Erin Sayer on Meeting Tom Robbins, Exhibiting Work Inspired by his Writing at Gamut Gallery


When artist Erin Sayer was a freshman in college, she started getting into the books of Tom Robbins. The vivid descriptions, the strong female protagonists, and Robbins's witty style drew her in, so much that as she got older she continued to appreciate his writing.

"I realized how much the characters struck a chord with me," she says. Ten years ago, Sayer began making paintings based on the novels, which include Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Jitterbug Perfume. Last year, she took her paintings out to Seattle for a show, hosted by the Quadrapus Artist Exchange, where she met Robbins himself. This week, she'll show them once again at Gamut Gallery.

When Sayer had the show in Seattle, she decided to write a letter to Robbins. To her surprise, he wrote her back. They mailed letters to each other back and forth for a few months (he doesn't do email), and finally he called her to set up a time to visit the exhibition in Seattle.

"We set up a time for him to come," she says. "It was a special event for him, with 20 people there. It was super special."

Robbins and his wife had driven an hour from their home just to see the show. He also bought a painting, one that depicted two cowgirls with guns, based on Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Tom Robbins and his wife, Alexa, with Sayer's work

Tom Robbins and his wife, Alexa, with Sayer's work

"He's so cool," Sayer says. "He's very down to earth. He's 83, but he looks 50, and he's very humorous. It was fun."

This weekend's show at Gamut will include 22 pieces. There have been others throughout the years that were sold, so those will be included as prints as in a book of the series.

The paintings encompass every novel Robbins wrote but one, called Villa Incognito. However, there are a few characters from that book in a mural Sayer made in Seattle.

After all this time, Sayer says she's finally ready to be done with the series. "I wish I could work on this series forever," she says. "But I need to move on." After solo shows in Seattle and Minneapolis, a book, a mural, and meeting the man that inspired the whole thing, Sayer can't imagine it getting any better.


"Erin Sayer: The Tom Robbin Series"

Gamut Gallery

1006 Marquette Ave. S., Minneapolis

The opening reception is this Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m.

Through May 7