By Lucette Bernard
For Vernon Robinson, it was a long journey to where he is today, working full time on his art in a studio at The B Complex in Atlanta. While his fascination with creating art began as long ago as his kindergarten years in New York, he wasn’t able to follow his passion as a vocation until years later, upon retirement from his job as project manager for Fulton County’s General Services Department. He has since devoted his time to painting and sculptural art with a desire not only to express the excitement generated by what he sees in the world around him but to stimulate in viewers of his work that same visual excitement.
Robinson was born in Pensacola, Florida, in 1946 but moved to New York as an infant. He remembers his early school years with fondness, explaining that the city’s focus on early childhood education during the 1950s placed art at the center of things. All the way through middle school, he was sketching, coloring, cutting, pasting, and building things – activities which gave him many of the skills he still uses today and which freed his imagination to make visual creations uniquely his own.
After high school Robinson joined the Air Force, where his keen eye and skilled hands landed him a position working as a mechanic on aircraft for the Strategic Air Command. He served four years in the military and then moved to Atlanta where he attended Atlanta Junior College (now Atlanta Metropolitan College), majoring in art. The drafting skills he had learned in high school and later in college eventually led him to work in the construction industry, first rising to the position of project manager for Beers Construction Company and later running his own independent business for a number of years before joining Fulton County’s General Services Department.
During all of those years working in the construction industry, however, Robinson continued to work on his own art in his spare time, filling his home with finished creations and works-in-progress. On his 50th birthday, his wife surprised him with a birthday party whose goal was to show off his artwork which hung throughout their home. He was amazed at the reception and that she had chosen to show off his work in this way. Some of the guests actually bought some of his work, and later someone called who was interested in promoting his art.
Since then, Robinson has shown his work in several exhibitions and open-studio viewings, and he’s sold pieces to friends and strangers alike. His body of work consists of paintings and built-up sculpted pieces, all of which begin with a sketch or drawing. From there he is guided by the work itself, changing direction or adding another dimension depending on how the original plan evolves. He may build up an area of the canvas with cut-out paper, layered wood, or even sculpted joint compound or plaster that is then painted or finished in additional layers of acrylic color. This gives the work a remarkable beauty and depth. “Every piece is a new journey,” he says, and “no piece is ever like the one before.” This diversity of methods and materials makes an ever-exciting adventure for the artist and an always-changing feast for the eyes of his viewers. Robinson’s art has been categorized as abstract, but one curator’s description of it as “contemporary African deco” seems apt.
The East Atlanta Library is pleased to share Vernon Robinson’s work with its patrons in an exhibit, which opens on January 5, 2019, at the East Atlanta Library, 400 Flat Shoals Avenue. The work will remain on exhibit through the end of February. The Library Gallery is open during regular library hours and can be visited by asking a librarian to give you access to the Gallery. Please call ahead to make sure no one else is using the Gallery when you want to visit (404-730-5438).
Please join the Friends of the East Atlanta Library on January 19, 2019, for a reception for Vernon Robinson from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm in the Gallery. Refreshments will be served.