When an award-winning dancer shifts her focus from the world of ballroom dance to the blank canvas, she creates a whole second career.
Nancy Stage Robinson can say she's lived two lifetimes: 25 years as a professional dancer who also owned one of Houston's largest dance studios, and 30 years as an artist who creates abstract, representational and figurative paintings filled with textures, gorgeous color combinations and circles of life.
"Motion and dance come into everything I do," said Robinson, 83. "Motion, dance, color, design - that's what I'm all about."
Her new show "Hidden Faces" features originals and giclée prints. It opens Friday and runs through Dec. 23 at Cottonwood Center for the Arts. A free opening reception is 5-8 p.m. Friday. Robinson will also sign copies of her new book, "Hidden Faces."
So which came first: the dancing or the art? In Robinson's case, the dancing. She started at 5 and remembers having a chance to be in a movie that didn't pan out. The painting came along a few years later. She still has her first piece, a landscape she did when she was 10.
It was a loved one who helped redirect her: "Nancy, you can't dance all your life, but you can paint all your life."
She agreed, and when she moved to town in the late 1970s, painting became her priority. Her work has been shown in galleries and private collections across the country, including the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Her commissions include pieces for the Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Marriott hotels and numerous spas in Japan. Cottonwood named its main gallery after her in 2015.
Every few years, her work changes, and a new series is born. Some of her latest pieces feature faces or profiles buried in swirls of oil and acrylic paints. All of her works have a circle of life - a simple round shape, either a small dot or a larger globe, concealed somewhere in the painting.
"Everything that goes around comes around," Robinson said. "To dance through life, whether on a dance floor or canvas, the question is: Did I give enough, love enough, dance enough?"
Above all, she wants to encourage people to keep working at what they love and avoid retirement.
"I'm really against retiring," she said. "Then you die. I hate to say it like that, but they do."
When artists tell her they're too old to start something, she wholeheartedly disagrees.
"I say, 'No, you're not. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.'"