Shine On: Nurses in Art

Shine On: Nurses in Art

Howard Chandler Christy, The Spirit of America, 1919 Chromolithograph, Courtesy of the Zanesville Museum of Art, Tami Longaberger Howard Chandler Christy Collection

Through examples of many types of art that span centuries, Shine On (March 20 – June 21, 2015), an exhibition at Columbus Museum of Art, celebrated the invaluable contribution that nurses have made to society. Today’s Covid 19 pandemic underscores the impact nurses have on all of our lives.

The innate capacity of humans to care for one another is fundamental to the practice of nursing and has been demonstrated in art that dates from ancient civilizations the world over. Equally integral to nursing is the much more recent notion that Florence Nightingale called “hard preparation.” That is the practical training, experience, and technical knowledge that is required of nursing professionals in response to the complexity of the human body and efforts to keep it well from birth through the aging process. Shine On brought together art about humans caring for one another, the professionalization of nursing that began in the nineteenth century, and the continuing vital and complex role that nurses play in our world today.

“Shine On,” the title of the exhibition, pays homage to Florence Nightingale, who developed standards and training that became the basis of modern nursing. During the Crimean War (1853-56), she made nightly rounds to care for wounded soldiers and became known as “the lady with a lamp.” Her spirit of service and knowledge “shines on” today as we witness the dedication of nurses worldwide to battle the crisis of the corona virus.

The idea for this exhibition originated with Judith Kimchi-Woods, nurse/administrator at Chamberlain University.

-Carole Genshaft, CMA Curator-at-Large, organized Shine On for CMA.

Happy Birthday, Aminah!

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson was born on February 18, 1940, and would have celebrated her 80th birthday this year. Columbus Museum of Art is proud to be honoring her legacy with a major exhibition and book, Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals (July 10, 2020-January 3, 2021).

CMA has also worked with the Greater Columbus Arts Council to establish the Aminah Robinson Fellowship and Residency. The first recipient of the Fellowship which is open to Columbus African American artists, and the first Residency is open to an African American artist from anywhere in the United States. The artist awarded the Residency, which will be announced in March, will live and work in Aminah’s home in late summer. The renovations to the house, underwritten by a generous grant from The Columbus Foundation, are underway and will preserve Aminah’s spirit and, at the same time, make the house a warm and welcoming place for artists.

Through the exhibition, Fellowship, and Residency, the life and work of one of Columbus’ most prolific artists life will continue to be celebrated and inspire generations to come.

By Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson from the series Folk Costumes from the Blackberry Patch, which will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals.


Carole Genshaft is Curator-at-Large for CMA, and the Curator for the upcoming Raggin’ On exhibition. 

Inspired by Hope: How the Election of President Barack Obama Inspired one of the Last Major Bodies of Work by MacArthur Genius Artist Aminah Robinson

Bo Walking the First Family through the Rose Garden

Bo Walking the First Family through the Rose Garden by Aminah Robinson

Columbus, Ohio artist, and MacArthur Genius grant winner Aminah Robinson said that she received a vision from God to create the art for Aminah’s Presidential Suite, one of the last major bodies of work she produced before her death in 2015. Aminah’s Presidential Suite, now on view at Columbus Museum of Art is a celebration of the election of President Barack Obama. The work embodies the hopefulness in the hearts of Americans, who like Aminah, were proud to witness the election of the country’s first African-American president.

South Carolina Cotton Picker I

South Carolina Cotton Picker I by Aminah Robinson

Robinson began by researching the lives of the Obamas. She did not have a computer, but she read the Columbus Dispatch every day from cover to cover and the New York Times on the weekends. She watched the news on television every day. Once she did the research she determined her subject matter and she began working on watercolors. Simultaneously she began carving a series of woodcuts. She enjoyed the physical strength required to gouge out the wood with a chisel-like tool.

Robinson also began a monumental RagGonNon. A RagGonNon is complex work the artist added to over a long period of time. She believed it was never complete because those viewing it would bring new and different interpretations to it. The heart of this series is a type of work Robinson called “rag paintings.” These collages combine buttons, fabric scraps, and found objects with paint and pen and ink details.

All of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s work is about the bridges, connections, and journeys that link us as human beings— throughout time and place.

Her work is grounded in the belief that we must remember our past, and even more—understand it, and, when appropriate, honor it. Aminah was a strong believer in the African concept of Sankofa— the necessity to remember the past in order to move forward.

Another theme that permeates Aminah’s work is the commonalities that all people share regardless of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, or the language they speak. In 1979, when she visited Africa, she said she had to go all the way there to find Poindexter Village the, the Columbus neighborhood where she grew up. She visited many countries and saw that in each one people were taking care of their families, socializing in the marketplaces, and working to make ends meet just as they do at home.

And Aminah also believed that as people, we don’t just pop up on our own— but rather we are the product of our families, our ancestors, and the communities in which we live.

In Presidential Suite, Aminah focuses on the far-flung communities— Hawaii, Indonesia, Kenya, South Carolina — that have merged to produce President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The subject matter of this work spans generations and links neighborhoods all over the world. The work reflects Aminah’s profound joy in the election of the nation’s first African-American president and, at the same time, her guarded hopefulness that by remembering the injustices of the past, they will not be repeated in the future.

Wings of Our Ancestors by Aminah Robinson

Detail of Wings of Our Ancestors: The Slaves Who Labored and Built the Nation’s Capital in Washington DC, 1783-During the Civil War

One of the most powerful rag paintings in this series is Wings of Our Ancestors which depicts the slaves who were “rented” from their owners to construct the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Aminah’s goal is not only to remember the role that slaves played in building both the Capitol and the White House, but also to honor them and their contribution to erecting these iconic symbols of freedom and liberty.

Michelle Obama in her address to the Democratic National Convention (July 2016) voiced similar sentiments, “The story of this country, [is] …the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”

The election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president filled Aminah Robinson with profound joy, and the guarded hope that by remembering and understanding the past, the future would be one of greater tolerance and justice.

-Carole M. Genshaft is Curator at Large at Columbus Museum of Art

In conjunction with Aminah’s Presidential Suite, CMA presents The Obama Years: A Conversation with former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman on October 27 at 7:00 PM. Seating is limited. Register here.