For years I’ve been making medium and large-scale, densely layered paintings of glassware arrangements with a focus on fusing the unbounded expanse of the inner, intuitive world with private, domestic environments. Through the repetition and expansion of patterns, each painting moves from an initial simple reference of still life objects toward something infinite and enveloping.

I do occasionally get flak for the "blingish" subject matter of the glassware that dazzles, and admittedly, there are shameless moments of guileless, childlike wonder evoked by an excess of sparkle, shimmer and shine, but I see that aspect of the work as essential to my existential vision and quest; its purpose is neither to critique consumerism in our culture nor to merely celebrate provincial, homey notions of beauty.

Recently, I've been addressing a range of pertinent, contemporary themes: expression of the often fragile and sometimes precarious human condition; cathedral-like monumentality conflated with modest and banal perspectives of nonlinear notions of time and space; and the glass vessel used as a symbolic container for both material sustenance and poetic meaning and thought.

In my compositions I often consider the intersection of painting and architecture, too, as I include glassware forms that call to mind elements of cathedral interiors, suggesting their stain glass windows, massive architectural supports, fine ornamentation, and decorative flourishes. The compositional edifices that emerge, while referencing Baroque theatricality and grandeur, are formally structured, yet illusory fragments of experience– like elemental, mystical and personal utopias that float before our eyes.

I work exclusively with glassware because I find it best aides my imagination in replacing the traditional third-person perspective of the still life with a first-person, personal viewpoint. The resulting image is a place in which the viewer can get lost as forms oscillate between objective reality and abstraction, image and reflection, and figure and ground. But, importantly, part of my intent has also been to counterbalance this dream-like, platonic quality with a humbler, worldlier one by filling some vessels with colored liquids that become provocative to our senses. I look at 17th century Dutch still life paintings (of the pronkstilleven genre) that depict lavish table settings of cornucopia-like abundance in an effort to develop epicurean implications in my work.


ROBIN JEBAVY has been exploring glassware imagery in painting for many years, drawing inspiration from still life artists including the 17th century Dutch Masters, Paul Cézanne, Giorgio Morandi, Janet Fish, and Beth Lipman. Jebavy first experimented with the representation of glass at Bennington College where she received her BA in Visual Arts and Philosophy in 2004; and later at the University of Iowa where she earned her MFA in Painting and Drawing in 2008. She has since shown her work at a number of venues across the Midwest, including the Lynden Sculpture Garden and Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee, and Iowa Contemporary Art in Fairfield, Iowa. Jebavy was a 2014 Robert Johnson Fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and received a 2016 Mary L. Nohl Fellowship in the emerging artist category. | CV


Inspiration (Backstory)

The following questions are intended to provide insight into the artist's process, how they got started and what inspires them.

Was there a person or event that got you started creating your art? Does that person or event continue to influence the work that you do?
Yes. I grew up in a creative family. My father is an artist and a retired art teacher. We did lots of art projects growing up, and regularly visited the Milwaukee Art Museum and Art Institute of Chicago. His love and support continue to be of inestimable value today. We share a passion for philosophy and ideas; his perspective on the world often influences my vision as an artist.

At what point did you consider yourself an artist?
I've always thought of myself as a creative person, but it wasn't until midway through college that I saw my potential to someday offer a unique vision to the world. I remember making a painting with passages in it that made me feel how I felt when looking at the work of artists that I considered great. It was at that point that I saw my potential to be one of those artists. I realized that it is true: with tenacity and hard work, if you believe you can do it, you can.

Who or what inspires you and why?
I'm inspired by reading, philosophy, films, the work of contemporary and historical artists, mythology, psychology, science, family, and life experiences like love and loss. I'm especially inspired by the joy that comes from the act of creating itself--being lost in a creative zone for many hours without realizing it. It's a perfect kind of exercise or engagement that offers a much needed extra dimension of experience that melds the physical, emotional, and intellectual aspects of life.

What was the first piece of art you made? Do you remember why you made it? What materials did you use and why?
I always loved to draw. The first artwork I remember making was a crayon portrait of my dog, Rio, when I was two. Art, among many things, is an indirect way to express affection, so I'm sure I wanted to show how much I loved dogs.

Are there any programs or learning opportunities that you wish you had as a young artist?
For the most part, I was very lucky to have had an excellent art education, especially after high school. During college, I did a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, which was an invaluable experience for me as a young artist. During the semester I took a drawing board with me to various streets, plazas and museums, and spent most of the days sketching marble sculptures, interiors, fountains, and cityscapes. The light and architecture in the city–as well as great paintings by Caravaggio, Botticelli, Raphael, etc.–opened my eyes profoundly. I also did a wonderful summer studio program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to study portraiture. It gave me a strong understanding of the human head. I was making a lot of portraits at the time, so that was extremely helpful. I do wish the high school I attended had a better art program. Young artists need the benefit of a strong, sophisticated foundations education that offers an in-depth introduction to the technical, formal, and conceptual aspects of making and appreciating art.

What would you say to a young person to encourage their study and practice of art?

  1. Be patient. It takes a lot of practice, failure, and struggle to make advances as an artist. If you have faith and stick with it, you'll eventually get to the place you want to be.
  2. Get as broad an education as you can by taking classes outside of your discipline, and look at the works of tons of artists. It's great to apply hard work and focus to a specific technique or subject matter that you love, but continued experimentation outside of that interest will only make your work stronger, and connect it more deeply to the greater world of art.
  3. Rejection is common and inevitable, unfortunately, so don't be too discouraged by it. Find consolation in your love of creating, and continue to make the art that you truly want to see, even if it's not accepted. It often takes culture a while to digest anything that is new and unfamiliar.
  4. Write about your art. Writing an artist statement can be a daunting task, and often frustrating; the meaning artists experience in their work is often purely visual and ineffable; but sometimes taking the time to analyze your thoughts about how your work fits into a broader contemporary context can be insightful, prompting new ideas or directions that the art could take. It also gives viewers a way to relate to and enter the work better than they might without an introduction.