In Her Own Words:

A Conversation with Artist Robin Holder and Curator Dorit Yaron

Techniques and Printmaking

DY: In the autobiographical series of work, "What's Black and White and Red All Over?" you address many layers of identities, but you also explore many layers of techniques. You include stencils, and text, and drawings, among others.

RH: One of a Few, which we mentioned before, has, for example, some cut out shapes of roller skates, ice skates, and a hair comb; they are cut out of origami papers, because one of my fascinations as a kid was folding things out of these origami papers. So that was revisiting something that I actually did. That picture is taking place the day of my graduation from sixth grade. It is a monoprint; I drew with my lithographic inks on Plexiglass and I printed that on a piece of archival printmaking paper and then used crayons in a pattern overlaid on top of it, because that was a period in my life when I was still using crayons. I had the monoprinting, the drawing element, and the stencil inking, and then I had to cut the origami papers and collage that on. And for many reasons I really enjoy combining different techniques because I think they're compatible; it's just a natural to me as I'm developing the image.

DY: One of a Few is a very interesting piece because you have this figure in the center that is depicted in a very realistic, even idealistic way. Yet, in the same composition, you are doing those scribbled lines, as well as silhouettes of objects from your childhood. So you have a lot of approaches within the same piece.

RH: Art supplies were very limited when I was in the 6th grade: I had a big box of crayons; we used to have this glue—it was called Mucilage glue; when I was lucky, I would have some scotch tape. I had some watercolors; a few brushes; some construction paper; all very bad quality. One of a Few also has a printed area on top of the girl's dress—that girl is me—a little piece of lace. That's the only way to express the simplicity of the clothing at the time. I think that in 99% of the pictures my hair is in two braids. But if you look at that picture my hair is in a bun; to get that effect I had to do certain things. So I started with the image, a photograph of two of my classmates and me; and I'm thinking: "What else is in my world at that moment? What did I do the day before I graduated? What I did the day after that?" I probably went roller skating, and I probably was combing and brushing my hair because for my hair to get from two braids to that bun style was a big thing. So those things are all elements of my activities that day or that week.

DY: You also like to use those objects in repetition, creating a pattern.

RH: Yes, I like to use them as patterns because I think that, to a large extent, patterns are what make you who you are. It's the repetition of a thought, an attitude, or an approach. I also think patterns can be potentially very negative; I think patterns can be laws and rules that go against people changing. So in one way I think patterns make you feel safe, rituals. Visually, patterns are something comforting; but they can also be something very confining, very limiting. They're also aesthetically very pleasing. I think that patterns and pattern-making is very fun. I like roller skating and if I make six of them, I'm having fun.

DY: You are an art educator and you teach students from second grade to high school. How do you introduce the concept of pattern, in art?

RH: If they can find a shape that they like, they like making patterns. Little kids are fascinated by it in terms of mathematics. 2nd and 3rd graders are learning the multiplication tables and division, and they're very fascinated with patterns in terms of that. I think that older students like making patterns because they feel patterns are aesthetically very successful. Unfortunately, a lot of people in society think that being a successful artist means that you can illustrate realistically, that you must have that skill. That's their definition of a "good artist," that you can draw something life-like. So if you don't do that, or if you don't think you can do that, than creating patterns is very aesthetically pleasing and they know that.

DY: When was the first time you can recall that you made a print?

RH: In high school. I was dealing with silhouettes; I was just fascinated by that. I was just taking anything, especially things that had loops, like shoes with shoelaces or shoes with straps, a bookbag that had a strap or a shopping bag, and I was putting them in the windowsill and the shadow that was cast on the floor I was setting the paper down on it and tracing the shadow and cutting it out. So I already had this concept of silhouette shapes and things that had a large mass shape and smaller components, when I was very young. But then I got side-tracked for many years when I was only working with black and white and gray.