Many artists' biographies begin with early exposure, encouragement, and experience in artistic pursuits from supportive parents, teachers and cultural institutions. Success comes to others from more purely internal sources.
Robin Daniels is of the latter sort. A viewing of her work reveals the craftsmanship, inventiveness, originality, and aesthetic aptness of natural talent. Recognition as an artist came to Robin for the first time around the age of 8, when she won a coloring contest in which a puppy was the prize. Although her parents sought to steer her toward practical studies, they permitted her to enroll in painting classes in fifth and sixth grades, adding to her artistic nature. In high school she was the only girl in her favorite class, woodworking, where she flourished and excelled. As fellow students pondered the courses of their futures with specific careers in mind, Robin followed her heart and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, CT.
Spending her last undergraduate year in Trinity College's Art Studies in Rome program, Robin became intensely interested in surfaces, entranced by age, ubiquity, variety, and overwhelming beauty of Rome. Although she would return to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Pratt Institute in New York, Robin considers her studies in Rome as the inspiration for the unusual care she lavishes on creating surface interest in her work. "I was especially drawn to walls and the patterns left by time, weather, and people in a culture that cares for its past," Robin reflects. "Everything from the Byzantine through High Renaissance has a richness of surface, a telling of age-so much overpainting, stippling and dripping of patinas made by weather and human touch."
During her formal studies Robin had less interest in the theoretical and philosophical posturing in vogue at the time, focusing instead on design, composition, and the art and science of manipulating media. She began a transition from representation to abstraction while at Pratt. Her thesis instructor commented on the unmistakable interpretive drift her work was taking. He encouraged her to embrace fully the abstractive strength he saw developing in her painting. Within two years after earning her M.F.A., Robin began showing her painting at galleries in New York, Boston and Connecticut.
Having come to a comfortable mastery of acrylics, Robin longed for the challenge of a new medium and took a week-long workshop at R&F Encaustics in Kingston, NY, before moving to the West in the late nineties. The combination of her new environment and working in this ancient, radically different medium brought about a warmer, earthier esthetic in her work. Now finding her way in a new medium and new surroundings. Robin experimented until she found the combination of wood, plaster, oil paint, oil stick, masking materials, encaustic, interference pigments and other mediums that makes her work unique in several appealing ways. An effective ensemble of technique, style, originality and visually seductive effect in her paintings today wins her an enthusiastic following and attracts new collectors at a gratifying pace.
With her broad appreciation for the visual iconographies expressed by different cultures in the embellishments and patterns that identify each, Daniels finds inspiration in sources of different complexities. She is attracted by simplicity in American Folk Art, the streamlined abstraction in Art Deco, the refinement and grace in Asian and Celtic patterns and in the reassuring order in organic forms. "My work is not meant to be a literal statement," observes the artist. "It is intended to evoke a feeling. To me, a visual experience should be a sensory experience rather than a quest for questions."
A sublimely unified atmospheric dimensionality characterizes Daniels' work, imparting smoothly the feelings this artist seeks to evoke. Dusty warm browns speak of desert beauty. Grays and blues suggest leaves and water to this artist. "Patterns reflect human nature's need for order and control," she continues. "I am going for contrasts in my work, man vs. nature, order vs. chaos, the balance of opposites." Her work has all that and veils of harmony as well. She believes that art is about observation, on the parts of both artist and viewer. "So many people do not take the time to really look. They do not pay attention to the richness of textures and surfaces, the varied hues and colors, the vast beauty of the world around them. The job of an artist is to absorb some of this and to help convey awareness to the viewer."
To this end, Daniels embosses, cuts, carves, splatters, brushes, crumples, masks, and manipulates her mediums. Only after completing a painting does she begin to consider titles. Her energies until this point have gone into formulating good designs based partly on intuition and partly on what she knows form training, experience and years of productive, near-scientific experimentation. She seeks only to suggest a possibility with her titles, keeping them upon enough to give viewers the fullest interpretive satisfaction. If one spectator sees figures, faces, or places, and another sees abstract aesthetic graces, it is as the artist intends. Asked how she wants her work to be seen, Daniels readily offers the insight of poet Paul Valery, "Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing you are looking at."
Inspired by ancient muri Romani that have been weathered, worked and reworked, over many generations, Daniels today serves up paintings that are fresh, new, and as deeply interesting as those well-used walls. Her paintings exert instant appeal and stand up to repeated, intensely enjoyable viewing. Robin Daniels paints for the present, gives homage to the past, and produces intricate, involving works of art with a great future.