Joyce Robins was born in Greenville, South Carolina. She was educated at the Yale Summer School of Art, The Cooper Union (B.F.A., 1966) and at The City University of New York (B.S.L.A., 1995).
She has had twenty-three one-person shows of her art work, most recently at Theodore:Art, Brooklyn, NY (2014), the John Davis Gallery in Hudson, New York (2011); the Schoolhouse Center, Provincetown, MA; and the Jane Hartsook Gallery in New York City. In addition her work has been seen in many group shows at galleries and museums, including MoMA PS1 (New York), Canada (New York), Theodore:Art (Brooklyn), RH Gallery (New York), Nicole Fiacco Gallery (Hudson, NY), Edward Thorp Gallery (New York), Rubicon Gallery (Dublin), The Brooklyn Museum, The Gasworks (London), The Delaware Art Museum, Vassar College Art Gallery, Pierogi Gallery (Brooklyn), Pewabic Pottery (Detroit) and the Lennon Weinberg Gallery (New York). In July 2010 she exhibited her work at the Biennale de Vallauris in Vallauris, France.
In addition to making sculpture, Joyce Robins is a landscape designer. Her projects include a public sculpture garden in Beacon NY. Robins has taught sculpture at Vassar College.
Her awards and honors include being invited to participate in the 2010 Biennale de Vallauris in Vallauris, France. She was a finalist for the Chrysler Foundation Design Awards (2000) and a recipient of a New York State Creative Artists Public Service Grant for Sculpture (1982). Robins was a visiting artist at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts (2000) and at the Acadia Summer Art Program (2005).
Robins's work has been written about in The New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, The Village Voice, The Nation, The New York Observer, The Philadelphia Inquirer and American Ceramics.
She lives and works in the Hudson Valley of New York State.
“My work as a reporter has taught me that logical stories, without riddles and holes in them, in which everything is obvious, tend to be untrue.”
-- Hanna Krall, “The Woman From Hamburg.”
I try to use experience of the world, visual memories, to inform my work. Never direct, it is an oblique reference. I am always surprised after completing a sculpture to see that it resembles something in the world. I count it as a success when that occurs because it reinforces an engagement with the environment. Intuition is strong in the beginning of the process. I try to think “visually,” and avoid any kind of narrative impulse in my use of the world. I understand the connections only after completing a sculpture.
Krall’s statement is analogous to how I feel about my own encounters in the world. That understanding inspires me to produce sculpture with literal holes. The openings illustrate a concept of time and disintegration. Simple structures that are the ground for a more complicated surface rendering represent a model of this environment.
Slicing a slab of clay from a large block, then rolling it out and starting to shape it with my hands is often enough to suggest the way to proceed. I trust my instinct. It can be a long process to find the shape and longer still to modify and articulate that form. Some of the methods I use to do this include removing material from it, using a wooden tool to mark indentations in the interior and at the edges, using a steel tool to make perforations and, finally, shaping the edge itself. I want light to penetrate through the dense and opaque clay.
Sometimes I stretch it over a form to dry creating an irregular and undulating membrane. After it is fired, then, the form will lift off its supporting surface. Glaze is applied to some indents so color will be held in a different way than on untreated surface.
I grew up at the ocean edge with beaches and salt marshes. It was important for me to see the mix of landscape and water, the colors of the marsh, as well as the encrustation and buildup of repeated encounters of liquid against solid, the evidence of time, of decay and renewal. Memories of being there, looking closely at what landed on the edge have remained a continuing source of inspiration. These conditions are always there when I make art. The holes are metaphors for the bubbles in the foam of a receding wave. They are about a dissolution or disappearance of material. They are also intimating an ordering, not symmetrical, but still a balancing of elements. They provide a framework to integrate color onto the form. The shape of my sculpture is usually something simple, enough to hold a diverse amount of marking.