Interview with Colette Robbins

Pooja Kakar: What are you planning to present for “DiA on the LILAC”? How are you planning on utilizing the unique space on the LILAC to showcase your work and create an experience for the viewer?

Colette Robbins: The portholes in one of the LILAC’s cabins were my starting point for this project. The cabin I chose is overlooking the Hudson river. I have created black and white digital collages that I am printing onto a transparent vinyl. These vinyls will be attached to the outside of the portholes. The imagery in the collages comes from my current body of work ‘Archaeological Fiction’ and contains different double-headed monolithic structures on remote sea-worn islands. I wanted to have my imaginary archaeological structures superimposed on an actual body of water. The imagery I create has no particular time frame, and looks like it could either be from some historic site or from a sci-fi film. I am curious to see how my monolithic structures appear when paired with the Hudson river and the New Jersey shore line. I also wonder about what kinds of shadows will end up resulting from these vinyls inside the cabin.

PK: Could you explain your process—from the inception of an idea to its execution in an exhibit, in greater detail? Could you go into detail explaining the meaning of the subject matter, particularly the Monoliths?

CR: I am always researching new imagery to use in my projects, whether on the internet or when traveling. I am inspired by everything from Ridley Scott’s current film “Prometheus” to the Roman god Janus. I have created quite an archive of images which I draw from while creating my digital collages. All of the monoliths are created with the idea that they are a monument to a fictitious relationship. I think a lot about how there are always monuments to individuals but rarely are there monuments to relationships. Relationships between two people throughout history have made as big of impact on our culture as individuals. I choose to place these monuments in remote seascapes because I like the idea of someone stumbling upon the monument in the middle of nowhere. I also think about how you would be able to interact with the monuments. A bunch of my current monuments have places where the viewer could sit inside the two heads.

PK: What led you to using the medium of graphite in your work?

CR: I usually use the digital collages as a jumping off point for creating labor-intensive graphite paintings. Graphite is something I have been using my whole life, since I could pick up a pencil. It is a very immediate material that can create a number of textures. I use it in the powder form and mix it with water in order to get an almost velvety quality to the surface. For the subject matter, I like using a black and white palette, because it strips down any meaning colors would superimpose on the works. I think I decided to use graphite for the majority of my work because I finally found a way to fuse my love of drawing and painting by using the painting technique with the graphite powder.

PK: How do you think the way your works are displayed will contribute to the overall experience on the LILAC?

CR: Since my works will be interacting directly with the structures of the portholes in the cabin, they will be starting a direct conversation with the space and with the viewers who interact with the LILAC. The LILAC is a powerful space with or without art. Just being on a historic steam boat while in Manhattan feels like you have stepped back in time to another era. I want my installation of collages on the portholes to add to that feeling, not subtract from it.

PK: Are there any previous exhibitions you’ve had that you think will be similar to “DiA,” if yes how so?

CR: I have never made an installation on a boat like the LILAC. However, I have shown in alternative spaces in a nomadic curatorial project called Parlour. I love the idea of working outside of the typical gallery model and pushing my ideas to a new place because of it.

PK: What other projects are you currently working on?

CR: The porthole imagery is very important to my work currently, and I am making a series of small spherical graphite drawings that are going to be installed in an exhibition in LA in late July. I will also have some work in a show in upstate NY in August. This summer is going to be an opportunity for me to gather a lot more island inspiration since I will be in a residency in Norway in August on a small island outside of Bergen. I have never worked on a tiny island in the North Sea. I am excited to see how my work transforms because of that experience.



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