Love is in the art

Artist Harry Robin Loucks
Artist Harry Robin Loucks

The gracious Victorian home of Harry and Robin Loucks announces that its inhabitants are artists before you even set foot inside: Works of art spill from it, greeting you on the porch and peeking above the top of the fence. It’s a fitting introduction, because it only takes a few minutes with the Louckses to realize that for them, the separation between art and life is a flimsy one at best.

If you’ve ever been to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, there’s a good chance you are familiar with Harry Loucks’s work. His fantastical, three-story, kinetic sculpture “Coping in Hope” graced the atrium for more than 30 years, finally coming down in 2013; bits and pieces of it now decorate the Louckses’ home in a way that provides constant food for the imagination, if not sometimes making it difficult to get around.

Everywhere you look, there’s art.

Some of it is Harry’s, some of it Robin’s, much of it theirs together, collected over their 30-year marriage—which began with a “meet cute” so perfect it’s hard to believe it’s true.

Artist Harry Robin Loucks_KSJ__20160307_8352ps

Both divorced and adamantly “not looking,” they met at a party, introduced by a mutual friend. Harry was intrigued enough to investigate further. “I had to see her work,” he says, “not in a planned interview or whatever, but just sneak in and see if it spoke to me.” Harry knew that Robin was at the time a graduate student in art at UALR, so he went in search of her work—and found it.

“It was so beautiful,” he says. “I hadn’t seen a body of work so coherent.”

Their mutual friend caught him looking and then Robin came walking along and Harry, a bit flustered, began to share his observations and talk about all the things he liked about her painting. “And Robin was not reacting,” recalls Harry, describing someone very different from the lively and vivacious woman he’d met several nights previous. “She wasn’t having any of it.”

What Harry didn’t know was that Robin was just minutes away from giving her year-end-presentation. “I was in a panic because I was about to have to defend everything I’d been doing for the past year,” says Robin. And she hadn’t planned a single word of it in advance. “How in the world do you describe something you’re doing instinctively?” she says.

Harry helped Robin finish setting up for the presentation, all the while continuing to talk about her work. “So I went in and repeated pretty much what Harry said…and I passed with flying colors,” says Robin. Harry adds, “The timing was just meant to be.”

Robin Loucks in front of one of her artworks, which she calls "The Big Trout" after someone told her she could see a fish in it.

But there was one more test that needed passing, so Harry took Robin to the Children’s Hospital to see “Coping in Hope.” “My jaw just fell,” confesses Robin.

“I fell in love with him instantly.” They were married a little over a year later.

And now, 30 years into marriage as two working artists, they are embarking on their first true collaboration, a sculpture that will be planted on the grounds of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library. That they haven’t worked together before might not be a surprise, as their styles are practically opposite: Harry’s sculptures spin and spring, a flurry of small motions causing your eyes to flit this way and that, while the motion in Robin’s pastels is gradual, like the swell of waves or rolling hillsides.

But their mutual admiration is apparent, and Robin has never been shy about returning the favor of Harry’s opening move and offering an opinion or suggestion—even if it often fell on deaf ears. “What’s happening now is I’m relaxing into this,” says Harry, “and I recognize her insight into these things and value it. I am enhanced, and my work is boosted forward. It’s been a joy to discover that I can get over the stubbornness and enjoy it.”

Robin’s paintings are in Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute, Historic Arkansas Museum, UALR, and many other public and private collections. Harry’s most recent sculptures can be seen at the Children’s Library and on South Main street.

"Gizo #1," by Harry Loucks, stands in the main floor of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library.