Meet the collectors: Sande Robinson

Tyanna Buie (American, b. 1984). Still Life #2, 2014. Acrylic, charcoal, and monoprint on paper. Collection of Sande Robinson.
Tyanna Buie (American, b. 1984). Still Life #2, 2014. Acrylic, charcoal, and monoprint on paper. Collection of Sande Robinson.

Sande Robinson is a former trustee of the Milwaukee Art Museum and the president of the African American Art Alliance, one of the Museum’s nine support groups. She is lending Still Life #2 by Milwaukee-native Tyanna Buie to the exhibition.

Q: When did you start collecting and with what work of art?
A: I started collecting when I was a student at Kent State University in the 1970s. I used to cut through the art department on my way to and from class. I would listen in on their critiques, watch them draw and paint. I bought my first professional piece of art during an art sale, from a student who had graduated from the department.

Q: How do you decide what to collect?
A: I remember someone saying, a collector is someone who buys things they don’t need but can’t live without—that’s me. I remember when I bought the photograph Black Power by Hank Willis Thomas. I saw it at the Chicago Expo, and I lusted over it. I just didn’t know if I could afford it, so I caught the train back home to Milwaukee, leaving it behind. That was on a Saturday. When I got up on Sunday morning, I caught the train back to Chicago and bought the piece.

Q: Can you tell us more about the work that you lent to the exhibition?
A: The still life by Tyanna Buie is an image of a hot comb, also known as a straightening comb. I knew the minute I saw it in the gallery that I was going to take it home with me. It brought back memories of my childhood, when my mother used to straighten my hair. Almost every African American woman can identify with that experience. My mother would call me into the kitchen and sit me in a chair by the stove. She would take the hot comb and put it on a burner, and when the comb was hot, she would comb it through my hair. When I saw this image, I could remember the smell, the sizzling sound of my hair frying, and even the occasional little burn marks on my forehead and earlobes from the comb slipping.

For more information about the exhibition Milwaukee Collects and related programs or to plan your visit, please visit the exhibition page


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