Army spouse and mixed-media artist Beth Robson celebrates inspiring women in her art and takes us on a journey of the pitfalls and friendships of overseas duty in her interview.
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Beth: My name is Beth Robson, and I was born and raised in Kentucky. When my husband Jordan and I met, I was teaching High School Art in southern Kentucky, and he was playing saxophone in the Army Band at Fort Campbell. Just a few months after we started dating, the Army offered Jordan the opportunity to play in South Korea with a follow-on assignment to Germany. So, five years ago, we tied the knot, and I became a military spouse. Just a few months later, we were exploring the world together!
MilspoFAN: How did you become an artist?
Beth: I had so many incredible art teachers growing up who inspired me to major in art education in college. My high school art teacher, Amber Ylisto, was particularly influential as she introduced me to collage art. Since getting my degree nine years ago, I have taught hundreds of students in middle and high school art.
MilspoFan: Describe for us your creative work and the aesthetic of your art practice?
Beth: I love to create mixed media paintings! Much of my work involves a base of fabric and paper collage with portraits painted over top. I am also passionate about photography—I love to shoot creative portraits and have been exploring wildlife photography in recent years.
I created my most recent work for my master’s degree in studio art from Northwestern State University of Louisiana, which I completed while stationed in South Korea and Germany. My gradate show is titled Pieces of the Heart: Women in Collage. Through it, I share stories from the women in my life who inspire me with their incredible strength, passion, and love. This collection of paintings is a colorful collage of women that celebrates diversity, strength, inner beauty, femininity, and the power each individual has to overcome adversity and make the world a better place. In my process, I used paper and fabric collage to pair each woman with a unique pattern that reflects a piece of who she is. You can see these paintings along with each woman’s story here:
MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as a photographer- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Beth: Being a military spouse has given me incredible opportunities to travel and see art all over the world! Picasso museums on a spouses trip to Malaga, weekend trips to Paris, and trendy art districts in Seoul are just a few of my favorites. I’ve shot in front of some of the most incredible backdrops on earth, but traveling while doing my masters was not without its challenges.
I completed my masters in a low residency program at NSUL while we were stationed in South Korea and Germany, and studying remotely came with plenty of difficulties. In the U.S., we enjoy easy access to art supplies, but in Korea, I couldn’t find a decent art store anywhere! I searched all around Seoul—a city the size of New York—and could only find a couple small shops. When I went home for Christmas, I brought an empty suitcase to fill with supplies from Hobby Lobby for my show. My program required that I to go back to Louisiana to put up my Graduate Show, so I created all my paintings suitcase sized. When flying home from Germany, the airline lost my luggage, with my entire show! Thankfully, it showed up a couple days later, just in time for my parents to drive me down to Louisiana and put it on display. Even with a little drama, my art journey overseas was the experience of a lifetime!
MilspoFAN: How do you meet other artists or plug into the local arts scene when you PCS?
Beth: The great thing about the military is that your best friends just show up one day out of nowhere! The friends you meet OCONUS are on a completely different level than those you meet state side. It is very isolating being that far from home and not knowing the language—your friends become family pretty quickly. I met so many incredible creative friends who really inspired my work. My friend Chelsea Roberts, whom I met last year in Germany, was a really big birder. Chelsea and I only had a year together in Germany before my move back to Kentucky, but we bought a pop-up bird blind together and photographed Bee-eaters and Hoopoes there in Germany, Flamingoes, and wild horses in Camargue, France, endangered black-bellied hamsters in Vienna, Austria, and newborn baby seals in the North Sea! I’d like to give a shoutout to my other military art friendships I have been blessed with in my time overseas: Martha Compton was a singer I met in Korea who helped me on all my photoshoots, Hannah Borgerding took epic travel portraits with me, and Chelsea Green was my best painting buddy.
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Beth: Jordan and I just moved back to Kentucky. Jordan is part of the National Guard Band in Frankfort now, and I am teaching middle school art at in Versailles. No more fun weekend trips to the Louvre anymore, but I am excited to get settled back home with family and am already dreaming up new projects!