Robin Toulouse

Robin Toulouse

I want to tell you stories. I want you to remember your own stories.

My story began with the funeral of my great uncle, who died when I was nine years old. It picked up again in 1991, when I first discovered a book of historic photography. Since then, I have been compelled to find the conclusion of this tale through my assemblages.

I chose assemblage–more accurately, it chose me–as my primary means of expression because I love telling stories with objects,  and because I love the endless combination of materials and techniques it allows.

Sometimes a piece is born, fully formed, straight out of my head, and I have to finish it in a rush, as if it might otherwise vanish. Just as often, a work will come together gradually, building idea upon idea, layer upon layer. In the end, the creative process is equally satisfying, though the rapidly-created assemblages can evoke a stronger emotion in me. I graduated from Herron School of Art with a BFA in painting and printmaking.  

After art school, I had a long, rewarding career in the museum field–including 20 years in the artifact collections department of a large museum. My favorite artifacts were from the anthropology collection. I felt a deep affinity for the cultures who had created these objects, and for the stories they suggested of the peoples’ everyday lives and ceremonial rituals.

In 1991, a friend and colleague introduced me to an art photography book: Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America. The book, with its 19th and early 20th century images of deceased people, brought back the terrifying image of my great uncle in his casket, and his widow whispering to me “he’s only sleeping”. I felt I had to express the deep anxiety and fear building inside me.

This combination of influences led me to create a series of assemblages based on deeply private subjects, involving loss and death. This personal journey led away from my fear of death and provided the means to express my creativity.

My work is about memory and nostalgia. Words are also very important to me: Sometimes I choose descriptive titles for the pieces; other times I go for less obvious names. Either way, I hope when people view my work it evokes their own memories, and, as a result, they want to share their stories with the important people in their lives.


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