Kathy Robb’s MFA Exhibition Journey: An Artist’s Full Metamorphosis


Representing the parallels between humans and other animal species in her anthropomorphic sculptures, Kathy Robb reveals a personal connection to animals and nature through her ceramic art. A step into the Moss-Thorns Gallery this month will transport viewers into a forest-like expanse of Human Nature, and reading the words of Robb’s thesis and biography provided at the entrance is imperative to the experience. 

Robb’s relationship to animals and the natural environment can only truly be conveyed best in her own words and artworks as she guides her audience through the exhibit. 

“You wonder about the backgrounds of people who don’t share their food,” she says, describing the inspiration for one of her works, “maybe they came up with a very large family. Where food was very short, there was never enough food, or they were always at the end of the line of getting enough food.” 

Analyzing the instinctive tendencies of animals allows Robb to reflect on how similar behaviors manifest and impact her own experience with humans. She goes on to describe the process of shifting thought she often goes through in creating these works.

“I was realizing as I was making it, which usually happens, there’s more to it. I’m like that about my tools for sculpture, just not food,” Robb said. “But I’ve never been in that position where I’ve had to want for food, so that’s maybe why I can’t relate to those people.” 

Much like people, Robb’s work has multiple layers of personality. Using symbolism in the intricacies of the animals’ poses or the cat paws and human face of a tree, she combined multiple works into one diorama to tell a story. 

In talking about her work titled Storing Treasures, which represents the human urge to collect objects, Robb said, “I put a piece of jewelry in there. That was the human element that I put in that piece because I have a thing for jewelry and I have more than I need.” 

By describing the story of the more humorous side of her work in the diorama, she continues, “to make it more of an installation, I made these three [squirrels] and I like this one the most. This is Dumbfounded, because he’s saying ‘I ain’t ever seen a tree like that.’ Here’s Stretch, he’s found a piece of bread so he’s good, he’s happy. And since I’m an older individual I know these ladies who will say ‘I’m over here!’ so that was the inspiration.”

Robb holds strong in her belief that wild animals deserve to run free out in untamed nature. That’s why her realistic animal sculptures are displayed using dioramas of natural materials like rocks and dry plants. 

“Eleven five gallon buckets later,” she said about the rocks surrounding the tree and squirrel diorama, “that’s how much it took. And then I made three three trips to Linda Ganstrom’s farmhouse to get wood.” 

When asked about how long the setup process took, she said it look longer due to making the project as it went along.

“I only had so much room and I had to wait for some of the stuff to dry and get somebody to help me move it before I could even start another one,” she said.  

Something unexpected that Robb noted was the financial toll the whole process took on her as well, 

“It was quite expensive to do,” she said, “but I just kept going and going. It was draining me, so I’d have to figure out where I’m gonna get some more money to complete it. I even refinanced my car and I should have taken the higher amount,” she described in earnest. 

Overall, the enthusiasm for her works and accomplishments shined through in her presentation of each piece. When asked about her feelings on the overall exhibition she replied, “I’m happy with the way it turned out,” yet as if she hadn’t just spent the last six months or so working every single day, including weekends, on her artworks, the artist humbly continued, saying, “I wish I had more pieces but the crocodile took me two months so time got eaten up and you can only work so long, and then you’re tired and if you keep going you’re gonna mess up and it’ll cost you more time in the end,” which is some crucial advice for any fellow artists and perfectionists out there.

Before parting ways,Robb mentioned the significance of the butterfly in her exhibition. 

“Well that’s who I am now,” she said, describing what her piece, Becoming A Butterfly, represented for her and the exhibition. 

The butterfly, beautiful in the nature of its final form, represents the journey of rebirth. From egg, to larva, to pupa, to adult; butterflies mature through stages of life much like that of humans. Despite the fact that it was the first piece she made upon returning back to school after isolation, Robb described this as somewhat of a culmination piece, or the pinnacle, of her journey. 

“What this process did was take me from an introvert to a social butterfly and that’s what this piece was about.” 

Find out more about Kathy Robb and her thesis of Human Nature by visiting the Moss-Thorns Gallery by Feb 23 or by clicking the links to her website and further readings below.

Further readings:



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