In Her Own Words:

A Conversation with Artist Robin Holder and Curator Dorit Yaron

DY: You also have to work with people from the community in which the work is designed.

Figure 8
Fig. 8 Migration 19-24, 2006, 34 windows in laminated glass, NYC, NY. Photographic documentation: Robin Holder
RH: Your work has to be something that the community, or representatives of the community, selects. As a matter of fact, I was in a situation where I was doing a group of works, and the community did not like them; the committee felt that the community would not be comfortable with the work, and it was never fabricated. But luckily, most of the work that I have done has been very accepted by the community. Your work has to be presented to and get feedback from the community about how the design is developing.

DY: For the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority [MTA], your design Migration, 2006 (Fig. 8), is a series of more than thirty glass windows for the Flushing Avenue Station in Brooklyn, NY. Later, you created some prints with abstract design which follows the same concept of the glass windows in Migration.

RH: I had so much fun with that project; it was fantastic. I was just inspired the minute I got the invitation to design a proposal. Originally that project was supposed to be fabricated in faceted glass, and then the MTA provided the fabricator. So it was considered a design-only project. The concept that I came up with was to take visual symbols from different eras in history, as well as different countries and different cultures; symbols that had to do with community, family, transportation, geographical areas like mountain, road, path, and create a series of abstract images based on these symbols. And then, there was a key that explained the symbols so that if you read the key you could read messages in the symbols, thus the windows say something. For example, a window might say, "Mean dog around the corner, do not walk down this way," or "They will feed you very good in this village," or "River in two miles." And it would be in different languages like Hopi, Chinese, or Mayan, and some of the symbols were from alchemy. But they were all about traveling, about the community, and some about family.

DY: Did you receive feedback from the community itself during the selection process?

RH: Usually their panels are made up of ten or twelve people, and it represents the people working on the site, including people who are very active in organizations or institutions in the community. Interestingly enough, I found out later that the artists who were on that selection committee were Al Loving21 and Eric Pryor.22

DY: What was it about this specific project that made you decide to use abstraction rather than figurative imagery?

RH: Because I had done other artwork that was figurative, I just needed to do something different. Also, the concept that I had was about movement, about moving through, because if there's one thing you would think about the subway is movement; from one station to another station, from one part of the city to another part of the city. If you get on the Subway, you'll cross through so many different communities, many different realities.