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  • Writer's picturePeggy Nichols

Robin Hextrum, an artist whose artwork reimagines and immortalizes the role of animals...

'A Buffalo's Perspective on American Progress', oil on wood panel, 24 x 24 inches.

left to right: 'Bull Contemplating a Flower', oil on Aluminum Panel, 21.5 x 25.5 inches., 'Antler Adornments', oil on panel, 8 x 8 inches., 'All the Finer Things', oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches.

Animal Kingdom

'The title for this exhibition, Animal Kingdom, is both a reference to the taxonomic term kingdom and an allusion to a fantasy scenario where animals have taken over the world. Each work has a unique approach to presenting this world. I began to wonder, what would an elegant portrait of a bear or a lemur look like? Or, given the chance, what might a buffalo do in an art museum when confronted with a painting like American Progress that glorifies its extermination? In a sense, these works are all examples of revisionist history because they take historical human centric visual narratives and replace them with animal protagonists.

'The Hand of the Queen', oil on Aluminum Panel, 25.5 x 21.5 inches.

I gained inspiration for this work both from my own deep love of animals, and from my observations of our changing planet. For many years of my life, I have been some form of vegetarian or vegan. These paintings ask viewers to look at animals with a sense of dignity and respect. Several of the paintings in this series follow traditions of conventional portraiture as a tool to elevate animals. They also demonstrate a sense of anger and frustration in animals. This can be seen in paintings that show animals walking over famous sculptures or destroying iconic artworks. I also enjoyed playing with humorous and absurd narratives in these works. Though this work has a fantastical element to it, real life examples abound. We all watched with wonder and fascination how quickly nature wanted to take back spaces from us during the Covid-19 lockdown. And, as I write this statement, orcas are attacking yachts in Spain, an elk punched a hole in the tire of an obnoxious tourist in Yellowstone, and an infamous otter is stealing surf boards to catch its own waves in Santa Cruz.

'A Bull at the Palace', oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches.

I walk in the footsteps of other artists working to reimagine the role of animals. One of my favorite 19th century artists is Rosa Bonheur, who gained unprecedented fame for her accurate and powerful paintings of animals. My former graduate school mentor and advisor Peter Zokosky has a fascinating series of chimpanzee portraits, fellow Colorado artist Mai Wyn routinely describes the intentional dignity and regality she seeks in her animal portraits, and the contemporary painter Martin Wittfooth creates moving portraits of animals caught up in postapocalyptic nightmares. Each of these artists has inspired me in one way or another. I wanted to add to this ongoing conversation with my own observations. I attempted to push the notion of a regal animal portrait and ponder the visual possibilities of animals taking over prestigious palaces, galleries, and museums. In our society, we have been so afraid of anthropomorphizing animals that we have over corrected. We often fail to see animals as equally emotional and sentient beings. My hope is that viewers walk away from this exhibition thinking just a little differently about how we should regard our fellow creatures on this planet.'

'Snow Leopard Offering Curatorial Feedback', oil on Aluminum Panel, 21.5 x 25.5 inches.

left to right: 'New Regalia for Apollo', 25.5 x 21.5 inches.,

'Visitors to Laocoön and his Sons', oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches.,

'Herculea Gets a Makeover', oil on wood panel, 60 x 30 inches.

'Nature's Bounty', oil on linen mounted to panel, 48 x 48 inches.

left to right: 'Galloping in the Heavens', oil on canvas, 60 x 30 inches., 'Closing our Eyes to the Chaos Around Us', oil on Aluminum Panel, 20 x 16 inches., 'Suspended in the Clouds', oil on Aluminum Panel, 25.5 x 21.5 inches.

'The Collector', oil on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches.

Robin Hextrum is an award-winning contemporary painter who lives and works in Denver. She grew up in a small coastal town in Northern California where she developed a passion for the natural environment that continues to inform her paintings. During her undergraduate studies at USC, she completed a double major in Fine Art and Neuroscience and studied with renowned artists including Ruth Weisberg and Ron Rizk. She then received her MFA in painting from Laguna College of Art and Design where she worked with some of the top representational painters in the country. Following her MFA, Robin completed a second master’s degree in art history at UC Riverside. Her paintings represent a fusion of her traditional art training and her knowledge of art history. Robin is currently a tenured professor and chair of the Visual Art Program at Regis University. She has exhibited her paintings internationally and is the recipient of prestigious grants from The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation and The Stobart Foundation. She has gallery representation at Abend Gallery. Art critic Ray Mark Rinaldi notes that Hextrum’s work “manages to be romantic and mathematical all at once.”

left to right: 'Deer with Garland', oil on panel, 6 x 6 inches.,

'Baby Hippo', oil on panel, 4 x 4 inches., 'Portrait of a Wolf',

oil on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches.

'Polar Bear in Repose', oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches.

Upcoming Exhibition:

Magical Realism

Solo Exhibition at Abend Gallery September 2025

'I am currently developing a new series of artwork for a solo exhibition titled “Magical Realism” at Abend Gallery in September 2025. The term originates from a literary genre where magical events or situations occur in a realistic setting. In this series, I am referencing this term, and adding another layer of interpretation by creating realistic portraits of real and imagined creatures. I am attempting to reignite wonder about the natural world. I am also thinking about our history of worshiping animals and how they center in our mythology. This work brings that magic back into our relationship with animals and the environment. The paintings try to capture that sense of awe, reverence, and respect for animals that has always imbued our myths. I am attempting to highlight the narrow gap between mythology and reality. Our myths originate from the truly strange and beautiful creatures among us.'

Work in Progress.

Work in Progress: detail 'Candy Land', 48 x 36 inches.

left to right: Work in Progress: detail 'Fossa', 48 x 36 inches.,

Work in Progress: detail 'Pegasus', 18 x 18 inches.,

Work in Progress: detail 'Unicorn', 18 x 18 inches.

left to right: Work in Progress: 'Tortoise', 60 x 36 inches.,

Work in Progress: detail, 'Tortoise', 60 x 36 inches.,

Work in Progress: detail 'Sea Slug' 7 x 5 inches.

Robin Hextrum, in her studio.

Instagram: @RobinHextrum

Abend Gallery: Robin Hextrum


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