A new exhibit opened Tuesday at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts is titled “Neurotangle.”
It features the work of Nina Martine Robinson, a contemporary textile artist who for the past seven years has pushed the boundaries of fabric. During this process, she has transformed cloth and clothing remnants into sculptures and immersive installations.
Through “Neurotangle,” Robinson presents textile-based artwork, which explores her experiences parenting a child with autism.
Robinson’s goal with her exhibit is twofold.
“First, I would like to open a dialogue with the viewer about the concept of neurodiversity,” she said. “Autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 59 children, boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ASD, and the disorder encompasses all ethnicities and socioeconomic groups.
“Secondly, the installation is relevant to anyone who has ever felt different. It is a global condition to need to be accepted and part of a community.”
Robinson credited her partner for introducing her to Lisa Bergh, executive director of the art center. It was through this relationship, she learned about the art center.
“I had been posting photos of my work in progress on Instagram and Lisa reached out and encouraged me to apply for an exhibition at the center,” Robinson said. “HCA has a reputation for mounting exhibitions that include emerging and mid-career artists from all over Minnesota. Lisa is well-respected as a director and curator for the art center.”
Bergh said Robinson is taking her traditional training, and love of traditional textile arts and sewing, and turning it “inside out and upside down.”
“It is exciting to see and curious to stand in front of the work,” she said. “Viewers will be full of wonder and delight when viewing the art pieces.”
Bergh also asked Robinson to show some of her more traditional works — smaller, craft-based objects — to help demonstrate how she made the transition from sewing clothing and craft objects to large-scale abstract sculptural pieces made from fabric.
“This is a show for those who love the tradition of sewing techniques, those who enjoy exploring contemporary art, and those who are connected to someone on the autism spectrum,” Bergh said.
Learn more about Robinson and her work through Bergh’s five-questions interview.
Describe your work in 15 words or less.
Process-based fabric manipulation utilizing a variety of textiles including re-purposed clothing, exploring neurodivergence.
Can you name a couple artists/makers/craftspeople who inspire/influence your work and why?
My inspiration comes from two main areas: fashion design and contemporary art.
Iris Van Herpen (is a) Dutch fashion designer whose amazing creations often defy description and are often more sculptural than clothing. She is my current “go to” when I need some fabric manipulation inspiration.
Rei Kawakubo (is a) Japanese fashion designer whose fashion sensibility is often considered radical. I have been inspired since the 1980s by her shapes and color combinations.
Lindsay Rhyner had a Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2016 called “Material Worlds.” Her large-scale textile wall hangings changed my perspective about how textiles are being used in contemporary art. It was this show that cemented the idea for me that I could work as a contemporary textile artist.
I also find inspiration from the work of Louise Bourgeois, Sheila Hicks and Anselm Keifer.
What is the first piece of art you remember creating?
I have always been a maker. In the 1980s I began creating one-of-a-kind artist dolls. That evolved into wearable art. I was involved in the fine-crafts world for many years. It wasn’t until 2013, when I returned to college to earn my Bachelor of Arts degree in studio arts at Augsburg University, that I started to make what I would consider art. My focus of study was watercolor and I challenged myself to utilize my sewing machine in all of my art classes.
When you start a new piece/project, where/how do you begin?
Often the fabric dictates the next project, although lately I have been doing work around my experiences as a mother of an autistic son. Typically, I prep the fabric by finishing the edges and then create a series of pintucks and folds starting at one selvage and going randomly across the fabric until it takes shape.
When not in the studio, what do you like to do for fun?
Sew! No, really! I like to sew clothing for myself, and that often gets put to the bottom of the pile. I love to travel to other cities to visit museums and art galleries. As a child, this was incorporated into our family vacations.