Portrait of the Artist

Ruth Robinson

Reimagining Alabama

By Noelani Kirschner | October 16, 2017
My Dream Island–Heaven on Earth, acrylic on Masonite, 36 x 24 inches
My Dream Island–Heaven on Earth, acrylic on Masonite, 36 x 24 inches

Born and raised in southern Alabama, Ruth Robinson, 64, enjoyed painting as a child but didn’t pick up a brush again until she was an adult. Inspired to depict folk-art scenes while caring for her elderly parents, Robinson has been making art prolifically ever since.

My Dream Island is where I would like to live. Some of the things that are in there—like the farming and milling—are things I was brought up with. My grandfather was a sharecropper in Alabama, and I was raised there with my parents and my siblings. It was a wonderful place. We had pecan trees, cows, and a horse. With the sharecropping, we lived off the land. Then after my grandfather passed away, my father continued to farm. He would do melons and corn; he even did cotton until I told him I wouldn’t pick anymore. I enjoy farming. I looked around to some of my relatives to see if anyone wanted to farm with me, but I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to do that.

When I grew up, we lived on top of a hill and my grandfather’s brother and his family lived down the hill. We were so different—our families—but we shared with them what we had. We made sure everyone in the community and on my street was taken care of. Each family would bring something to the church, and we would put it out on wooden tables. We would barbeque or whatever. We would sit down and have a feast. If you ever wanted something during the feasting, someone would make sure that you got it. It was nice. Everyone got along.

When I sit down to paint, I never really know what I’m going to paint about. We live in a world that is so full of pain that I would like to be on an island where there is lots of love, where everyone cares for each other and shares whatever. It would be a longer life for everyone if the world were like this, you know? I put all the different things that I like in this painting. I like fishing and being near the water. I like farming, and I love flowers. I try to put feelings into my paintings—I very seldom paint a painting of sadness. What I want to do is spread love and joy all around.”

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