Coalition Gallery: Artist Spotlight on Robin Dluzen

Interview by Pepper Coate

Furnace (Grey and White Diptych), 2010, Duct, electrical and foil tape on insulation board. 17" x 11" ea.

Tell us a little bit about where you are from.

I was born in Ann Arbor and lived in several towns throughout Southeast Michigan. This area is home to a lot of industry and commercial agriculture, which is the basis for my work.

Why did you decide on becoming an artist in Chicago?

I came to Chicago for graduate school. After earning my undergraduate degree at a small liberal arts college, SAIC was my dream school, and I was so lucky to be accepted right out of undergrad. And it was so important to me find a place with some kind of an art market, and also to find what I was missing in terms of contemporary art –which is what larger cultural centers offer that small towns don’t.

You have a very unique medium and body of work. Tell us about your inspiration, influence and process of creating.

Well, I don’t think if it so much in terms of “inspiration”; I’m not quite sure what that is like. But I’m certainly influenced by place and time. The Midwest is a big part of how I understand my identity; my family has lived in the Midwest for several generations, since they came to this country from Poland and Germany. Michigan is a very particular place that defines how you live: the auto industry defines the sort of job your fathers and grandfathers do and have done; car culture defines how we get around, how we measure time and distance, how we see and experience our landscapes.

All of this is part of the larger identity I share with a lot of people; my work is very directly the telling of our stories.

Industrial Landscape (Adrian, MI), 2010. Duct, electrical and foil tape on insulation board. 40" x 76"

At what moment did you decide you were going to be an artist?

I’ve never had an “ah-ha!” moment in any part of my practice; becoming an artist was a slow process of eliminating what I wasn’t good at, and what was left was art.

What is something that concerns you or frustrates you about the Chicago art community?

Well, just the same stuff everybody else is concerned about: the limited market and the small community. And also the worry that haunts all of us in Chicago: that if we stay too long making work in Chicago, that we risk becoming branded a “Regional Artist” and subsequently lose the possibility for a national or global audience. This does not happen to everybody, but you have to admit that this does happen here.

Watertower (Chicago), 2009. Cold water dye and latex caulk on canvas. 58" x 42"

What do you admire about the Chicago art community?

As I mentioned before, it’s small, and in many ways that’s a good thing. In my experience, the Chicago art community helps out its own; even though the competitiveness still exists, art workers and artists watch out for each other and share opportunities.

Something you wish you had known three years ago:
That painting had been declared dead. Several times. I’m being very honest when I say that when I was in undergraduate school, I had never heard of such a thing. It would have saved me a lot of embarrassment in graduate school, for sure!

What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years:

Gallery representation.

How do you hope Coalition Gallery will help you as an artist?

This is the first time I have not been a student in 20 years. The gallery has given me the opportunity to see what my work is like and how it is received outside of the academic context.

The artist’s work is currently on display at Coalition Gallery at 2010 W Pierce St through Dec 3, and at River Bank Lofts at 550 N Kingsbury through Jan 31. For more about the artist visit http://robindluzen.com.