BROOKLYN, NY – 440 Gallery is pleased to host the independent exhibition In the Vortex: My Trauma Chronicles, a solo exhibition of a series of collages by Robin Epstein. These 36 works on paper were created in an art therapy studio to represent Epstein’s personal experiences of workplace and other trauma. This graphic memoir tells a story using original drawings and language; found images from fairy tales and modern popular culture; and photographs documenting Epstein’s former East Village women’s theater company. Through storytelling and symbolic language, including Peter Levine’s concept of the trauma vortex, Epstein explores her journey through the frightening and ominous world of trauma. The movement out of the vortex and toward healing is symbolized by Dorothy’s red shoes from The Wizard of Oz.
Epstein writes about her work:
“I have been a visual artist for 50 years, creating well over a thousand paintings and drawings. During that time, I also had a 29-year career at NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services. In this show, I bring my two careers together for the first time to make art in an explicit way about my years at ACS.
I began at ACS as a caseworker and worked my way up to manager. During the early years, the agency’s mission was clear: to serve the best interests of the children. But things changed during the economic recession following 9/11, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his ACS Commissioner sought to save money by closing group homes and residential treatment centers for foster children.
In my collage series, the story begins during the era of downsizing the foster care system. I thought the closings would harm the city’s most vulnerable children, and I refused to comply with the new mission. As a result, I soon lost my role in the agency. The Commissioner took extreme measures to force me to comply. I ended up with complex PTSD.
In art therapy, I made a few crayon drawings of my boss from Hell. My art therapist helped me realize that I could use art-making to reclaim my past through a retelling of my experience. I saw collage as the way to do that.
I started out with my job as the focus of the story, but as I went on, I found other parts of my life that I needed to talk about. A government-sponsored mental health program for 9/11 survivors had prescribed addictive drugs not intended for people with PTSD. A former collaborator had become a destructive force. My older brother and I had been like Hansel and Gretel.
In attempting to deal with complex PTSD, I’ve delved into different healing modalities: Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, Gestalt Pastoral Care, art therapy. And, of course, making art.”
Robin Epstein learned open-air acrylic painting at SUNY Stony Brook in the 1970s, where she graduated in 1976 with a BA in Art. From 1975 to 1981, Robin studied drawing with artist Fay Spahn. Through their work together, Robin greatly expanded her technical skills with pencil and other mediums and began experimenting with the interpretation of objects in space. She went on to apply these techniques to the subject matter that interested her––nature and particularly trees. From 1977 to 1980, Robin painted daily in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Robin has been active in theater as well. In 1980, she and Dorothy Cantwell co-founded More Fire! Productions, a New York women’s theater group. Working with a wide range of performers and aesthetic styles, More Fire! included lesbians and straight women, professional actors as well as non-professionals. The productions were avant-garde, comic, and highly visual, fusing elements from Grotowski’s experimental theater with American popular culture and satires of the East Village lesbian and theater scenes, American politics, and the performers’ own lives. Throughout the 1980s, Robin co-wrote, directed, and performed in all of the company’s plays; she also designed and made sets and props, painted the scenery, created pop music soundtracks, and even wrote songs.
The views and opinions expressed in this exhibition are those of the artist and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of 440 Gallery or any of its members.
Contact: For press and sales inquiries related to this independently hosted exhibition, including interviews, please contact the artist Robin Epstein directly, at (929) 204-8090.
More information: https://440gallery.com/