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AMBER ROBLES-GORDON in The Elm Newspaper of Washington College

22 Sep

The Elm

Kohl Gallery Exhibit Confronts Issues of Identity and Ownership

Grayscale edited.KohlGalleryTalk_JustinNashBy Victoria Gill

Elm Staff Writer

The new guest artist residing in the Kohl Gallery at the Gibson Center for the Arts hangs her identity on the walls.

Amber Robles-Gordon’s opening reception for the exhibit “Material-isms: The Cultivation of Womanhood & Agency Through Materiality,” was scheduled for Sept. 6 but, due to a water leak in Gibson, was postponed to Sept. 13 during her talk.

Her exhibition “features assemblage and installation works created from a range of found objects and textiles,” according to Julie Wills, curator and interim director of the Kohl Gallery.

This past Thursday, the gallery was filled with a crowd mostly of Washington College students, along with some faculty and community members.

According to Wills, Robles-Gordon “confronts the often-paradoxical experiences of her gender, ethnicity, and social and cultural influences.”

The collection consists of compiled pieces from five different series of mixed media art that present her experiences and reflect her pride in her Latino, African and Caribbean heritage.

Through the use of hybridism, most of Robles-Gordon’s pieces use natural materials and topics. This is evident in the canvas of paint chips that have layers of text on top of them and other mixed forms of feathers and cutout shapes.

Robles-Gordon said her use of color, light, and energy represent a part of herself. To her, it is impossible to separate her identity from her works.

The words “conformity,” “analyze,” and specifically the quote “the United States weighs on my spirit” are some of the keywords and ideas that are crucial to her incorporation of investigating femininity and masculinity, duality and spirituality, and the natural and cultural environment, according to Wills.

Robles-Gordon learned from the influential women in her upbringing, such as her mother and grandmother, to “stand in and claim my agency,” of her identity and her body, especially at times when standing out brings negative attention.

According to Robles-Gordon, the two pieces that hung behind her during her talk focus on the lack of women of color in science fiction during her upbringing. She dedicated these works to her niece, who she views as an inspiration.

Robles-Gordon said that someone she looked up to growing up was Henrietta Lacks, who much of this exhibition is inspired by.

Regarding Lacks, Robles-Gordon talks about her history and the abuse by the medical system still using her cells. The lack of recognition of Lacks’ cells in medical discovery are reflected in two large black canvases that state: “When is our, your DNA no longer my, our, your own?”

Her purpose is not only to tell Lacks’ story but to advertise womanhood.

In one section of a series, Robles-Gordon raises concerns about artists’ fear of standing up for themselves in a world where work can be hard to come by. According to Robles-Gordon, being a woman in the workplace, the chance of not being taken seriously, or even mistreated, is high.

Her use of historical text, scraps from advertisements, and natural objects such as hanging branches evokes “traditional healing arts across cultures, sacred symbols of power and divine spirituality,” Wills said.

Junior Drake Harrison said he was specifically drawn to the hanging branches.

“The colors are so poignant, they draw you in,” Harrison said.

According to the artist, these branches and spherical pieces reflect the fibers of our bonds of DNA.

Overall, Robles-Gordon wants to invoke “a spiritual and energetic sensibility” from college students, which she says communities and academic institutions are not providing.She believes colleges can start useful discussion when exposing their population to the arts.

The Kohl Gallery will be showing the exhibit until Oct. 10 during regular exhibit hours, which can be found at the door of the gallery.

AVAILABLE ARTWORK BY AMBER ROBLES-GORDON