As our current cultural climate threatens to encroach on freedom of choice, expression, sexuality and equity, my work serves to echo the reality of the American experience, one that is diverse, fluid and multifaceted. My nude and portrait paintings tell the stories of ordinary people from all walks of life paired with a sense of defiance and irreverence for societal norms regarding gendered ideas of behavior, identity, and sexuality.
The construction of a painterly image can take months and as such responds to the historic legacy of portraiture, while expressing a distinctly contemporary experience of the world. While my process is undeniably ensconced in the ways of academic painting, my subjects are by no means the traditional type; rather I search for people who have a certain emotional clarity and as well may be unconventional in their personal expression of sexuality. They might meet your glance head on, while still others just have a remarkable beauty that seems somehow unusual. Many of my subjects seem to reveal their inner lives in the portraits.
In much of my work I try to subvert relationships between the model and the audience, allowing a dialogue between the two to begin. The composition of each defiant portrait is achieved by finding that place between the humorous and poignant, a kind of intimacy that goes beyond my relationship with the model. These sensations are an important part of my practice. For example, intimacy and a certain tenderness is also at the core of my Oyster still life series. These studies of the inner beauty of such succulent creatures express a certain robust appreciation of the tactile, the feminine and as such my identity as a woman. This is further reflected in my rebellious nude works, and I would ask my viewers to consider that I am a woman painting nude women, and as such my work reflects both the challenge and richness of this experience. It seems that my subjects seem to emerge from my pictures alternately bold and vulnerable and yet always beautiful even in the most unusual ways. This layered intimacy is meant to reflect the diverse nature of the human experience. Such inclusiveness and complexity of intention connects my work to the current of realist work today, a new seditious genre that simultaneously embraces studio painting and engages in questions of identity, race, beauty, and gender.
©2018 Rosa JH Berland Art Historian
Nadine Robbins is an internationally known artist who works in a photorealistic style, painting nudes, portraits, and still lifes. Even during her childhood, spent partially in France, Robbins began to build her visual vocabulary and her interest in aspects of the natural world. Robbins earned her BFA in Graphic Design from the State University of New York at New Paltz and owned a successful boutique graphic design firm before turning to painting full time in 2008. As a painter, Robbins is largely self-taught, though as a lifelong learner she regularly seeks out opportunities to further hone her skills.
The success Robbins has achieved in just over a decade as a professional painter would be a significant accomplishment for any artist; for a woman entering the patriarchal art world as a second career, this trajectory is nothing short of remarkable. Named one of Buzzfeed’s “Top 100 Figurative Painters Working Right Now” in 2017 and 2018, Robbins has shown her paintings throughout the country and in Europe. She is represented in prestigious private collections including the Howard A. & Judith Tullman Collection in Chicago and the Count-Ibex Collection in Germany. Robbins’ work has been shown at several of the premier galleries for hyper-realist art, including Louis K. Meisel Gallery and RJD Gallery. The Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art (WMOCA) in Wisconsin; the Rockwell Museum in Corning, New York (a Smithsonian affiliate); and the European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM) in Barcelona, Spain, have all selected her work for exhibitions. Publications featuring Robbins’ work include Artsy, American Art Collector, Fine Art Connoisseur, and the Huffington Post.
Robbins works in oil on linen to create her hyper-realistic paintings, based on her photographs. Her portraits and her nudes are sought after for their unorthodox poses, defiant gazes, idiosyncratic props, and their subverting of conventional definitions of beauty and sensuality. Robbins uses friends and acquaintances as models, though it is not uncommon for her to approach a stranger who has a certain arresting quality. The strong composition and conceptual narrative inherent in Robbins’ work stems from her foundation in graphic design and advertising. The paintings’ square format and bold images recall album covers, reflecting the artist’s love of music.
Though still lifes of oysters may at first seem like a departure from portraiture, the subjects Robbins paints in these distinct genres share an aura of sensuality, underscored by her deft use of color and her facility with academic painting techniques. Robbins revels in the tactile quality of paint, which enables her to create each image’s decisive moment at a depth that takes it beyond the source photograph.
Nadine Robbins lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and son. Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts in Binghamton, New York, represents the artist.