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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Images of Black excellence reimagined at Texas State Galleries


Artist Dana Robinson puts the finishing touches on one of her pieces, “Women’s Work,” in preparation for the opening day of her exhibit titled “Just Us Chickens,” Aug. 18, 2022, at Texas State Galleries.

Inspired by Ebony Magazine’s depictions of Black excellence, artist Dana Robinson shares her own take on Black existence with her exhibition “Just Us Chickens” at Texas State Galleries.
The 18-piece exhibit features a collection of collages, fabric works and new monoprints that are made using vintage media and found materials to critique idealized versions of Black life portrayed in the popular media magazine Ebony.
“It’s a publication full of contradictions that I relate to and see consistently in the world,” Robinson said. “To talk about how complicated it is to exist as a Black person is important to me.”
“Just us Chickens” is an idiom Robinson’s mother would say to her and her sister meaning “all of us belong here,” or “the regular crowd is here.”
The saying refers to an allegedly racist joke published in Everybody’s Magazine, in 1908 regarding a chicken thief who jokingly says the phrase, “Nobody here but us chickens,” when confronted by a farmer. The saying was later widely popularized by Black American rhythm and blues and jazz dance band Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five in 1946 with their hit single “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”.
Robinson strives to reimagine depictions of Black excellence perpetuated by a white-dominated patriarchal society. She creates a sense of nostalgia for her Black viewers by blurring the subjects of her monoprints which were exploited by advertisements.
“I also like obscuring them because a lot of my work is bought by white people, and I don’t really want them to have a clear vision of the Black people in my work,” Robinson said. “I don’t think that they deserve that, they do not deserve our images.”
Alongside her monoprints, Robinson uses physical copies of magazine advertisements to create her six collages. Each colorful collage dances with the playful composition of Black body parts mixed with the textures of paint and gold leaf, one of Robinson’s favorite techniques to use while creating her artwork.
“I think that my art looks interesting. It is inviting and is not traditional. Other galleries just have panels or canvas oil paintings, which is the traditional way of thinking about art,” Robinson said. “Because my work uses so many different materials, and it’s on so many different non-traditional surfaces, it is just fun to look at and think about.”
The last piece of the collection is a fabric work called “Women’s Work,” a large quilt of multi-patterned fabrics sewn together by Robinson. She said that she chooses the fabrics in her art simply based on the feelings that she gets from them.
“One of the sections is a piece of a robe that my mom gave me. Another reminds me of my grandpa’s pajamas,” Robinson said. “With fabric, you are in contact with intimate material. All of the pieces come together to spark memories.”
Margo Handwerker and Rebecca Marino are the director and assistant director for Texas State Galleries. Although Marino’s main focus is teaching students about art installation techniques and art handling, she also takes on a curatorial role at Texas State Galleries.
Marino, who has been with Texas State since 2017, curated this exhibition because she feels that it is a privilege to be able to showcase art. Providing exposure to artists with a developing platform is one of Marino’s motivations behind choosing to curate this exhibit.
“To be able to give Dana a show where I can pay for the shipping and for her to come and to have all the things, it meant a lot to pass along in a good way,” Marino said. “Cultivating an environment for artists to grow is the most important part of my job.”
James Jarmon, an early childhood education junior, visited the exhibit during its opening week. His favorite aspect of Robinson’s artwork was the nostalgic feelings he got from the fabric work and monoprints.
“Even though Texas State is a [predominantly white institution], I thought it was really nice to see Black representation like this,” Jarmon said. “The artwork hits close to home and feels familiar, but this exhibit shows a different side.”
Dana Robinson was born in Brooklyn and raised in Florida, where she received a BFA in design from Florida State University in 2012. While living in Tallahassee, Florida, Robinson worked as a seamstress at a vintage store. She noticed that people were drawn to vintage fabrics and materials that they had no personal relationship with which is where she got the idea for her artwork.
Robinson’s artwork is driven by her interest in creating things she has never seen before, she said. The idea of Black respectability had a large impact on Robinson’s upbringing and it is something she continues to battle with. Depictions of Black excellence passed down through generations are the inspiration behind her artwork.
“Creating work like this helps me work through the fact that there are different versions of being Black and successful,” Robinson said. “It’s really nice that I get to create art and show it to people in a space like Texas State.”
Robinson has been featured in articles for JUXTAPOZ, It’s Nice That podcast and Art Market Monitor. Her work has been shown in many key museums and galleries like the Fuller Rosen Gallery and is currently being shown at venues like the A.I.R. Gallery in New York.
Robinson will be an artist in residence at the Wassaic Project, a year-round artist residency program in New York, and has an upcoming solo show with Kates Ferri Projects and Turley Gallery later in New York in 2023, according to Marino.
“Just us Chickens” is free to view at the Texas State Galleries located inside the Joann Cole Mitte building until Oct. 28.

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  • “The Best Time To Reward Your Hair Is Right After You Punish It” by Dana Robinson on display, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, at Texas State Galleries. The piece is part of Dana Robinson’s exhibit titled “Just Us Chickens.”

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