I Thought I Saw the Light
Saturday, September 7
8 – 11p
September 7 – 27
Friday, September 27
8 – 10p
Stay Gallery is pleased to present I Thought I Saw the Light, a solo photography exhibition featuring the works of Long Beach-based photographer Jeffrey Robins.
I Thought I Saw the Light is a meandering exploration through “God’s country” from Pray, MT to the pious town of St. Ignacious. Embarking on a road trip in the tradition of photo documentarians before him, Robins pays homage to the history of the medium while also referencing the self-awareness of the Millennial experience. Perspectives oscillate playfully between the carefully considered and spontaneously reflexive; the viewer and photographer are often grounded in the scene itself, much the same way Robert Frank had done decades ago.
Persistent themes echo throughout I Thought I Saw the Light, scrutinizing life, death, legacy and God in a reflective and often revelatory fashion. Dark tableaus give way to light while man contends with nature and Christian symbols emerge from the landscape on the road that never ends.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen from Anthem
About the artist
Jeffrey Robins is a storyteller.
He creates narratives which explore the emotional, cultural, and spiritual undertones of contemporary life. Using sequences of images layered with meaning and text, he explores the nuances of the human condition.
Robins’ subtle metaphors are often created through careful investigation of the subject’s surroundings; preferring sincerity over idealism in his work.
His practice is rooted in the empathetic investigations of Alec Soth, the prose portraits of Duane Michals, and the self-referential portrayals of America by Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander.
Born and raised in Southern California, he is a graduate of University of California San Diego and presently resides in Long Beach, CA.
When and how did you first discover your creativity?
I've always been told I was very observant and creative, when I was a child I was recommended to go to an arts school but didn't want to because I was afraid of what other boys would say about me. It wasn't until I was in Community College that I met a professor who I really connected with and allowed me to feel comfortable exploring my creativity and expression.
What is the message you convey through your work?
I feel like most of my work is concerned with the millennial experience of the contemporary world; which is a fancy way of basically saying "me". Sometimes that's very tongue in cheek if I make something with a self portrait or selfie, but that also means exploring and discussing anxieties that we all hold. So if there's any one central message it's probably that we're not alone in our feelings or experiences.
Who are your biggest influences and/or where do you draw creative inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from my life! I take a look at the world around me and try to notice what I'm drawn to; whether that's people using their phones, my Grandpa in the hospital, or flowers around my house. Photo books are really important to me however and I'm always looking to other artists to see how they navigate situations. I'm constantly involved in my books and my favorites over the years are definitely Alec Soth, Duane Michals, Todd Hido and Robert Frank.
How do you navigate the art world?
This is something I'm learning to do I suppose. My ultimate philosophy is to be open and vulnerable because that's what people respond to, others are perceptive and can tell when you're not sincere so I just try to show all my cards and let people know what I'm all about. In a more tactical sense this means sending a LOT of emails and not expecting anything in return.
How do you believe art can impact or influence individuals, communities and society as a whole?
I think the potential here is limitless! I try to keep very modest ambitions though, if I can impact even one person because I opened up about feeling depressed or anxious or whatever then that's a success for me. Art has the power to be inspirational, aspirational, and empathetic all at the same time! It can be very powerful and as Uncle Ben says "with great power comes great responsibility," so it's up to us to foster this with the youth! They say that art is the beginning of culture and the first step in transcending the basic hierarchy of needs, so it's much more important than we give it credit for.