Photos by Troy Glasgow
Frank D. Robinson Jr. is the artist-in-residence at The Caritas Village at 2509 Harvard Avenue in Memphis. He's an artist, he's a creative, and he probably won't appreciate that I capitalized his name. You see, he only writes it lowercase. In fact, he writes most things lowercase, including the titles of his art pieces. Why? It's probably because, as he he put it, "I try to take something you're familiar with in everyday life and turn it into something different." So, he writes his name a little differently. He also makes his art a little differently, and what I'm looking at today is very different.
In front of me stands Frank with a door - a full-sized door - that he's turned into a piece of art. This particular piece is titled "hurdling the hurt village," and Frank says it represents the city of Memphis. The large canvas area that this door affords is full of not just imagery, but stuff - tons of stuff - that Frank has collected from all around Memphis. There are records, napkins, bumper stickers, business cards, battery packaging, metal washers, Accu-Chek blood test strips, pennies, soda can tops ... there's even an old-fashioned, completely organic, Memphis bug stuck in there.
You see, Frank is a "green" artist. He collects stuff - trash, donations, bottles, tools, etc. - and he uses it not just to make his art, but to be his art as well. He takes all of these elements, and shellacs them under a layer of sealant and wood resin to a canvas. Most often, that canvas will itself be a recycled item, in this case a door. He will even take the empty tubes of resin and paint brushes from his previous pieces and work them into a new piece. All these bits of stuff represent something to the piece or to Frank himself. "Hurdling the hurt village" offers plenty of representative pieces of Memphis, such as some beat up 45 rpm records of Memphis music, bumper stickers from a Memphis mayoral bid, and napkins from the local Jack Pirtle's Chicken. Then there are the items that represent Frank, often recurring imagery throughout all of his works. The runner hurdling over the city is shedding a single tear in the form of a key. According to Frank, "Keys are tears. They unlock emotions," and he uses them in a lot of his works.
To see a detail view of this amazing piece of recycled art "hurdling the hurt village," mouse-over the image below. To learn more about frank (lowercase - see, I'm learning) and his other works, stop by The Caritas Village, or email him at email@example.com
. And to learn more about all the wonderful "green" people and businesses in Memphis, don't miss our next issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine.
In case you're looking, the bug is about 3/4 of the way down the left side, immediately left of the Red Bull can above the Accu-Chek strip.
-- Christina Bradway
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Frank explains his Memphis-Chicago Blues Chair
ArtsMemphis TV Presents Frank D. Robinson Jr.