Q&A with artist Aurora Robson

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Dispatch Photo: Courtney Hergesheimer

This fall, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is showcasing the work of multi-media artist Aurora Robson. But this isn't your typical exhibition of paintings or sculptures: The pieces are made from plastic bottles, packaging and other recycled materials. Capital Style got a sneak peek, and it's pretty impressive. Robson spent several weeks in June at the conservatory working on "The Quality of Mercy," a piece she created with the help of six Columbus College of Art and Design students. Her exhibition, "Sacrifice + Bliss," will be on display from Sept. 9 to April 28, 2013. We had the chance to chat with 40-year-old Robson, who hails from Canada, grew up in Hawaii and now lives in New York City (we call that well-traveled!).

Tell me about the piece you are creating for your exhibition at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

I did some rough sketches on what I could achieve with 1,000 plastic bottles, not really knowing what bottles I would be using. I had 6 students from CCAD (all women) helping me. They started cleaning materials before I got here. Cleaning takes a long time, and it is important for everyone to experience that. And not everyone has the aptitude to cut the plastic. Everything about the piece is local. It's raising awareness and helping people clean up locally. But I don't want to hit people over the head with environmentalism. It has to be art first.

How does your work affect the people who see it?

It talks to people on so many different levels. I like the idea that when people buy my work, it's not about the materials, it's about the process. It's a more contemporary approach.

What inspires you?

I get a lot of inspiration from nature. A lot of artists don't honor nature in their process. I want almost imperceptible change. I want to uplift people and give them a positive space to reflect. I want to take something negative and turn it positive. These are not my bottles, these are everyone's. How do you turn something negative to positive? I think about the properties of light. I work with individuals and teach them personal power. We have power and freedom on how to think about things. Every decision you make has consequences.

-Heather Weekley, @heather_weekley