Downtown design prodigy turned art lover shows off her latest creations

Downtown design prodigy turned art lover shows off her latest creations

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Serving as the epitome of the term “unsung hero”, costume designer and experimental artist Robin Newland has always done her best behind the curtain. Spending the late ’80s honing his craft while working under design titan Patricia Field, rubbing shoulders with Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, and sitting down for portraits by iconic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Newland’s artistry was fueled by the quirky characters that orbit its world. And while for the past two decades she’s kept a low profile by remaining the industry’s best-kept secret, the art lover is ready to step into the spotlight with a new perspective – the perspective of ‘a doll. Getting ready for his next solo exhibition (A doll’s perspective), Newland reconnects with her mentor Patricia Field to reflect on her roots in design and the next chapter in her art.

Read the exclusive interview below!

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Patricia field: It’s been so many years and we’re still connected but it all started a long time ago. what was that? The 80s or 90s?

Robin Newland: It was the 80s. I walked down the street into your shop and you gave me my first job. I remember I had a pair of shorts cut off from a thrift store. It was actually the stylist, Michael Patterson, who orchestrated the whole thing. He called me into your shop and said “Pat will love you, she will give you work”. And of course I went, you were a bit busy as usual… not much changed (Laughs) but I waited. I remember saying “I need a job” and you said “When can you start?” At the time, I could only work weekends because I was still in high school, but it worked perfectly because someone was needed to work the makeup counter on Saturdays and Sundays. And the rest was history!

PF: The rest was history! I can’t believe you were still in high school.

NR: After that day, all of a sudden, I was immersed in your whole world of feathers, pink polka dots and stripes. I became part of your family of punk rock people who ran into Stephen Sprouse (Laughs). Our connection was what got me into costume design and styling. From the time I lived with you on my way to Parsons, to when you hooked me up with Barbara Dente for my first assistant job…all of those things have been instrumental in my career. This is why I am able to create the art that I do today. I think a major lesson I learned over the years watching you was to be true to yourself and dance to the beat of your own drum.

PF: Thanks Robin. And you know I always say, “As long as I’ve been a positive influence on you, I’m happy.” And if there was a place in this industry for me, I wanted to make sure you had that place too.

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NR: It definitely rippled through everything you’ve done, not just me. Whether it’s supporting David Dalrymple by carrying him around your shop or buying all the fabric for the Andre Walker fashion show I attended. The work we all do to this day is rooted in the experiences we have had working with you.

PF: And now you’re about to have your first solo exhibition?

NR: Yes! My first solo exhibition is called, A doll’s perspective opens at Village Works Gallery in July. I will unveil a new piece; shenanigans.

PF: What inspired the piece? And how about who led you to this art form

NR: shenanigans was inspired by my many summers in Cherry Grove, Fire Island. In this particular photograph, each doll is an expression of complete freedom and being comfortable with her sexuality. I find that much of my work is inspired by [inhibited] artists like Tom of Finland and George Quaintance.

PF: How did you discover art coming from a fashion background?

NR: I have to say it’s actually the other way around. I started styling and creating characters with my dolls at a young change. As we got older, the stories and themes surrounding the dolls of course changed, and [aged] with me. Costume design and styling therefore came naturally to me as I always had my dolls to fall back on and creating my world of dolls gives me total creative freedom. It gives me the space to tell stories, what I want to tell, and how I want to tell them!

In the 80s, my second internship was at Art et Industrie, a gallery in SoHo. I worked under the founder, Rick Kaufman. He had a philosophy of mixing art forms like sculpture, architecture, painting and creating functional yet radical furniture. This philosophy has accompanied me throughout my career and this perspective has allowed me to integrate my studies of interior design with that of costume designer and stylist… all of which leads to this art form.

A Doll’s Perspective opens at Village Works Gallery (90 E 3rd St Suite B, New York, NY 10003) on July 21, 2022.


Makeup Lanier Long

Hairstyle Davey Matthew

Producer: Gary Robinson (The Constellation Artists)

Special thanks: Ruth Brooks / Klavdja Roc / Amanda Wheen

Featured artwork “Shenanigans” by Robin Newland (dolls photographed from the Robin NEWLAND doll collection, Mattel Turquoise 1957 Bel Air convertible doll car custom painted by Kenny Scharf)