We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexandra Robinson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexandra, why did you pursue a creative career?
I have been making things for as long as I can remember, my parents always provided me with paper and tools to draw with. I grew up identifying as a creative person or artist. A formative memory I have is, in about the fifth grade, having a collage exhibited in a local museum/gallery. The class had been working on a mosaic collage and we were given an option to stay inside during recess to work on it. I remember staying in to complete it, and that choice seemed important. Somehow various artworks were exhibited. I remember going and seeing it hanging in what seemed like such a professional space. Today that artwork hangs in my youngest daughters bedroom. Amazingly, it survived a lifetime of Army moves. My parents were also both elementary and high school educators respectively, and now I am a university professor. I don’t think of myself so much as a teacher, but I am one, and creativity and questioning are at the center of my educational approach. Everyday I get to look at, talk about, and make art with students. It’s also vital to sustain my own art practice so having an active studio is a primary concern and certainly informs my teaching.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think it’s important to know that I identify as Latinx. It’s also important to know that I grew up in the military, one of the most defining and enduring experiences I have had. My creative research is multidisciplinary, with my approach coming from the tradition of drawing, with works ranging from works on paper, to sound, and fiber-based media. I’m interested in abstractions, in that there is a probability to misinterpret even when information is presented. All of the work I have been generating the last few years is steeped in ideas of identity, labels and signifiers that question place and myself in that place. Recently, I have been using the Military communication languages of Morse code and flag semaphore as a vernacular in this exploration, partly due to my upbringing and familiarity with military family life, a long history of visiting military battlefields and museums, and an attraction to things that are difficult to interpret. By presenting language that is possible to translate but often isn’t – I am setting up a dividing line, a place of borders. I take inspiration from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, in which she explores borders in language, location and culture. The work I am making is expressive of this friction and the placelessness of language, culture, and identity that is in a constant state of transition. This work is the most personal and directly autobiographical work that I have made. Indeed, living in Texas and in Austin, and being in a place that has always been familiar, yet at a distance, has profoundly affected me. I have had many discussions about identity with artists and designers; about what it means to be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation Mexican American; what it means to have generations of family living in the United States simply because the border changed, which includes the complication of language, religion and whiteness. I feel lucky to be able to engage with these ideas in a way that challenges me, but also allows me to feel more connected to my heritage and my community.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love living in Central Texas. Some of my favorite things to do are to take little day trips. I also love the access to food. We like to hike around Austin in the Greenbelt, trips to McKinney Falls, Enchanted Rock and Inks Lake are some of our favorites. I love outside dining, which is so important right now. We have thoroughly enjoyed visiting Live Oak Brewery and Jester King. But I can’t miss taking someone to La Mexica for pan dulce or a late night snack, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Curra’s Oaxacan coffee and their Encebollados Taco plate and a slice of pizza from Homeslice. I also love the menu and the beer from ABGB. I guess this means lots of outside time to counter all the eating and drinking. Then I would hit the Contemporary Austin and Laguna Gloria and the Blanton and other independent galleries in town such as Grey Duck, CoLab, Mass, Icosa, Ivester, and Dimension to name a few. They allow for appointments and timed entries. I also couldn’t miss a day trip to San Antonio or the Blue Hole in Wimberly. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Shoutout is dedicated to my family – they are very supportive of my artistic practice and like many families, we have been through a lot this last year maintaining safety for ourselves and others, and making sure we have difficult and necessary discussions with our children about the state of the country.
Images with the three flags and the circular sculpture are credited to: Brian Fitzsimmons