Heather Robinson : Artist You Should Know
The “Artist You Should Know” series highlights artists before they exhibit their work somewhere awesome, it’s our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep San Francisco a strange and wonderful place. Meet Heather Robinson at Secession Art & Design for its 10th Anniversary show & artist party August 4th, 6-9pm.
Name: Heather Robinson
Primarily acrylic and fabric on panel, with the occasional foray into mixed media
What was your first job in San Francisco?
When I first moved to the Bay Area, I worked remote. Wanting to connect with the community, I found a full-time web design job with Evite in 2000. It was wonderful and inspiring, until, a mere 8 weeks later, the tech bubble burst.
I’m a sophisticated graduate with a BFA or FUCK art school!
There are many ways to get art education – mine was through architecture. I have a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M, which is essentially a pre-architecture degree, with the associated studio classes and long grueling hours. I later began graduate school at MIT for a masters in Architecture, but my heart wasn’t in it. The artistic elements of architecture did capture me – and held on tight. While I took drawing and design courses in school, most of my current technique was born of experimentation and exploration. And I feel my architecture background comes through in my work, particularly in the graphic elements and the balance of each piece.
What still inspires you about San Francisco?
Well, it’s just a gorgeous city. I live in the Sunset, close to Golden Gate Park, where I go wandering every chance I get. I relish the feeling of being in the middle of a city and not seeing a car, or a single person – just trees. I have my favorite spots in the park, but I think there are still parts of it I’ve never discovered. I love that I can stand, enshrouded in fog and gray, then travel 20 minutes to my studio in Mission Bernal and be in the warm sun. This is the longest I’ve lived in one place, and I still feel fortunate to be here.
Let’s talk politics, are you a liberal or a super duper liberal?
My politics are very liberal. While I know I shouldn’t get complacent in my liberal bubble, I appreciate the politics of the people in this city every damned day. I’ve been disheartened since the presidential election – things feel rather dark – but it’s good to be in an area with so many people actively resisting.
What was your last great night out in San Francisco?
A great night out is more about the people than the destination these days. I recently spent a delightful Sunday evening at Smuggler’s Cove with some of my favorite people, and had a marvelous time. Their staff was awesome and their rums were tasty. But I can often be found at home in the evenings, as I am, incredibly enough, a morning person.
How has the city changed?
I was originally attracted to San Francisco for the great queer and arts culture, and the slightly rough, yet earnest, edges. But since I came here, much of that has been smoothed over, with money and image growing in importance. It’s inevitable, and comes with the high rents and changing business climate. But, I hate how hard it is for small businesses to keep afloat and for SF locals to continue to thrive in the city they call home.
What are you trying to communicate through your art lately?
I’ve been working a lot with pattern and color, influenced by textile design. I see my paintings as a tug-of-war between the grid and the loose and unplanned. Pattern, to me, is striving for perfection, but I look to subtly break that. I love the accidental and am fond of the imperfect. Striving for perfection and failing is part of what makes us human and I want to celebrate the best parts of being human.
What does it take to make it as an artist in SF these days?
So much hustle. You have to treat art as business, in order to continue to pursue the art. Between the costs of studio space and rent and the challenge of reaching an audience, I’ve found I have to wear a lot of hats – many more than I anticipated when I began on this path. I’ve learned more about business in the past few years than I had ever dreamed.
Any SF artists you think are outstanding right now?
So many! Jhina Alvarado, Carrie Ann Plank, Sandra Yagi, Fernando Reyes, Sawyer Rose, Amy Ahlstrom are a few that come to mind as artists I admire from afar. I’m honored to be showing next with Cindy Shih and Victoria Veedell, and I’ve lately collaborated on a few pieces with Josh Coffy, which is thrilling. Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin. There’s tons of good artists in the city – we are lucky to still have a tremendous art community here.
Favorite Museum right now?
I have a soft spot for the DeYoung, for the architecture as much as the exhibits. The new SFMOMA won me over too – though it’s so big I get art fatigue if I try to see everything at once.
Favorite Gallery right now?
There’s no place like home – and my studio is at home at Secession Art & Design, so I get to see all the great art that comes through there. The owner, Eden Stein, is really committed to her local artists and designers, and she’s equally committed to the neighborhood. She’s worked so hard to stay on her stretch of Mission, and she’s been a tireless advocate for the other businesses in the area, too. It’s been my art home for the last ten years, and I adore it. Aside from Secession, I dig several places in the Sunset – A Little Lodge, Great Highway Gallery, Far Out Gallery.
Favorite Street artist right now?
Brian Singer, who’s put up a couple of fence installations, including a new one at 29th and Mission, a block from my studio. The fire that happened there a year ago had a huge impact on the neighborhood, displacing dozens of people and several businesses, and the derelict site has been imbued with sadness. I think this new art makes a difference.
What’s coming up for you?
I’m showing several of my latest paintings at Secession Art & Design for its 10th Anniversary show, with Cindy Shih and Victoria Veedell – the opening is August 4, 6-9pm and the show will be up August 1 through September 30. I’m excited to be celebrating a decade at Secession.