I am fascinated with the ability of the brain to reinvent itself. In the meantime, I am waiting to read the next offering by Terry Pretchett when it hits paperback.
What are some of your artistic goals for the future?
Why, to produce more work and enter more shows. I just finished a new studio and house. I finally have space. And tools. And time. And the support of my colleagues. Another thing that I am doing is reevaluating my options. My youngest is 16 now. I have taught as an adjunct for 18 years and I find I want more time to concentrate on my own work. I am in a transition from teaching to being a full time studio artist. The next few years will be very exciting for me, I am sure. Some sales would be nice.
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
Mostly that I am still beginning and I have a lot I wish to accomplish with my work. But making art is just part of what I do. The interaction in the EBSQ community is an important aspect of the creation process for me and others here. I find myself working in a much broader fashion now that I have joined the community and I wish to thank everyone for their support. Just watch me. More is to come.

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