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New directions for artists Robert and Robin Cage

South Boston News
Robin and Robert Cage / April 15, 2013
A light breeze rustles the rings of a monolithic metal dome. In a ‘tree’ composed of rusted wrenches, a mockingbird flits in with twigs to tuck into a nest. Baby goats bleat after their mothers alongside a small army of steel warriors.

Spring has arrived at Shanti, the sculpture farm of artist Robert Cage. A car drives by slowly, its inhabitants taking in the amazing sight of an old tobacco field sprouting the creative genius of this beloved Halifax native. Cage motions for them to come in for a closer look. “I love to share my work!” he says, “Art means nothing if it isn’t shared. I want people to come in, wander, and wonder — to let their imaginations take over.”

While many people are familiar with Cage’s surprising, mixed media sculptures, they aren’t aware that he is also a master painter, whose works have been featured in museums, galleries, and private collections along the East Coast and even in Africa and Barbados.

Vibrant, colorful abstractions, Cage’s paintings, like his sculptures, have often been large scale creations, easily assuming pride of place on entire walls. A new body of Cage’s work, however, takes a different direction: small, intimate pieces that nonetheless exhibit the same powerful colors and dashing brushwork that characterize his earlier work.

“I really enjoy working on these,” Cage states, “I like letting the paint tell me where it wants to go. Sometimes, faces emerge or birds or other animals appear like magic. It really pleases me.”

Cage’s wife, Sandy, who is the director of education for the North Carolina Museum of Art and curates the show, agrees. “I love these pieces and the unexpected directions they take; they are truly inventive and dynamic, just like the artist.”

The Destination Gallery Associates and the Global Friends Center for Art and Culture are pleased to be the first venue to present this new body of work by Robert Cage. An exciting component is a companion exhibit of works by Cage’s daughter, Robin, whose stunning ceramic pieces grace numerous private collections and are a feature of her 43rd Street Gallery in Richmond. Robin Cage hadn’t initially planned a career in the arts as part of her life journey. A sociology major, she was introduced to pottery through the wife of a professor in graduate school in Ohio. She finished her studies and then apprenticed for three years in ceramics. “I pretty much just never looked back,” she said in a recent interview.

The pieces of Robin’s work that will be unveiled also mark a different direction for her. A visit to the Dale Chihuly show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond earlier this year served as a springboard for her new work. Intrigued by Chihuly’s glass basket forms, Robin began exploring and manipulating these shapes in clay. Though clay and glass are very, very different, observes Robin, clay is a wonderful medium to play with colors and form. “These are the first non-production items I’ve done in 30 years,” she says. “I am a functional potter so the vast body of my work is utilitarian. These forms can still be used, but they are more decorative in nature.”

Like her father, Robin is a passionate advocate for the arts. Each year, she organizes one of Richmond’s most beloved public arts events, the 43rd Street Festival of the Arts, a fundraiser for Freedom House, a charitable organization that supports people in need.

The last time father and daughter showed their work together was almost three decades ago at the Danville Museum of Art and History. Both are excited to be exhibiting together again and showcasing work that has not been seen anywhere else before. When asked what she most admires about her father’s work, Robin is quick to answer, “The fact that he has always been willing to take creative risks and to change.”

When asked what he most admires about his daughter’s work, Cage thinks for a moment and then observes, “Robin’s work is strong and beautiful, just like her.”

The public is invited to meet both artists at the Gallery’s opening reception on Thursday, from 5:30-8 p.m. and to enjoy dessert, coffee, and a video of Robert Cage’s work in the Opus Room at Bistro 1888.

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