About Robin Epstein . . .
Robin Epstein has always been that rare kind of urban person––one who understands the imaginative possibilities of nature. She was born in Brooklyn as a third generation Brooklynite, and she grew up in Brownsville, Kensington, Sheepshead Bay, and finally Canarsie. She first experienced nature at the age of one, while staying in a bungalow colony in the Sullivan County Catskills. There she saw trees in groups––not planted one by one––as well as streams, and fields of grass.
As an art student at SUNY Stony Brook in the 1970s, Robin learned open-air acrylic painting in the woods of Long Island, New York, where she studied drawing and painting and became fascinated by the visual and spiritual nature of trees, which have been a motif throughout her painting career. At Stony Brook, she was known for her unusual interpretation of color in the natural world.
From 1975 to 1981, Robin studied drawing with artist Fay Spahn. Through their work together, Robin greatly expanded her technical skills with pencil and other mediums and began experimenting with the interpretation of objects in space. She went on to apply these techniques to the subject matter that interested her––nature and particularly trees. From 1977 to 1980, Robin painted daily in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, usually in the mornings, while also writing and performing plays.
Many years later, Robin's partner––a transplanted Californian––took her to see the redwoods, first at Big Sur and then in Mendocino County, where she now devotes several weeks a year to drawing in the redwood forests and cypress groves. Her favorite place for open-air drawing is the Mendocino County State Parks in California, including the second-growth redwood forests of Van Damme and Russian Gulch canyons, and the first-growth redwood forest of Montgomery Woods.
Robin has practiced open-air painting from the boardwalks of Coney Island to the ginkgo trees of the East Village, from Vermont to the California coast. She has created landscapes from a wealth of urban scenes––New York City streets and parks, highways in the snow, and the marshes of Canarsie, Brooklyn. Her studio paintings incorporate fantasy and memory, as well as photographic images; and her composite landscapes are infused with rich color to express feelings.
Robin has been active in theater as well. In 1980, she and Dorothy Cantwell co-founded More Fire! Productions, a New York women's theater group. Working with a wide range of performers and aesthetic styles, More Fire! included lesbians and straight women, professional actors as well as nonprofessionals. The productions were avant-garde, comic, and highly visual, fusing elements from Grotowski's experimental theater with American popular culture and satires of the East Village lesbian and theater scenes, American politics, and the performers' own lives. Throughout the 1980s, Robin co-wrote, directed, and performed in all of the company's plays; she also designed and made sets and props, painted the scenery, created pop music soundtracks, and even wrote songs. As her paintings use imagination to transform the urban world and nature, her plays transformed elements from her own life into theatrical productions. Robin and Dorothy shared a joint vision and aesthetic; Dorothy's creativity, as well as her extraordinary acting and writing abilities, were crucial to the company's success. Holly Hughes and Sarah Schulman sought out More Fire! Productions and became regular collaborators. The company attracted a cult following for plays such as Junk Love, Art Failures, and Epstein on the Beach, even as these works remained largely ignored by established downtown theater institutions. In 1986, two plays were produced at the Performing Garage.
In recent years, Robin has transformed herself again, focusing on her painting and drawing and incorporating the many elements of her former narrative concerns and internal spiritual life into her canvases, infusing them with rich color and an internal light source. Her painting style is always evolving. Now in her fortieth year as a painter, Robin continues to explore landscape as her primary subject matter––using images from her imagination, if necessary, to create her own unique and highly personal Secret Garden.