HEROES: Robin Newland

HEROES: Robin Newland

GEN V

HEROES: Robin Newland

The Downtown design prodigy turned art aficionado unveils her latest creations

The Downtown design prodigy turned art aficionado unveils her latest creations

Photography: Michael Halsband

Styling: Emma Oleck

Text: Czar Van Gaal

This feature appears in V137, now available for purchase

Serving as the embodiment of the term "unsung hero," costume designer and experimental artist Robin Newland has always done her best work from behind the curtain. Spending the late '80s honing her craft while working under design titan Patricia Field, rubbing elbows with the likes of Keith Haring & Andy Warhol, and sitting for portraits by iconic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Newland's artistry has been fueled by the eccentric characters that orbit around her world. And while over the past two decades she's kept a low profile remaining the industry's best kept secret, the art aficionado is ready to step into the spotlight with a new perspective—a doll's perspective. Gearing up for her forthcoming debut solo exhibition (A Doll's Perspective), Newland reconnects with mentor Patricia Field to reflect on her design roots and the next chapter of her artistry.

Read the exclusive interview below! 

Robin wears dress Gucci, Hat Esenshel, Jewelry David Yurman

Patricia Field: It’s been so many years and we are still connected but this all started a long time ago. What was it? The ‘80s or ‘90s?

Robin Newland: It was the ‘80s. I walked in o  the street into your boutique and you gave me my first job. I remember I had on a pair of cutoff shorts from a thrift shop. It was actually stylist, Michael Patterson, who orchestrated the entire thing. He brought me down to your boutique, and said “Pat is going to love you, she’ll give you a job.” And of course, I went in, you were a little busy as usual…not much has 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 out perfectly because you needed someone to work the makeup counter on Saturdays & Sundays. And the rest was history!

PF: The rest was history! I cannot believe that you were still in high school.

RN: After that day, all of a sudden I was immersed in your whole world of feathers, pink polka dots, and stripes. I became a part of your family of punk rock people running around in Stephen Sprouse (Laughs). Us being connected was what led me to costume design and styling. From the time that I lived with you while going to Parsons, to you connecting me with Barbara Dente for my first assisting job…all of these things have been instrumental in my career. It’s why I’m able to create the art I do today. I think one major lesson I learned through years of watching you was to be true to yourself and dance to the beat of your own drum.

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

Robin wears dress Gucci, Jewelry David Yurman

RN: That definitely trickled down into everything you did, not just for me. Whether it was supporting David Dalrymple by carrying him in your boutique or buying all the fabric for Andre Walker’s fashion show that I walked in. The work that we all do to this day is rooted in the experiences we had working with you.

PF: And fast-forward to now you are about to have your first solo show?

RN: Yes! My first solo exhibition show is titled, A Doll's Perspective opens at Village Works Gallery this July. I will be unveiling a new piece; Shenanigans.

PF: What inspired the piece? And what would you say has lead you to this Art Form

RN: Shenanigans was inspired by my many summers on Cherry Grove, Fire Island. In this particular photograph, each doll is an expression of total freedom and being comfortable with their sexuality. I find that a lot of my work is inspired by [inhibited] artists like Tom of Finland and George Quaintance.

PF: How did you get more into art coming from a background in fashion? 

RN: 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 I got older the stories and themes surrounding the dolls of course changed, and [aged] with me. So costume designing and styling came naturally for me because I always had my dolls to fall back on and creating my doll world gives me total creative freedom. It gives me the space to tell stories, that 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 sculpting, architecture, painting, and created functional yet radical furniture. This philosophy has stayed with me throughout my career and this perspective has allowed me to integrate my studies of interior design with being a costume designer and stylist…all leading 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.

Credits:

Makeup Lanier Long

Hair Davey Matthew

Production: 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)

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