Inspiring Conversations with Robyn Jamison of The Magic of Modern Art
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Today we’d like to introduce you to Robyn Jamison.
Hi Robyn, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I am an artist on a mission to make the magic and wonder of modern and contemporary art accessible to everyone. My goal is that being in the presence of modern and contemporary art to be a joyful, enriching experience—one that everyone eagerly anticipates, avidly soaks in and never gets over.
I have been an artist my entire life. There I was as a toddler—head down, bent over paper and crayons and paints and tissue paper and art book pictures. I have always loved everything having to do with art.
Fast forward. Fresh out of art school, I took a position as a security guard at the Fort Worth Art Museum (now the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth). That little museum boasted extraordinary exhibits that were noteworthy for both their progressiveness and their importance. I found it thrilling to work there.
As I stood guard in the galleries, I couldn’t help but overhear the comments made by the museum guests. Unfortunately, in addition to the expected “oohs,” “aahs,” delighted dialogues and reverent silences, I was also privy to a disheartening number of disdainful, disbelieving and dispirited remarks. I can’t count the number of people who grumbled, “My five-year-old could do that,” or “I don’t get it.” Their frustration was palpable.
Here’s the thing that really affected me the most about the disgruntled visitors. These were the people who were actually coming to see the art. They were the ones who had chosen to spend their precious time visiting the art museum.
What about the people who didn’t come at all? I suspect that they must have been even more put off by modern art than those who showed up at the museum and denounced the art.
I was crystal clear (and still am) that modern and contemporary art are treasure troves of experiential wonder. In fact—and this is key—the very aspects of the art of our time that many people find most objectionable are the same aspects that, when seen from a different perspective, make this art so profoundly moving.
I vowed back then to do something to remedy this sad state of affairs. I set out to find a way to give people what they need in order to get in touch with that part of themselves that naturally resonates with the unique world of modern and contemporary art.
To that end, I began an experiment I affectionately called “The Robyn Jamison Art Tours.” I escorted groups of friends to modern art exhibits and, rather than deliver lectures about the art, I encouraged my friends to simply be with the art and let the art speak to them. I also posed thought-provoking questions for them to consider.
Every single one of them reported having had a breakthrough in their relationship with modern and contemporary art, so I could tell I was on the right track. Although this was encouraging, my ultimate goal was to reach a much larger audience.
After having proved that my method worked, I decided that the way to give the gift of modern and contemporary art to the most people in the shortest time was to write a book. The book, which was just published in April is entitled, The Magic of Modern Art—How to Love Modern & Contemporary Art.
In 2020, I made a commitment to do everything in my power to fulfill my vision. I’m now spearheading a movement that is dedicated to bringing about:
A world where everyone everywhere experiences the magic and wonder of modern and contemporary art.
In short, I am a champion for the difference that modern and contemporary art makes in people’s lives.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Being a champion for something is the world is always a challenge. In my case, it has involved: finding the right people to walk this road with me; getting the book from its infancy to publication; creating the conversations that best articulate what’s possible from modern and contemporary art; navigating the complex world of publishing; and, doing all that it takes to promote the book and get the word out about the overarching commitment.
To give you an idea, I’ll share about one part of my journey, the book writing part.
When I decided that writing a book would be the best way to reach the greatest possible number of people, I experienced many inner struggles, which caused me to stop working on it more times than I care to admit. I was unsure whether the book should be more academic or whether someone with more impressive credentials should write it. I was uncertain about whether to talk about specific works of art or just about modern and contemporary art in general. I doubted that I was qualified to write this book since I wasn’t a famous artist or the curator of a major museum, for example. Between giving up on the project and restarting it, sometimes years passed.
A few years ago, I was taking stock of my life and realized that if this book was going to happen, it was up to me and it was time to get it done. So, I began in earnest with a commitment to persevere until it was finished.
I enlisted the help of a friend who had the skills and the kind of brain that could deal with the literary chaos I had created and things got underway. This does not mean that it was suddenly a slam-dunk to organize, write and edit the book. It took years of work to complete it to my satisfaction.
Now I’m unreservedly proud of the final result and delighted with the impact that the book is having.
We’ve been impressed with The Magic of Modern Art, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I have been doing all I can to create a movement in the world and its mission is the same as my book, The Magic of Modern Art: “A world where everyone, everywhere experiences the magic and wonder of modern and contemporary art.”
What sets my work apart from others, is that I have somehow been lucky enough to understand what it takes to be able to deeply appreciate— no, to be blown away by—modern and contemporary art and to have an intuitive sense of how to transmit that to others. My approach bypasses the need to study for hours or even years and gets to the heart of what it is that enables us all to be deeply moved by modern and contemporary art.
To that end, I have a website www.MagicOfModernArt.com and Facebook page by the same name. I have written and produced the song, “The Magic of Modern Art,” which you can play on the homepage of the website. A music video of the song is currently being created and will soon be posted on the website.
As you know, I’ve written the book itself, which is now for sale on my website and I’m signing copies for everyone who purchases the book via the website and at book signings. My next book signing is at Half-Price Books at 5555 North Lamar on July 2nd from 1:00 P.M to 4:00 P.M. I will soon have one at Book People as well.
I have created a grassroots organization called The Magic of Modern Art Menshes, which consists of a group of dedicated, talented, generous supporters for the project. The Mensches meet monthly and we also conduct a Magic of Modern Art Soirée or Matinée each month to spread the word and give our guests a taste of what’s possible when modern art is experienced, not analyzed.
I’m currently also in the process of having tee-shirts done to promote The Magic of Modern Art. The e-book is underway and will soon be available on Amazon. I am currently working on the audio book too!
Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
As a child, I was exposed to reproductions of Modern Art, mostly in books. They didn’t have much impact on me. I held fast to my preference for the “Old Masters.”
It wasn’t until I saw a major Vincent Van Gogh retrospective at the St. Louis Art Museum that all this changed. When I caught sight of the actual paintings hanging on the museum walls, I was awestruck. The colors were so vivid, the brushstrokes so bold—to me, those paintings epitomized vitality itself. I found myself completely overtaken by the sensations those paintings evoked in me. I had no awareness of anything else. It was as if I had disappeared and there was only the experience of those paintings.
That extraordinary Van Gogh exhibition was a turning point in my life. I was 12 years old. That show opened me up to all the innovative art of the late 1800s and beyond. Along with that came the realization that art doesn’t have to be realistic to be moving and powerful. A whole new realm of art appreciation opened up to me.
I found myself loving Edgar Degas’ delicate dancers, Toulouse Lautrec’s gaudy performers, Gauguin’s exotic Tahitian women, Pablo Picasso and George Braque’s cubist explorations, Dali’s dreamlike surrealism. A kaleidoscope of endless visual possibilities was now mine! I didn’t know much about the theory behind all the art movements, but I was inspired by the seemingly endless expressions of creativity.
And later, when art became more and more diverse and less and less predictable, my capacity to appreciate all that is strange and wonderful grew and grew. I delight in the mind-expanding experiences of all types of contemporary art and am in love with the work I’m doing to bring others along with me!
- $24.95 The Magic of Modern Art—How to Love Modern & Contemporary Art