Up From the Roots
An itinerant life led Marsha Robinson to create art that’s anchored to the earth
It’s difficult to reconcile Marsha Robinson with her social media handle, Strange Dirt. The 34-year-old artist, who opens the door of her RiNo studio with long hair tied up in a braid, wearing white jeans and a T-shirt, seems much more flower than soil.
Sitting among her various works—letterpress prints with botanical illustrations, limited edition giclée prints featuring floral motifs and a tray of Deco Rise glassware—she explains the name: “I was creating pieces for a show at The Weathervane Cafe. The paintings were made-up flowers that were strange and beautiful,” says Robinson. “Strange Dirt was supposed to be the name of my show, but it stuck.”
Her art arose from a life on the move. Born in South Korea, where her parents met, Robinson’s family relocated frequently, first to Germany, then to New York and Maryland. “My childhood was unstable, and growing up was really hard. My parents divorced, and there were custody issues.” Robinson and her two siblings found refuge with her paternal grandparents in Brooklyn before being reunited with their mother and moving to California. “Life was all over the place for us kids, and the [middle] school environment was rough,” she says. “I needed to find something to get lost in, and I got lost in art.”
A Tupperware container filled with gouache (opaque watercolor) put Robinson on her current path. “Gouache was something I really enjoyed playing with,” she says. “My mom suggested that I draw flowers—not like sunflowers, but other botanical elements. They kept coming up in my work so naturally and so unforced.” Her affection for Art Deco aesthetics “brought masculinity to the more botanical, flowery elements of my work.” The combination of those two elements has become a signature of her pieces.
A Fond Memory textile print
Robinson’s tool kit is low tech: a ruler, tracing paper, a paintbrush, India ink, cotton paper, Micron fine-art pens, an Art Gum eraser, mechanical pencils and a sand eraser. Her media kit is not. Robinson has proven skillful at reaching large audiences and art lovers through her posts (she has more than 13,000 Instagram followers).
Dusk Til Dawn ceramic cups
In addition to creating patches, prints and textiles, Robinson has also recently started designing glassware and ceramics. “Home has always been elusive; it’s been a missing element of my life because of the turbulence,” she says. “I’m intent on creating work that has permanence, and I want my pieces to be cared for over generations.”
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