Alumni carves out a career as an artist
By Rob O'Connor '95
When she was in high school, Robyn
Hutcheson Horn '73 played guitar and sang in The Opposite Sex, an all-girl rock
band. But when she came to Hendrix, she didn't make the cut for the school
The rock world's loss was the art world's gain when Horn set aside her
axe for a chainsaw and chose to hone her chops as an artist.
[Note: Horn did
become a member of the Hendrix Choir, under the direction of Robert McGill,
during her junior and senior years.]
Her work can now be found in fine art
galleries and at museums, including the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American
Art in Bentonville, Ark.
Crystal Bridges' collection features Already Set in
Motion, a 10-foot tall sculpture carved from redwood and dyed black.
quite a thrill to be part of the collection," says Horn, who was present when
the work was installed, by industrial crane, on the grounds outside of the
museum. The installation included a few nerve-wracking moments, as the sculpture
hung suspended in the air high above the sloped grounds of the museum.
the sculpture, Horn used a forklift, an anniversary present from her husband
John, as a scaffold and fired up her 47-inch bar Stihl chain saw.
to be spontaneous with a chain saw ... It's direct and aggressive," Horn says,
adding that the tool lends itself to a certain "destructive choreography."
The log she used was found lying in a valley in northern California after it had
been blown over in a storm 40 years earlier. From a single log, she made two
sculptures. One was shown at the Arkansas Arts Center's Delta Exhibition. The
second piece became Already Set in Motion.
Both works are part of her recent
Slipping Stone series. They resemble stacked stones on the verge of collapse.
But looks are deceiving. Each sculpture is actually a solid piece carved to look
like several pieces put together.
Drawn to Hendrix
A Fort Smith native,
Horn was first exposed to art through her mother, Dede Hutcheson, a painter.
"Mom was always doing art," says Horn, whose sister Karen Hutcheson '78 is also
a painter. The trio recently had a show together at the Center for Art and
Education in Van Buren.
Becoming an art major at Hendrix was "the easiest way
to graduate," Horn reasoned at the time.
In her undergraduate days, the art
program was a far cry from today.
"It was fairly minimal at the time. There
were so many things I didn't learn then. I envy the students working in the art
department now," she said, praising the College's current art facilities and
After graduating from Hendrix, Horn worked at Prestige Composition,
a Little Rock, Ark., typesetting house, setting type for advertising agencies
and making deliveries in an old Volkswagen. She later worked as chief
photographer for the State Parks and Tourism Department.
Since 1984, Horn has focused primarily on wood sculpture. She had tried metal
but found it too heavy and dirty to work with. Rather than swinging a hammer and
hitting an anvil, Horn decided she'd rather exert her energies swinging a tennis
racquet and hitting a tennis ball.
Her interest in wood began when she shared
a shop space with her husband John, a retired printer and avid collector of
vintage printing presses, and his brother Sam, a woodworker.
"Sam handed me
the tool and said, ‘You want to try it?' and that's how it started," she
Horn learned to turn wood at the Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg,
Tenn. She started on a lathe but now uses mostly band saws and hand tools to
"It's a subtractive process," she says to differentiate it from an
"additive" process like pottery. "Removing material seems to appeal to me."
Most of Horn's artistic influences are sculptural, including the Japanese
aesthetic of Isamu Noguchi and the shapes of English sculptor Barbara Hepworth,
a contemporary of Henry Moore.
For several years, Horn's
wood sculptures were smaller in scale.
After working with David Nash, an
English sculptor who lives in Wales, she was inspired to make something "more
"Scale changes how sculpture is perceived," she says.
discovered wood at the right time in the art world, as gallery exhibitions and
private collectors were eager for original work using wood.
"It was a perfect
storm for me and my career," says Horn. "It was totally unexpected ... I was
just making things."
Not only is Horn an artist, she is a passionate advocate
for the arts.
Among her many activities, she serves on the collection
committee for the Arkansas Arts Center.
"The Arkansas Arts Center does a
really good job of bringing good art to the state," says Horn. "Their collection
is impressive and educational, and the museum school does a very good job of
developing artists and skills."
She is also active on the board of the Thea
Foundation, supporting founder Paul Leopoulos's mission to get arts back in
schools and improve school performance by engaging young students in art.
"People think that art is just something fun, a hobby," she says. "I think it's
The Horns are also active supporters of the Penland School of
Crafts, a craft school in western North Carolina that teaches traditional art
forms, including blacksmithing, bookbinding, and pottery. They teach workshops
in wood sculpture and letterpress printing, among other things.
A New Medium
More recently, Horn's artistic attention has turned toward painting.
nice to push yourself with something that you didn't want to do," she says.
Among the painters Horn admires are Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell,
Helen Frankenthaler, and Marcel DuChamp, whose painting "Nude Descending a
Staircase" was a major influence for the Slipping Stone series.
In her most
recent series of multidimensional paintings on paper and wood panels, Horn
incorporates wire and rust to develop lines and create shadows.
work with wood was a slow progression through several series, Horn feels she
progressed much faster with painting because she had already "developed an
"When I looked back, I was surprised at how much my painting
relates to my sculpture," she says. "That made me feel like I was on the right
As her interests evolve and are more painting related, she looks
forward to new series and new challenges.
"When you have an artist's
mentality, making things is what you do," she says. "It's the way you think ...
I would be absolutely lost if I couldn't make things."
For more information
on Robyn Horn, visit www.robynhorn.com.