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The Connection

The award-winning news site of Cosumnes River College

The Connection

Art professor displays California diversity in exhibit

Seth Henderson
‘Golden Hills’, by Cosumnes River College Art Department Chair and Professor Robin Johnson is displayed near the front doors of the Art Gallery. Johnson said, ‘Golden Hills’ is made up of 500 used horseshoes, representing the expectation of life truly being built on hard work and labor.

Art Department Chair and Professor Robin Johnson said she is honored to be at Cosumnes River College sharing her art exhibition with the community and constantly feels the collective support on campus.

Two paintings mounted side-by-side titled, “Back Bay, 2022” and “Leadbetter, 2023,” represented the California experience during the August Complex Fires of 2021. Each painting portrayed a bare coastal landscape covered in an orange, hazy glow. One painting was of an empty Newport Beach in Orange County and the other was of a quiet beach in Santa Barbara.

“Much of this work in the exhibition talks about how we treat the environment and how that kind of parallels gender experiences,” Johnson said. “And so, it’s interesting that these spaces are so desolate and a little bit eerie because they’re usually just so full of people outside, but at the same time there is also a beauty in that.”

Johnson is a southern California native from Encinitas, who grew up with a passion for art, surfing and snowboarding, she said. She is a first generation college student who graduated with her master’s in fine arts and painting from the Laguna College of Art and Design, with a minor in graphic design.

Twenty-one-year-old studio art and graphic design major Phin Nguyen said she was one of Johnson’s first students and can tell Johnson is passionate about her art, as well as her teaching.

“She’s creating big opportunities for us art students. Like, usually we don’t get those,” Nguyen said. “We’re really, like, lucking out with having her here.”

Nguyen said she would love for Johnson to be her mentor as she furthers her art education at San Jose State University.

“I cannot find anyone who could do that better,” Nguyen said.

Johnson said her background in graphic design informs the way she thinks. She said she decided to enter the action-sports industry and become a designer. She received her associate’s degree at a school called Colorado Mountain College.

“For me, it’s just really exciting,” Johnson said. “You know, I talk about this being kind of this homecoming and being able to put all this work together after all these years and all these moves, and kind of change it. And these things just have been in my mind or I’ve been working on them slowly and put it all together.”

The exhibit is a compilation of ideas that have been in her mind and projects she has been slowly working on, reflecting her experiences in California, Johnson said. She said her masters program pushed her to explore different avenues of art, which led to teaching.

Johnson said she has taught at multiple colleges across the country, worked in multiple industries, including Quicksilver as an intern and is glad to be a part of the thriving art community in northern California.

Hao Kieu, a 25-year-old studio arts major, said he has been back in school for a year and has attended one of Johnson’s classes every semester. Kieu is a studio assistant for the gallery this semester.

“Her teaching style happens to work well with my learning style, which is giving me little bits of information that I’m ready for and then letting me explore on my own a lot,” Kieu said.

Johnson said her graphic design background influences her creation process and how she thinks about the dialogue of her work’s finished product. She said the exhibition is a compilation of concepts about coming back to California and how the experiences she’s had relate to each other.

The layout of the exhibit, Johnson said, is a key component to guide the viewer through the artist’s thought process. She said she has traveled a lot in her life and has always had an interest in different cultures, interior design, text and topography.

“If you read the statement, it relates back, that our experiences in California sometimes fall on the difference between chance or luck,” Johnson said. “And how those things can play the most important role in how we experience anything or our lives as a whole.”

Johnson said the art work’s interpretation is up to the viewer and has no distinguishing message between beauty and destruction.

A sculpture of 500 horseshoes rests near the entrance of the art studio titled, “Golden Hills.”

“You think of California, you have this expectation of life, these golden hills, but it’s built on hard work and labor,” Johnson said.

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About the Contributor
Seth Henderson
Seth Henderson, Editor in Chief
Seth Henderson is the Editor-in-Chief for The Connection. He decided to join the Connection because he wants to become a reporter and broadcaster, hoping to work in Las Vegas for the Raiders and the NFL. He was grew up in the Bay Area and is passionate about journalism, music and sports.

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