Interview by guest writer: Sarah Kim
Robin David (aka Robin Birdd) is a Bay Area illustrator, painter and craftswoman. Her 2014 show Mythological Bird at the Incline Gallery was featured in SF Gate’s Top Arts Pick of the Week. Through her sociopolitical paintings, paper dress collection and upcoming 2015 show at the Tenderloin National Forest, David is known as one who works with recycled materials and indeed a very interesting, rising young artist.
How did you get started as an artist?
In the Third grade, I looked up at the charcoal sketches of a cabin in the woods on a snowy day art work that hung on the walls of our classroom trying to find the one I made. I pointed to one with the most realistic renderings and said to my friend very arrogantly “that one's mine”. When suddenly the class bitch said behind me, “no thats my drawing!” As I was caught off guard I realized she was right. I then began to look frantically for what was truly made by me discovering mine was really the ugly one at the bottom. This is when I realized that it didn’t matter. Yes I was sad, but this sadness opened me up to a whole new type of art, art that is more than a realistic depiction of a photo but art with thought, art that is done freely and art that explores other ways of creating.
A lot of your work has sociopolitical undertones. What are some of your topics?
My upcoming mythology, “Babies Making Babies” sarcastically criticizes our society for all of the fucked up shit we do to each other, such as war, manipulation and greed.This commentary explores the nature of our society, expanding the reality of adults as childish beings. An adults becomes the grown up they are by the grownups that raised them, who also were once babies. In reality, adults know as much as they are told. Whether the racist serial killer on channel 7, the rapist who lives next door or the womanizing boyfriend of your daughter, we typically ignore the fact that we all began life as a baby with no motives, whatsoever.
One piece that caught our eye was the illustration titled Babies Making Babies Praying to the God of The Digital Age. Can you explain the concept behind this one?
As part of the “Babies Making Babies” series, the “Praying to the God of The Digital Age” piece focuses more on society’s influence on the development of a child. The piece focuses on my “Babies Making Babies” concept (description above) while drawing inspiration from the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam. Many photos of Mecca show thousands of people praying to the Kaaba, a rectangular, black and gold building that stands in the center of the largest mosque in the world. I chose this image not to poke fun of a religious act or place, but rather I chose this image because images of Mecca can be very powerful. Thousands of people all praying in one direction, with very similar thoughts and beliefs is an amazing and interesting concept, especially when you take that same attitude of group mentality and direct that focus on something else. In this paintings case, that focus brings it’s attention to “technology”. The babies, all in the same attire, bowing down to a giant microchip in the center of the painting worshiping the god of the digital age.
I have a friend who believes all works of art have some autobiographical nature to them. Do any of your works reflect instances or experiences you’ve had in your life?
Definitely. I grew up in a dysfunctional family. As a kid, I was always stuck in my head thinking of why things are the way they are, and over analyzing my the adults around me. As a young adult, I began working as an after-school Teachers Aid. Working with kids eventually lead to my interest in child development, and finally things from my childhood started to make sense. Over analyzing became very important as I discovered conceptual ways of sharing my past and my thoughts of the world through art.
I checked out your gallery show Mythological Bird last summer, the one where you collaborate with fellow artist Jeffrey Yip. Could you tell us about this exhibition?
At the time, my works were inspired by death, extinction and storytelling through scientific literature. Through my discovery of the death of earthly birds, I explored the human need to discover life and all its questions. I wanted to tell the story of these birds in the form of folklores, but twisting what people commonly think of mythology with science, in the same way scientist write about their discoveries of past dinosaurs. After coming up with the concept, I proposed a collaborative effort to Jeffrey Yip, a fellow artist and friend that I met at San Francisco State University, ultimately working on the creation of Mythological Bird.
What is your opinion on the statement that art is powerful only to the extent of raising awareness?
I agree that art can be very powerful when raising awareness, but I don’t think that this concept is as black and white as it sounds. When I was a young naive artist, I strongly believed that “art for art sake” was stupid, but now I don’t agree with this at all. All art has purpose, even art that has no obvious strong concept or message. The chronological time of which the art was created, the act of creating and what was going on historically when the art was made are all important details giving context to the piece of work. Sometimes doodling with no ideas or thoughts in your head can become a form of meditation and healing, which is just as powerful as a piece of art that stands for something.