Art Saint Louis' "Human Touch" Exhibit Artists Q&A Series One

By Roxanne Phillips

We are pleased to offer a new series of interviews featuring artists whose works are featured in our new virtual exhibit, "Human Touch" (November 15-December 15, 2020). You can also view all of the featured artworks and learn about the artists in our exhibition Facebook album here.

We proudly introduce you to featured artists Marilyn Robinson and Sarah Cannon.


This work is featured in the Art Saint Louis virtual exhibition, “Human Touch" exhibit: Marilyn Robinson, St. Louis, MO. “Seeking Solace in Butterfly Garden.” 2020. Mixed Media (Paper, Textured Gels, Glass Beads, Acrylic, Metal, Wire, Plastic) Collage on Canvas, 20”x16”. $575 framed.
Artist’s statement: Being bombarded for several months with combative, partisan politics and horrific daily news, regarding COVID-19 virus deaths and hospitalizations, I discovered that I was able to somewhat nullify my stress and experience a sense of peace and solace by creating new artworks. Depicting peaceful compositions, such as someone experiencing solitude in a butterfly garden, was particularly relaxing and gratifying.

This work is featured in the Art Saint Louis virtual exhibition, “Human Touch”: Marilyn Robinson, St. Louis, MO. “Glam & Travel: on Pause.” 2020. Mixed Media (Paper, Textured Gels, Glass Beads, Acrylic, Metal, Wire, Plastic) Collage on Canvas, 20”x16”. $575 framed.
Artist’s statement: I absolutely love to travel, and occasionally attend special events, where you have to add a little glamour to your wardrobe. By creating this mixed-media collage, I somewhat channeled my distress with the travel and social distancing limitations that we all have to endure in order to help prevent the spread of the COVD-19 virus. A few months without seeing my family and 6 great grandchildren, would have been tolerable, however, 8 months has been truly disruptive to my idyllic retirement. However, feeling blessed with no illnesses, so far, I decided to put my energy into creating new artworks.

About the artist
: Marilyn L. Robinson is a self-taught mixed-media artist and photographer. With her intense African-American cultural interests, and love of nature’s beauty, Robinson creates artworks in fine art photography, acrylic paintings, and mixed-media. She prefers printing her photographic images on canvas and often enhances them by combining acrylic paints, wire, textured gels, beads, paper, and fabric, to create particularly unique abstract compositions.Robinson’s formal education and professional experiences are in the field of sociology. She earned a BA in Social Welfare; MSW in Clinical Social Work; and EdD in Human Services Administration. After a highly successful professional career, she retired in 2010, and is now able to devote full time to her artistic lifelong passion and 50 -ear hobby of creating unique fine art, multi-media artworks.

Robinson was a 2013 recipient of the Artist Support Grant from the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission and participated in the 2014 “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” a St. Louis city- and county-wide, multi-gallery exhibit featuring 100 national artists. Marilyn’s works have been exhibited at Art Saint Louis, The St. Louis Artists Guild, Phillip Slein Gallery, Edwardsville Art Center, Salon 53, Portfolio Art Gallery, 10th Street Gallery, Vaughn Cultural Center, Old Orchard Gallery, 14th Street Gallery, St. Louis Development Corp., St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, Art in Transit/Metro, Jacoby Art Gallery, Manchester Arts, Chesterfield Arts, Framations Art Gallery, Missouri Athletic Club, the Griot Museum of Black History, The Black Rep, Leedy Voulkos Art Center, and Hannibal Arts Council

Marilyn L. Robinson. "Nubian Princess.” 2020.  Mixed Media Collage on Canvas, framed 24”x18”. $725.

Roxanne Phillips: Describe your artistic process/technique.
Marilyn Robinson: I like to explore and expand my creativity by experimenting with various types of media. While I enjoy photographing flora and cultural compositions, that level of creativity, for me, became somewhat boring. Since I have most of my fine art photos printed on canvas, I began to think of ways to enhance the images with acrylic paints, beads, threads, textiles, paper, textured gels, trinkets, and other items. After visualizing how a particular photo or paper image, might look with enhancements, I start experimenting and continue until the artwork evolves into what I am pleased with creating. With abstracts, I usually want to see how certain colors and hues blend to create something exciting, vibrant, and unique. Usually the title of an abstract art piece is determined by the end results. I also enjoy listening to Motown classic oldies music, while creating art, because the music energizes me and boosts my creativity.

Marilyn L. Robinson. "Femme de Elegance.” 2020. Mixed Media Collage on Canvas, framed, 28”x20”. $775.

RP: What was your art career path?
MR: Creating art was my hobby for 55+ years. In 2010, I retired from my professional career as a Clinical Social Worker and Administrator. I always knew that when I retired, I would take my art hobbies to another level, and I have been fortunate enough to achieve that goal. Over the years, I took art classes, attended art workshops, and acquired an extensive, self-teaching arts book collection. With pretty good health, motivation, a supportive husband, retirement savings, and acceptance by the St. Louis Art community,  I have been able to achieve my goal of becoming a full time artist.

Marilyn L. Robinson. "Great River Canyon.” 2020. Acrylic on Canvas, framed, 16”x20”. $495.

Artist Marilyn Robinson.

RP: What qualities attract you to other artists' works?
: I enjoy works that have artistic details and are vibrant and colorful. I am particularly drawn to, and appreciate artists, who are able to visually articulate various aspects of African-American culture, from a warm and positive perspective.

Marilyn L. Robinson. "Cultural Compositions: Nature, Faces, & Masks-New Orleans.” 2019. Mixed Media Collage on Gallery-Wrapped Canvas, 40"x30”. $850.

Marilyn L. Robinson. "Deep Sea Flora.” 2019. Mixed Media on Canvas, 14”x11”. $425.

RP: What is most challenging about St. Louis to your art & artistic career?
MR: I really wish that St. Louis had a more robust art collectors and buyers market for original artworks by local artists. Also, St. Louis artists might greatly benefit from a vibrant, art district like Kansas City, and other urban areas where art collectors frequently visit, socialize, and purchase original art.

Marilyn L. Robinson. "Grandma's Crazy Quilt.” 2020. Mixed Media Collage on Gallery-Wrapped Canvas, 40”x30”. $950.

RP: What is your preferred way to exhibit and sell your art?
MR: From a financial perspective, I prefer to sell directly to an art patron/collector who has seen my artistic creations on my website or in my home gallery. From an exposure and art community socialization perspective, I prefer to exhibit and sell art in virtual and land based art galleries. At gallery exhibitions, I enjoy seeing other artists works and discussing creative processes and  challenges and remedies, with other artists.

Marilyn Robinson in her St. Louis studio.

Marilyn Robinson at work in her studio.

RP: What would be your dream studio?
MR: I enjoy the convenience of creating art in my home studio because my motivation and creativity is sometimes sporadic. When I get in the mood to create, I can work as long as I want to. However, my optimal dream gallery/studio would be a place to work, exhibit, and sell art,  through a collaborative, or a partnership with 3 or 4 other artists, who co-own an art gallery, in a high traffic area, or located in an art district with several art galleries. In the spring of 2020, I was exploring these possibilities when the pandemic put a halt to moving forward with this potential project.

St. Louis-based multi-media artist Marilyn Robinson.

Learn more about
Marilyn Robinson: and and


This work is featured in the Art Saint Louis virtual exhibition, “Human Touch”: Sarah Cannon, Chesterfield, MO. “Oh, How We Need Each Other.” 2020. Oil on Masonite, 6”x6”. NFS.
Artist’s statement: This dear friend has always seemed to know this truth well- that we need each other! I met her when I was a young mother, and from the moment we connected, she has encouraged and inspired me. Now on the other side of the globe, she continues to build community and connection. Personally, I have embraced the new "Covid rhythm" of less scheduling and activities, as I'm a bit of an introvert. But I have also come to appreciate the different relationships I do have, and treasure them a little more. Without a doubt, we all need each other!

This work is featured in the Art Saint Louis virtual exhibition, “Human Touch”: Sarah Cannon, Chesterfield, MO. “Solitary Jig.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 12”x17”. $500 unframed.
Artist’s statement: This little Irish dancer appears all alone. Around her feet ripple the beauty and intricacy of her footwork, reaching out and delighting her audience. Her face connects with her viewers, expressing the joy and confidence that come from all her hard work and practice. Coming back towards her is the influence of her teacher, the camaraderie of her fellow dancers, and the energy of the encouraging audience.
The performing arts have had to get a little creative this year. For months, my daughter danced in our makeshift studio, staring into a little virtual screen. The music that once pulsated though the big room now filtered through a tiny speaker. Certainly there is no substitute for live instruction or performance, but it's been inspiring to see the passion and ingenuity that teachers have shared with their students.

About the artist: Art has always been a part of Sarah Cannon’s life, but she put it on hold to focus on being a full-time mother for the past 14 years. In January of this year, she started painting with oils again, inspired by the people and places she loves. Sarah graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelors of Art in 2005 with a painting emphasis. Originally from Northern Virginia, she has been lucky to call St. Louis home for over a decade.

Artist Sarah Cannon.

Roxanne Phillips: What do you find most challenging/rewarding about the creative process?
Sarah Cannon: Making time and space for my art is the most difficult hurdle for me right now. But I think the resistance actually drives me to create more; I need it for my sanity! I have a folder of photos on my phone that I keep for inspiration. Most of them are snaps from road trips or old pictures of our kids. I’ll often flip through them and see what grabs me for another painting. It’s always fun to reminisce and bring those places and old memories back to life!

Sarah Cannon. "Grafted In.” 2008. Watercolor on Paper, 2008, image size 7"x8”. $100.

Sarah Cannon. "Colorado Hills.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 12"x16”. $300.

RP: What was it that first prompted your career/activity as an artist?
SC: Last Christmas, I gifted my husband some oil painting lessons with local artist Elizabeth Moreland. We ended up taking classes together, and it was such a fun experience! It gave me practical insights on how to make a small studio work in my own home, just using what I had. I left my first lesson with a passion reignited. I dug out my oil paints, found an old photo that I had wanted to paint forever, and got started. Our lessons continued, and she gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going.

Sarah Cannon. "Colorado Canyon.” 2020. Oil on Cradled Wood Panel, 24"x24." $750.

RP: What was your career path? How did you get from being an aspiring artist to doing it?
SC: It’s funny, I have always wanted to be an artist, and I guess I am just stubborn enough to have stuck with it. I grew up in the DC area, and had amazing opportunities to develop that interest as a child and teenager. I was fortunate enough to study art at Brigham Young University, earning my bachelors in fine arts with an emphasis in oil painting.

Parallel to this lifelong dream was a desire to be a mother. I was young when my husband and I became parents- just shy of 23! We moved here to St Louis just a year later. It has taken me some time to find my rhythm as a mother, an active member of my community, and as an occasional homeschooler.

I found my way back to my art at the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic hit. My youngest was almost four, and I was suddenly given the gift of time to start pursuing other interests again. I had dabbled a little with my art through the years, doing a few pieces for our home, several commissions for friends, and some gifts for extended family. I almost always used acrylics or watercolors because they dry fast and are easy to clean up, important qualities when you have several little ones running afoot! When I started painting again this year, I dusted off my oil paints and just got to it. It’s been a fun year of exploration, and I feel like I’m developing a voice of my own, which is exciting!

Sarah Cannon. "Timpanogos.” 2011. Acrylic on Cradled Board, 8”x8”. $200.

RP: What is it about your preferred medium that you enjoy the most?
SC: I love the richness and depth of oils. I love how forgiving they are when I’m experimenting with a piece. I’m not much of a planner- I wish I was! Generally I like to find my inspiration and just start painting, tweaking things as I go and seeing where it takes me.

I will do watercolors when I want to finish something quick, or want less of a formal outcome. They’re a good exercise for me!

Sarah Cannon. "Griselda’s.” 2020. Watercolor on Paper, 2020, 6.5"x9”. NFS.

RP: Why do you make art?
SC: I make art to express feelings. Often the subjects I choose are quite literal, but I’ve come to embrace the nostalgic, reflective strokes that naturally come from my hands. I make art to connect with others. I’m not a great oral communicator, but art helps me relate some of the deepest parts of me that I find worth sharing.

Sarah Cannon. "Potomac Sunset.” 2020. Oil on Masonite Panel, 5"x7”. $75.

RP: What is it that you are most eager to convey through your art/ how do you want the viewer to receive or interpret or your art?
SC: It might sound a little cliche, but I believe we as humans we crave the beauty of the natural world and never tire of unchanging, universal truths. I hope viewers find some stillness in this increasingly chaotic world through my art.

I also hope to convey a universality of the human condition. I belong to the world’s largest women’s organization connected with my church. Its’ motto is “charity never faileth,”or in short, showing pure love for all people through word and action. As I’ve served alongside other women in my community, I have found commonalities and friendships in all walks of life and backgrounds. We all have so much more in common than not!

My senior project in college also dealt with human connection but with ancestors who have passed on. It was a series of still lifes featuring clothing titled ‘Remnants.' It portrayed pieces of clothing that captured the lives of some of my ancestors, as tangible portraits of what they left behind.

Sarah Cannon. "Julian.” 2005. Oil on Cradled Panel, 24"x24”. $500.

RP: What is your preferred way to exhibit and sell your art?
SC: I’m definitely learning as I go! Right now, I just have an Instagram account where I share my art, but my goal for the coming year is to start a website and list pieces there. I would also love to start selling in galleries; nothing beats seeing artwork in person!

Sarah Cannon. "Christmas Vest.” 2005. Oil on Cradled Wood Panel, 24"x24”. $500.

RP: What is the biggest challenge with being an artist and juggling all life throws at you?
SC: I am currently set up in a little well-lit corner of my dining room (turned homeschool room- we’re back at it this year!). While I do have space to spread out in our large, unfinished basement, I crave the natural light and high trafficked area to keep inspiration fresh and ideas flowing throughout my busy days. So far, this set-up has been adequate. It’s also constantly littered with my children’s creative projects, which is both delightful and maddening. If and when my kids all go back to school next year (here’s hoping!), I’m excited to get in there and use this space a bit more efficiently and frequently.

Sarah Cannon's home studio.

Sarah Cannon's home studio.

RP: Describe your dream studio.
SC: I’d love a studio shed/cottage in my backyard, where I can remove myself from the distractions of daily life. I can envision lots of plants both inside and out, tons of natural light, and plenty of space to hang inspiration and works in progress. I can also see making this work in our dining room with some French doors, which is probably a much more practical option for now. Who needs a dining room these days?

Sarah Cannon. "Monet Study.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 11"x14”. $200.

RP: What qualities attract you to other artists’ works?
SC: I follow a ton of artists on Instagram, and they’re all pretty varied. I love a good landscape! Denys Gorodnychyi is an artist from Ukraine, and I honestly can’t get enough of his loose brushstrokes, gorgeous compositions, and masterful use of color and value. I enjoy figurative work that conveys personality and connection. Colby Sanford is a fairly young artist who does this masterfully. I also follow a few geometric abstraction painters who pack deep layers of meaning into their painstakingly detailed and layered works. Paige Anderson is definitely one to follow for that!

Chesterfield, MO-based artist Sarah Cannon.

Learn more about Sarah Cannon: 

Roxanne Phillips is an artist and art educator based in St. Louis since 2001. She earned a MFA in Printmaking & Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis and BFA in Painting & Drawing from University of North Texas. Roxanne is an adjunct art instructor at Washington University in St. Louis and has worked with Art Saint Louis since 2017 as Administrative Assistant and Installer. From 2018-2020 she was Master Printer for Pele Prints. Her works have been featured in numerous exhibitions throughout the St. Louis region including at Art Saint Louis, Crossroads Art Studio & Gallery, and St. Louis Artists’ Guild. Her work is currently available at Union Studio in St. Louis. She has served as exhibit Juror for several regional exhibits & art fairs. Roxanne is past Board member of St. Louis Women’s Caucus for Art.


Anonymous said…
I have thoroughly enjoyed this art exhibit, and I feel uplifted by the experience. I'm amazed at the detail and creativity of each of the artist's. I can only begin to imagine the thought and expertise required to produce these amazing works of art. Thank you for making this virtual exhibit possible. GRB