Healing process becomes work of art for Red Wing womanWhen Tammy Robinson was 13 years old, she was attacked by a young man while on vacation in Italy.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
When Tammy Robinson was 13 years old, she was attacked by a young man while on vacation in Italy.
“I wasn’t ready for that,” she said.
Then, a few years later at a college party, Robinson was drugged and raped by two men.
The attacks sent the Red Wing resident spiraling and eventually led to problems with drugs, alcohol, finances, weight and interpersonal relationships.
“I was empty,” she said. “I could barely function.”
It’s been nearly 37 years, and Robinson has gone through a healing process that includes therapy, counseling and art. The mixed media piece, “Paradise Lost, Paradise Found,” that Robinson created during that process will be displayed around the state as part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Art of Recovery program.
“It’s brought me through the process that I needed to have,” she said.
Robinson grew up in central Minnesota. Her mother was an English teacher, her father a farmer and inventor. It was a world, she said, that encouraged creativity.
“It was just this environment of always thinking, ‘What can I do with this?’” Robinson said.
That imaginative mindset stayed with her into adulthood and encouraged her as an artist. Still, it wasn’t until about two years ago, when friend Julie Devetter asked her to help with a workshop at Red Wing’s Anderson Center, that Robinson considered creating a visual art piece to help her through recovery.
“I’m not sure that I would have realized that without Julie’s help,” Robinson said. “I would not have gone there without the impetus of that workshop.”
The workshop centered on taking small tables and turning them into mixed-media art pieces with the theme of hope and recovery. The pieces were to be placed in local women’s shelters, Alcoholics Anonymous meeting spaces and human services offices.
“Places that need hope and inspiration,” Robinson said.
Still, she hadn’t intended to create a piece telling her story until she was helping Devetter pre-paint the tables the day before the workshop. Something about one table spoke to her.
“I realized as soon as the table was painted that it was probably going to be mine,” Robinson said. “It was solidified the next morning as I was gathering the things at home.”
Robinson had been loading up items from her extensive art supply and knickknack collection to bring to the workshop for others to use.
“I began running across items that seemed to point directly to my own story,” Robinson said.
Old photos of herself as a child, a locket she wore in grade school, snapshots of her mother and grandparents.
Robinson’s finished piece begins her story at her happy childhood, with photos and glitter, to “show how fanciful everything was.” The table then addresses the attacks, and crystals represent Robinson’s tears and pain.
Creating the table was a difficult process for Robinson. She had meant to complete the project during Devetter’s two-day workshop, but she found facing her story to be too much.
“It was just too intense. I couldn’t finish it,” Robinson said. “I had to do more therapy and go through more counseling before I could come to terms with creating the final side.”
She was able to do that last November, putting in place the final objects that represent her recovery: a record for the music-loving friend who pulled her away from destructive actions, a gold wheel spoke for the support from her bike enthusiast husband and a small pearl for herself.
As her piece is put on public display, Robinson admits she’s nervous about having so many personal details exhibited. Still, she hopes it will bring someone else through their own healing process.
“I believe this is the reason a lot of my life has happened,” Robinson said. “It (gave me) compassion for others. And to reach out to others and realize that we’re not in this alone.”
She hopes the table speaks to people.
“Maybe it can help someone else. Maybe they can realize that there’s beauty after the ashes.”
Tammy Robinson’s work will be displayed as part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s eighth annual Art of Recovery program. The exhibition displays works from artists who are victims of abuse, robbery, kidnapping, impaired driving and other crimes.
“The exhibit (is) intended to elevate awareness of victims and their rights,” said DPS spokesman Dennis Smith.
The pieces will be on display in St. Paul until the end of June; after that, they will tour the state.
What: The Art of Recovery
When: Weekdays, April 20–June 29; opening reception, Friday, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Where: Minnesota State Arts Board, 400 Sibley St., St. Paul
More information: www.arts.state.mn.us/aor