The Art of Robbin Légère Henderson









The eye sees differently from the way a camera “sees,” so I paint directly from nature. The oil paintings, pastels and watercolors are more about feeling than about a specific scene depicted. My process, here, is sensual and intuitive, not particularly cerebral. Clearly, Japanese screen painting and printmaking have influenced me.

My work expresses a feeling of connection to the natural world and attempts to communicate the vulnerability, majesty and solace one finds there. My hope is that viewers will be reminded of the beauty and fragility of our home, and will identify with a desire to help preserve our environment for humanity and the other species that share it.

We rarely perceive nature without mediation, and I want to include this reality. Cultural artifacts intrude: a road, a fence, barbed wire, power poles. These intrusions provide piquancy to our experience of nature.

Although a practicing artist for thirty years, it’s only in the past few that I resumed exhibiting. For many years I was a facilitator of other artists’ careers, as the Executive Director or curator of community art centers. This work deeply involved me in presenting art to the public, and negotiating the interaction of the individual artist with a widely diverse audience. While I continued to paint, I did not seek exhibition opportunities because (whether actual or perceived) ethical issues might have arisen. I remain involved in community activities in Berkeley, serving on the Civic Arts Commission and on the curatorial committee of the Richmond Art Center.

 A “plein air” painter for well over 20 years, I have recently begun to draw again. The new work began during an artist’s residency in New Zealand, where I continued to respond to the landscape and natural forms, using scratchboard as my medium. This exploration led to a series of illustrations for, Matilda Robbins: Immigrant, Wobbly, Feminist, my grandmother’s unpublished memoir, written in the late 1950s about her life in the years 1900-1926. While I continue to paint, this work has currently been my major focus, and unlike my practice with painting, I have used old family photographs and published images to develop the drawings. In this case the camera helps. I find images of buildings, costumes and transportation that I use to create composites that suggest the story Matilda tells.

I attended Reed College in Portland Oregon; hold a B.A. in English Literature from U.C. Berkeley, and studied painting and printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute. My work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City, in Europe, Central America and New Zealand and is in public and private collections in Washington D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles, California; Taos, New Mexico; Masterton, New Zealand; Managua, Nicaragua; and Torino, Italy.  

Robbin Légère Henderson