By Steve Vied Messenger-Inquirer
Rex Robinson has reached the age — 65 — where he is open to just about anything. But whatever happens to the long-time, well-known Owensboro artist, it will include art.
“I’m an artist for life,” Robinson says. “I’ll never retire.”
What is changing for Robinson is his definition of success. Early in his career, Robinson sought to be what he termed an “American Artist,” which called for traveling to every state and national park and painting pictures reflective of the history and culture of those places. But life got in the way of that somewhat and Robinson mostly devoted himself to art education over the course of four decades, but never stopping painting.
In 2015 Robinson retired for health reasons from his job as an art teacher at Owensboro High School. Early last year he opened the Robinson Visual Art Center studio and gallery at 425 W. Fifth St., where scores of his paintings are on display and for sale. One room — the “Biblical Truths Room” — is dedicated to religious-themed paintings and sculpture references, while another features paintings with black light elements. The main gallery displays landscapes, wildlife and Americana-style paintings, large and small, covering just about every square inch of wall space.
Robinson has been a fixture on the local and regional art scene for decades. For many years he has created the image for the city’s annual Christmas card and the 2018 card commissioned by City Hall will soon be for sale.
Robinson is as busy as ever and paints every day, often working on commissioned pieces. Beginning next month he will have art show entitled “RESPECT” at Wendell Foster’s Elmer Administration Building. It will run from Dec. 2 through Jan. 11 and will feature old and new paintings under the heading of “Recent Adoration Artwork.” Some of the paintings that will be available for purchase during the show will have religious and scriptural themes, Robinson said. Other paintings will be of every type and style.
Ninety students from Highland Elementary School are producing individual art pieces for the Wendell Foster show, Robinson said, and they will also jointly create a giant mural for it.
For many years, Robinson, who sold his first painting in 1970 for $20, maintained a studio and gallery at his home on Karns Grove Road in Philpot, but in all those years he hosted only two open houses.
Although he has visited every state in the southeast, many in the east and some out west, Robinson said he is no longer pursuing his goal of producing art from every state and national park.
“I’m just following my inspiration and celebrating the now and being open to opportunities,” Robinson said. “I’ve done more than 100 murals in Kentucky. I just did one for a Morganfield doctor. I still have a huge interest in sculpture. I’ve got a whole sketchbook of ideas. Some are as big as this house and I can’t wait to get to them.”
A man of strong faith, Robinson said he wants more than ever to connect with God and follow his lead.
“I’ve reached a lot of objectives,” Robinson said. “I wanted to see the national parks and get inspiration, but I’m not tied to that. I am excited being free to go and do things however God inspires me.”
From now until the opening of the Wendell Foster show, Robinson will be busy. “I’ve got to be really cranking,” he said. “… There will be a range of work. A lot of small pieces and sketches that people can buy, a mixture of old and new, with a lot of new. I’ve got so many things in process.”
Robinson taught art in various ways for 30 years, including many years in public schools. He isn’t exactly sure what’s next. His property on West Fifth Street is for sale.
“The best of my life is ahead and I’m enjoying it,” Robinson said. “My slogan is ‘As long as you are growing you are enjoying life.’ “
As for his gallery, “I’m wide open to God’s direction,” Robinson said. “I’m still open and I want to stay open as long as I can. But I’m not anchored there. I’ve had my experience of having a business…. My biggest reward has always been when I touch someone with my work. My daily passion is to express and connect.”
Steve Vied, 270-691-7297, [email protected]