Vision - Robin Goodale Milgram '60
Ask Robin Milgram what she's doing and she's likely to answer in a voice sparkling with enthusiasm, "I'm making dragons today!" Milgram brings a singular, whimsical vision to her art. She calls herself a visual journalist (though some of this journalism does involve imaginary creatures), presenting her interpretation of what her muse sees. Whether she's working on the coast of Maine or in the French Quarter of New Orleans, in Ravenna, Italy or the Yukon Territory-and whether the medium is drawing, painting, sculpture or mosaic-it's not the subject, but the zest with which she approaches it, that matters. "I hope my artwork, in a little way, will convey to some person somewhere or someplace my joy and passion in seeing," she says.
Milgram took just two painting courses while a student at SLC. "At that time, the art scene at Sarah Lawrence and in New York was all about abstract art. I didn't think I could earn a living by painting, so I concentrated on psychology." But she kept painting on the side, even while earning a master's degree in clinical psychology from Columbia, and then working as a psychologist, first for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., and later for the National Institutes of Health. Courses in sculpture at the Corcoran Gallery fed her artistic soul during the off hours.
Then an award and an admonition changed her career course, she says. "My sculpture won first place at a show sponsored by The National Institutes of Health for 'closeted artists.' One of my research mentors encouraged me to pursue art, suggesting that I was a better artist than psychologist."
Milgram chose the artistic path, and her success confirms the wisdom of that choice. She's exhibited watercolors, sculptures and mosaics at solo, group and featured shows all along the East Coast, as well as Canada and Louisiana; undertaken numerous commissions, including a series of hand-colored prints of the historic buildings at the University of Pennsylvania; taught at several colleges and universities; and served as writer, producer and commentator for 150 "Art Beat" programs for Maine Public Radio.
Today she divides her time between Massachusetts (her home base), Maine (summer studio), New Orleans (every May ) and Italy, where she spends two to three weeks in Ravenna each summer working with glass tessarae using ancient mosaic techniques. Ravenna's churches and basilicas are "plain on the outside but like exquisite jewel boxes on the inside," Milgram says.
Her long attachment to New Orleans has only been deepened by Hurricane Katrina's devastation. Milgram treasures the month-long artistic pilgrimages she's made to the Crescent City over the last ten years. "I love the color, the imagery, the fact that everything goes. New Orleans is just fun. There's always music on the street and beautiful houses surrounding you. People will pose for you. I love the carnival spirit." Her work there is warmly received.Steven Rutledge, a New Orleans landscape architect and close friend, describes Milgram's images as "wispy, curvy interpretations of places the way I imagine I'd see them in a dream."