First Friday: Valencia Robin

Friday, February 3 - 5:30 PM

Second Street Gallery is pleased to present Mother Tongue, a solo exhibition featuring abstract paintings, assemblages, and poetry by Charlottesville-based artist Valencia Robin, to be held in the Main Gallery from February 3 - March 24, 2023. The exhibition will open on First Friday, February 3, 2023 from 5:30-7:30PM. The artist will be present during the opening evening to chat with visitors.


Exhibition statement (courtesy of the artist):


I’ve been thinking a lot about language lately--its joys, its limits, its relationship to history. As a poet, I take great pleasure in language’s ability to give expression to my imagination and experiences; while words can never be the things they’re meant to represent, the work of trying to capture a particular moment--to place the right words in the right order--can be extremely satisfying. Of course, our expression of ourselves through language also marks us. Indeed, as an African-American woman from the working-class, I’m all too aware of how the words I use and the way I speak is intricately bound up with power, how social spaces and institutions— schools, work, government—control the use of language, how language allows certain groups to gain credibility and access while marking others as unworthy of those things. I’m also aware of why the English language is my language, all too aware of my relationship to conquest and empire and how that puts me in dialogue with so much of the world--those lucky enough to still have their native tongues and those who have no idea what language their ancestors spoke. Noam Chomsky says "a language is not just words, it's a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is." Which is to say, the loss of a language is bound up with countless other losses. And there’s so much more I could say; I haven’t even touched on the constant distraction and threat of language at its worst, its effect not just on public discourse, but on our physical safety, none of which is new. Instead, why not end where I began, with poetry, not the kind made of words, but of paint and canvas, color and texture, conscious thought and unconscious desire, a space of transformation, my first language perhaps.


Valencia Robin’s interdisciplinary practice includes poetry, painting and sculpture. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Margaret Towsley Fellowship and a King-Chavez-Parks Fellowship, she holds an MFA in Art & Design from the University of Michigan and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Virginia. She lives and works in Charlottesville, Virginia.


This exhibition is a Season 49 Call for Submissions pick and is generously sponsored by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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115 Second St SE
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Event Type


Second Street Gallery

Date / Time

Friday, February 3, 2023
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM