When the opportunity arose to interview different artists for Luna Mosaics, Flair Robinson was the first name to come to mind. Flair’s work has always been immediately recognizable to me. It is colorful, vibrant and thought provoking. There is a story to be told in every piece, and whether I find the story she is telling, or one of my own, I always come away feeling I have learned something from her art.
I had the absolute pleasure to speak with Flair for the first time yesterday. Although I communicated with her via email, and posed a set of questions to be answered prior to speaking on the phone, it was our actual conversation that I truly looked forward to!
Like many artists, I work from home and do not have a great amount of “outside” live interaction with other artists. This made it all the more exciting for me to hear Flair’s voice and the passion expressed within. Below I share the questions Flair was gracious enough to answer and bits of our conversation. I hope you find as much pleasure as I have had in getting to know her just a little better!
LMA: Do you have a favorite color palette?
Flair: I cannot get away from the color orange and I'm pretty sure that I use it way too much in my work--I am orange obsessed. I use a lot of red, yellow, green and brown in my work, too. I hardly ever used pink, until I started looking closely at the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat. He used pink in EVERYTHING! Now I can see why.... I use a lot of black, white and gray, too--I love how they effect color.
LMA: Do you have a favorite subject matter?
Flair: I love the night sky. Many of my pieces reflect that. Lots of stars, moons and swirly skies appear in my work and I never grow tired of repeating that theme (it might be because I have chronic insomnia). I also have an obsession with numbers wheels, circles, and things that spin, you will see them often in my work.
LMA: Who are your top 3 most influential artists?
Flair: Well that's a bit of a sticky subject, isn't it? I certainly don't want to not acknowledge all of my amazing friends (who are all excellent artists). Chances are, if you make art and I know you, you have influenced me in one way or another. To start with, Isaiah Zagar, Philip Hardaker, Cleo Mussi and outsider artist, Emery Blagdon, Jasper Johns and Jean-Michel Basquiat are all big influences. I can never get enough of looking at their work and they are all so unique and visually strong in their art. Carrie Reichardt's a big one. Love her work. Strong social consciousness mixed with a bit of rock and roll--a great combination.
I love Wilma Wyss's work too. She's an innovator and someone I want to see more from. My influences change on a regular basis. Right now I'm looking at Chinese artist, Hong Hao, who photographs personal items put together in mosaic-like form--he uses lots of plastic, which I like. I love the work coming out of Spier Architectural and Spier Arts Academy in Cape Town, South Africa. They produce really strong and innovative work and they are definitely pushing the boundaries. I'm madly in love with Naoko Morisawa's amazing wood mosaics, very contemporary and visually exciting.
LMA: Do you support any charitable causes? Which ones and why?
Flair: Telluride Arts- They have done so many things for the arts in our community. I honestly don't know what I would do without them. They have helped me so much and in many, many ways, including putting an artistic roof over my head by way of studio space. Thank God for them! www.telluridearts.org
Ah Haa School for the Arts has been so supportive and I love teaching there. They are a great non-profit and have offered much to our town by way of art programming, enrichment and exhibition space. www.ahhaa.org
Telluride Aids Benefit - I have had several friends affected by H.I.V. TAB has done so much to raise awareness and to aid in prevention programs and client care. www.tellurideaidsbenefit.org
One to One San Miguel Mentoring Program and Telluride Middle School /High School Mentorship programs- I have mentored 6 students throughout the years. I believe that it's very important to share your time and skills with others, especially kids. It's been a rewarding and life-changing experience for me. www.onetoonetelluride.org
Doctors Without Borders/Medicines Sans Frontieres- Artist Lin Schorr has put together an amazing mosaic auction to help raise awareness and funding for this great organization. We have raised a lot of money by donating our work for several of the auctions. Such a good thing to do, and there's a rumor that she's going to be doing it again in 2017. www.linschorr.com | www.doctorswithoutborders.org
There are many causes that I support and contribute to…too many to list them all here.
LMA: What is your least favorite thing about mosaics and why?
Flair: The amount of waste that is produced and the use of toxic materials. It is so important to be aware of all of the safety issues and to follow guidelines on all of the packaging. I recycle when I can.
LMA: What is one of your favorite quotes or sayings?
Flair: "I took the pieces you threw away and put them togather(sic)by night and day, washed by the rain, dried by the sun, a million pieces all in one." - Howard Finster
LMA: If you could give readers one single piece of advice, what would it be?
Flair: Take good photos of your work. We all put a tremendous amount of time and effort into our mosaic work, taking great care throughout. It's important that we are just as thoughtful with our photographs. It is a photo ruled world out there in cyberspace and your photographs are everything. If you're not a good photographer, or if you don't have good equipment, consider hiring someone to photograph your work. It is well worth the expense. Don't let a bad photograph ruin all of your hard efforts. Also, friends don't let friends use white grout!
This last sentence speaks volumes coming from Flair! I asked Flair to tell me about her single most memorable mosaic moment and she recalled it as if reliving it… “I remember the first time I used black grout. You know when you are just starting to wipe the grout away and you see that first bit of color come through? The first time I used black grout and that happened, it was like… like an epiphany! I knew that those intense bright colors against that black grout, was what was going to set my work apart from others."
Flair and I chatted for a while longer. We talked of studio space, inside the home vs. outside and she shared with me the difference it has made having an “outside the home” studio space and how getting to interact with other creative people has sparked creativity in herself that perhaps would not have happened if still working from home.
We also spoke at length about how we view ourselves, and our work as artists and when asked of us what we “do” for a living, how uncomfortable it was to say, “I am an artist”, for the first time. We agreed that it takes time to own being an artist and to be comfortable with telling others. This was a conversation I have never really had with anyone else, and it was extremely moving for me personally.
I shared with Flair that I find her work to have a folk art flavor in that it has a sense of storytelling or historical documentation to me when I view it. This is when Flair shared that living in Telluride can be an isolating experience. Telluride, Colorado sits in a valley, very cut off from the rest of the world. In fact, she was 70 miles away from home doing some “real shopping” while we spoke on the phone!
Flair shared that she is very much an introvert as well as an “outsider” artist, which living in Telluride supports, and finds her art to be her most comfortable form of communication. I asked Flair to include photos that she felt most exemplify her work, which you see within the article. While she may not consider herself great at communicating, her art makes up for that by speaking volumes to her viewers!
LMA: Attach three of your favorite mosaics done by someone else, and tell why they capture your interest.
Flair: They all show great innovation and inventive use of materials. The artists all have a strong creative vision and I can easily recognize their work, upon seeing it. We share similar aesthetics and interests. I attached 5 photos, (which have been incorporated above within the article) because I am not very good at following the rules.
Well, that’s okay Flair. We like dish breakers, glass breakers and tile breakers, but we love a good rule breaker!