Inspired by Cycladic fertility icons, early Byzantine paintings, and folk art, Robin Grebe’s figures serve as a canvas or setting for her narratives. Through these elegant and often autobiographical cast glass busts, she explores the universal quest to understand the directions our lives. Imagery from the natural world represents peaceful beauty, but also speaks to uncharted territory and the unknown. Using birds and plants as metaphors for mythic flight, spirituality, the intangible, and nature’s uncontrollable forces, Grebe transforms her personal search into a shared exploration.
She says: “I have always worked figuratively; in some ways my sculptures are autobiographical. They help me process my thoughts, ideas and changes in life. The sculptures usually incorporate images from the natural world. These images serve as a metaphor to both our fragility as well as our resilience in our personal/emotional/spiritual world and in the larger world itself.”
Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1957, Grebe earned her MFA in Ceramics/Glass from Tyler School of Art, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and BFA in Ceramics from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts. She has taught glass and ceramics at the Massachusetts College of Art and Pilchuck Glass School, among others. Her exhibitions and collections include the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Japan, the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Lowe Museum, Miami, Florida, and the Tucson Museum of Art in Tucson, Arizona, to name a few.
One of the things Grebe loves most about making her sculptures is working wet clay to make her sculptural form. She builds a plaster mold around that clay form, and once it has hardened, peels the clay out of the mold and fills the cavity with chunks of colored glass. It then gets fired in a kiln to melt the glass into the cavity. Once cooled the mold is chipped off the glass sculpture. The glass is then ground, sanded and polished into its final form.
Using cast glass, ceramic glazes, and transparent enamels, Grebe creates her monolithic and allegorical human forms, which seem simultaneously fragile and strong. To her, they illustrate the paradoxes of human life. Recent exhibitions of this work include a 2019 solo show at Habatat Gallery, West Palm Beach, Florida, and the group show, In Her Voice: Influential Women in Glass, held at the Sandwich Art Museum, Sandwich, Massachusetts, in 2021.