Color & Cloth: African American Quilts & Portraits
by Avis Collins Robinson
Avis Collins Robinson has spent a lifetime collecting museum-quality objects relating to slavery and the civil rights movement. While these items all tell a shared story, Avis holds the keys to another more personal collection; one which tells her own narrative. A self-proclaimed “introvert”, Avis is just beginning to exhibit her amazing bodies of artwork. Her skillful portraits won’t remain under the radar for long though. Among other numerous awards and collections, Avis was recently commissioned to create a portrait of Abraham Lincoln for Ford’s Theatre. TSKW is honored to host one of her first exhibitions, featuring painted portraiture and patchwork quilts.
Avis is a collector and as such, has collected personal objects that wind their way into her artwork. Both her paintings and her quilts incorporate scraps of cloth and clothing gathered from herself and her family members. These little shards of history find new life as the collar of Barack Obama’s painted shirt or as the stripe running through a quilt created with the women of Gee’s Bend.
In one painting, depicting women and men picking cotton, Avis has painted herself (as a child) into the scene, blurring the line between her personal history and her respect for the African American men and women who came before her. When viewing the work of Avis Collins Robinson, it is impossible to separate the personal from the communal, the historical context from the social commentary. And these dualities are precisely what make her work so stunning—both visually and emotionally.
In her own words, Avis describes her work as “extremely personal” work that
“reflects my profound devotion and respect for the African Americans who influence my life – people who made it possible for me to think and express my feelings without fear… Many of the people that I paint were not proud of their occupations, and they didn’t like to talk about being a janitor, maid, servant, or sharecropper. What I try to depict is the humanity of these people – their internal beauty, the degradation and anger that they felt working lower-class jobs with first-class intellectual capabilities.”
Sponsored by Stones & Cardenas, Attorneys at Law