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Life and Work with Robin MacDonald-Foley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robin MacDonald-Foley.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Robin MacDonald-Foley. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Enrolling in high school at the Quincy Vocational Technical School, my early childhood interest in art solidified during my time in the Commercial/Graphic Art program under the guidance of Sol Levenson. The lead instructor, Sol would remain my art teacher, friend, and mentor for decades; he remains my strongest influence. After completing high school, Sol invited me back into the school’s post-grad studio for studies focused on painting and building a portfolio. Another major step for me was acceptance to the Art Institute of Boston (AIB), a small private school in Boston’s Kenmore Square. Painting, sculpting, and drawing from live models throughout the program provided a strong foundation for my figurative work. My studies at AIB also included a materials class where I learned to forge and hammer out beautiful and useful steel objects on the anvil. Progressing to stone carving, all work was done with tools made by my own hand. Majoring in painting, the inclusion of stone studies led to exciting new challenges and formed the basis for a duality in my artistic identity that has continued throughout my life and career as an artist.

Much later, AIB would merge into the Lesley University system, and I returned, receiving a BFA in Fine Arts. For several years, I maintained a sculpture and painting studio in Rockland, Mass, before relocating temporarily to California to care for my father. Living in the west, the canyons, mountains, and endless vistas inspired many small paintings. After suffering a badly broken arm, I accepted a residency for stone carving in Colorado. Working extremely hard to gain back strength in my right hand, my time carving in the heart of the Rocky Mountains was incredible – loved every moment! Obstacles are part of life – I’ve got passion, resiliency, and a variety of art forms to keep me happy.

Eventually, returning to New England, I currently work with seniors, families, and children, teaching art in the Mission Hill area of Boston. Working in a diverse community of all ages is enriching on so many levels. It means a great deal to the residents in this urban setting to have a big variety of programs. I’m grateful for the opportunity and consider the Mission Hill neighborhood my second home.

Has it been a smooth road?
There were many obstacles. During the turbulent 1970s, my mom passed away from breast cancer leaving behind a young family. My dad relocated to California and the family scattered between coasts. A rough period. Opting to remain near Boston, I graduated college with high honors while living on my own and supporting myself, working three jobs. I’m also a two-time breast cancer survivor. After treatment, I volunteered in the Creative Arts program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That period of time taught me a lot about life, death, compassion, and acceptance. Working alongside patients undergoing chemotherapy, setting up full palettes of paint bedside was incredibly healing for them and me. This experience helped give me the strength to overcome permanent nerve function damage which resulted from my broken arm. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s been all the people I’ve met who have cared for me, in turn, I was able to give back.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with your business – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’m a multi-faceted artist working out of a home-based studio – mostly outdoors. Trained as a painter, my art has evolved in several bodies of work – natural for an artist creating over a long period of time. My carvings and photographic works on paper have been well received in many national exhibitions. Early on, I showcased my figurative works in a series of acrylic paintings depicting cyclists in motion, highlighting my time spent racing bicycles, (a big part of my lifestyle) and putting that action to paint. During my arm rehabilitation, unable to sculpt or paint, photography and long walks became a source of healing and creative time. Most recently I’ve turned to softer stones for carving, a bit easier on the hands. Colors, textures and translucent qualities are varied and quite beautiful. I still work in marble and limestone and found stone as well. Carving is a labor of love requiring long hours. Using a direct approach (no model), for me is a way to feel the stones natural shape and go with it. I’ve been spending time on the Boston Harbor Islands, a place I’ve visited since childhood. Noting erosion and tide levels that continue to threaten our coasts, I observe, document, and store thoughts whenever I see something unusual. Abstractions call attention to these shifts, some of my favorite works are along this vein. My return to painting is also just a matter of timing. Art is never-ending. I love the mystery of the unknown.

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
I struggled with this early in life, believing girls should be allowed to do anything they wanted. I was a bit of a tomboy and loved sports but unable to participate in many programs because they simply were not available to girls. Our society has progressed a long way since then, with more opportunities for women both in the arts as well as athletics. I often think about my former art teacher, my mentor, not only an excellent educator but always there for his students in art and life. I’d like to think I too am making a difference. It keeps my heart hopeful for future generations.

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Robin MacDonald-Foley

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