Studio.Public: A Conversation with Robyn Frances
The best greeting one could possibly hope for at a studio visit is a large, friendly dog, and that is exactly the greeting I received upon arrival at Artuvus Studios to talk shop with Robyn Frances. Walter, the rescue studio dog, was the warm welcome I could only dream of, and entering Robyn's space felt equally as warm, being asked to be photographed in "The Love Throne" (a plush, gold painted, armchair in which you can only sit in it if you 1. love yourself 2. love The Love Throne and 3. are willing to be photographed and potentially used in further art projects) as well as being offered tea and invited immediately into a wonderful conversation.
Robyn is primarily a painter, working large scale on paper, small-scale on wood and tar, creating public murals with spray paint, and also creating installation work. On top of this, she is a mother of two girls (age 9 and 5) as well as a lactation educator for women and a doula, supporting and educating women through the process of growth, birth, and care of their child.
"I want to create
visual imagery for this collective voice."
I started our conversation attempting to dig into the heart of her newest signature, the Grow Love Campaign. This campaign seems to encapsulate all of her work as she seeks to "create visual imagery for [a] collective voice." Finding deep spiritual ties within herself, her work shifts between stark, gorgeous images of powerful, nude, overtly feminine figures, and elegant symbols that break down and look at genitalia for both the male, female, as well as the combination of the two in an act of sexual connection.
Robyn and I spoke about our mutual interest in sex and personal identity, and what I found fascinating was her inherent ability to capture attention and pry open all boundaries, just by being her most genuine self. She spoke of how this happens often, Uber drivers and strangers sensing something within her spirit, and opening up completely to someone willing to take on their hardships and feelings. Because of this sensation, and her urge to be a leader and a voice for women, she is using her platform as a contemporary artist to explore "the dichotomy of the modern female identity." She does this by creating images that are true to her own personal experience, as a mother, as a self-identifying queer woman, and as a female. She spoke of a type of responsibility she feels towards creating this work that speaks directly to experience, and how through this image making, more and more women have reached out and shared their personal story with her.
Robyn also speaks to the idea of empathy, and how through the exploration of male and female bodies she has found empathy for all humans, regardless of gender, race, or situation. Something she said struck me deep during this conversation in which Robyn stated, "I feel like I am everything." This deep sense of community, inclusion, and empathy is engrained within her vernacular as well, using the word 'honoring' multiple times to describe her intention with the work she creates. Not only is it an exploration, but it functions as a way to honor and respect women, men, people, things, nature, and spirituality.
So many beautiful nuggets of wisdom came from our conversation including how during her childhood, though full of trials and dark times, she "never became the victim." This now bleeds into her idea of motherhood, speaking openly with her children about identity, sex, and having the mindset to never lie to her children. She said, "I never want my children to feel shame," something that shakes me and really makes me stop to think about my upbringing as a gay male in a Christian household in Montana. This idea of shame and personal disgust for being true is something I consider a lot, and am glad her two girls will likely never have to endure this type of self-hatred so many of us feel in modern times.
Robyn's work hits me on so many levels and I can not wait to explore and understand her work further in the near future. Her ability to communicate both her work as well as her personal story is simply inspiring and her drive to truly create work she wants to create is something all creatives and humans in general can latch on to.
Robyn will be a featured artist at Artopia 2018 which is being held at The Church Friday 23rd from 7:00pm-1:30am. She will be live painting, interacting with viewers, as well as hosting a performance piece during this event. She will also be a featured artist in "Thread/bare" an exhibition opening in August featuring five amazing female artists in Denver, curated by myself, and hosted by ReCreative Denver.