• Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 2, 2024

    Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 2, 2024

    Delta Triennial opens June 28 at Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts
    May 2, 2024 at 3:55 p.m.

    by Sean Clancy

    “Moses” by John Roberts, oil on wood panel, will be included in the Delta Triennial Exhibition at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/John Roberts)

    The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock has announced details of the 2024 Delta Triennial Exhibition.

    The exhibit opens June 28 and will be up through August 25 in the Harriet and Warren Stephens Galleries and will feature works by 39 selected artists and seven invited artists representing Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

    The museum "received over 1,200 applications -- a record-breaking number for AMFA's Delta exhibition," said Brian J. Lang, chief curator and Windgate Foundation curator of contemporary craft in a news release. "The sheer volume of applicants allowed jurors to select a truly exceptional showcase of art from the Mid-South. The 2024 Delta Triennial will be a display of unparalleled creativity and talent, making it a must-see exhibition for art enthusiasts and museumgoers alike."

    Selected artists were chosen by Amy Kligman, executive director of the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City; Alexis McGrigg, a former Delta Voices participating artist from Mississippi and Takako Tanabe, founding director of Ulterior Gallery in New York City.

    The winner of the Grand Prize Award will be selected by the jurors and announced during a special Member and Press Preview Event on June 27. Museum guests may cast their vote on-site for the People's Choice Award through August 4.

    Selected artists are: Maryam Amirvaghefi, Vic Barquin, Jamie Bates Slone ,Heidi Carlsen-Rogers, Kate Clements, Colette Copeland, Brian Ellison, Caroline Hatfield, Robyn Horn, Morgan Hill, Risa Hricovsky, Tim Hursley, Mark Jackson, Linda Jurkiewicz, Molly Kaderka, Amelia Key, Ajamu Kojo, Paula Kovarik, Lisa Krannichfeld, Michael LeBlanc, Kellie Lehr, Mark Lewis, Andrew Lyman, Megan Mattax, Hallie McNeill, Leigh Merrill, Cora Nimtz, Philana Oliphant, Lindsay Peyton, Lauren Phillips, Jocelyn Reid, John Roberts, David Robinson, Rachel Trusty, Aaron Turner, Clark Valentine, Tim Walker, Louis Watts and Erica Westenberger.

    Invited artists are: Kevin Demery, Christian Dinh, Anita Fields, Coulter Fussell, Letitia Huckaby, Jerry Phillips and Andrew Scott Ross.

    "The 2024 Delta Triennial continues AMFA's long-standing tradition of amplifying the artistic diversity of the Mid-South, showcasing these works alongside our renowned national and international collections," said Victoria Ramirez, the museum's executive director. "This meeting of local and global perspectives creates a dynamic dialogue within our galleries, offering Museum guests a truly enriching experience."

  • Memphis Magazine

    Memphis Magazine

    “Nothing Ever Goes Unseen”

    Artist John Roberts taps into generational history and supernatural encounters in his first solo show, now on display at David Lusk Gallery

    By Abigail Morici July 20, 2022

    “I’m sitting here in the yard right now, and I feel like someone’s watching me from the window upstairs,” John Roberts tells me over the phone. He’s at his family farm in Weakley County, Tennessee, where his distant grandmother purchased the land in 1838 and where back in 1921 his great-grandfather built the house he now lives in. “There’s just so much history here,” Roberts says.

    History, of course, is inescapable. Its residue lingers in the bones of our homes, in the fabric of the communities built by generations before us — generations whose traumas inform our DNA, whose legends inform our identities. For Roberts, that history sometimes takes on supernatural manifestations, an idea that he explores in his first solo show: “Nothing Ever Goes Unseen.”

    “He was coming home from church up the road one night and saw a ball of white floating across the field, and it came across the road and turned into a woman in a white dress walking across the road and spooked his horses. That’s just right up the street here, the road from my house.” — John Roberts

    In this series of paintings and drawings, various figures from the generations before him stare directly at the viewer without shame or menace, sometimes through a window, other times from around the corner of the house, but always surrounded by a “warm and inviting” color palette. “I draw from the place I live, this rural, kind of lonely way that’s been in our family for generations,” he says. “It’s not supposed to be creepy. I like to think about what comes next after this life. I like to think we’ll be reunited.

    Watchers at the Old House

    “I guess, my faith has a lot to do with it, too; I’m Catholic. And I think these people are just waiting around for me. ... I’ll be out mowing the yard and I’ll think about things like ‘Is there somebody in the window?’ or I think I see somebody peering around the corner of the house. ... It’s a comfort for me to see these people, to paint them. And it’s kind of like an act of prayer for me because Catholics pray for the dead.”

    “Thinking about them gets me a little choked up,” he adds. “My great-great-grandma looking out for me — those things are outside of time now, and I’ll be there, too, some time.”

    Indeed, the artist spends a lot of time contemplating mortality, having been a tombstone etcher for more than 20 years, a job he got right out of grad school and still works to this day. Soon after starting this job, though, Roberts, a father of eight, became consumed by his responsibilities in work and in his family and couldn’t make time to paint until a year and a half ago. Though he admits that his work as an etcher has helped improve his skills as an artist, Roberts says, “It’s been frustrating because I felt like I haven’t been able to express myself. ... The whole time I really longed to be making art, but I had so many things going on.”

    Yet, he adds, those “things going on” — making music, being there for his family, working with an orphanage in India — have empowered him with the lived experiences to express the generational memories and warmth that his paintings aim to convey. As such, to Roberts, those 20 or so years of not painting were not a loss but a time of artistic enrichment.

    When he paints, he starts with an idea, usually related to his own supernatural encounters or supernatural stories passed down through generations. For instance, the drawing titled The Lady in White Returns to the Woods, Roberts says, “is actually based on a story that my great-uncle always told, and [recently] I was talking to a man — he’s 87 — and I asked him about it. And he says, ‘Everybody knows about that.’ He was coming home from church up the road one night and saw a ball of white floating across the field, and it came across the road and turned into a woman in a white dress walking across the road and spooked his horses. That’s just right up the street here, the road from my house.

    “And then she came back another time, in our house here, and the guy I work for — my cousin — he was a kid in the ’60s and she came back in his bedroom while he was sleeping.”

    In Roberts’ black-and-white drawing, the Lady in White appears to be a part of the landscape, not the central focus but a figure in harmony with the still and quiet world the artist has created through delicate linework and through the balanced composition that keeps the eye moving from detail to detail.

    “I want to keep the viewer’s gaze within the frame of the picture,” Roberts explains. “To me, it’s like a math problem I have to solve. It’s a challenge, and it can be really frustrating. And I'll stop sometimes for days and just stare at it until I finally figure out what the issue is, so when I finally finish a painting it’s a huge relief.”

    Oftentimes, these finishing touches include a memento mori, sometimes evoked in the form of an animal. In the drawing with the Lady in White, a dog appears in the corner with its chain broken. “It sets the tone,” Roberts says. “I’ll sometimes put a cat with a mouse in its mouth, as a sign of ‘beware’ or a little bit of the off-setting nature of what I want to establish if there’s an apparition in the painting.”

    Plus, Roberts admits, “I just love cats. It’s just an excuse for me to paint cats.” As such, for Roberts, painting and drawing is a joyful act, a stimulating release, and an outlet for gratitude. Throughout his creative process, the artist says, “I like to think about the past and what a good life I've had. We’ve had so many hard times, but we’ve had so many good times, too.” And now at 48, after starving 20 years for an artistic project to express these feelings, having the time to paint has been “revolutionary,” he says. “I can’t imagine not having that outlet now. I’ve taken a few days off since my show, and I don't know what to do with myself.”

    “Nothing Ever Goes Unseen” is on display at David Lusk Gallery through July 31st. View the virtual tour of the exhibition on the gallery’s Instagram (@davidluskgallery), and follow John Roberts on Instagram (@johnwroberts.art).

  • Nashville Scene

    Nashville Scene

    NASHVILLE SCENE June 29, 2023

    Crawl Space: July 2023

    July’s First Saturday happenings include a Passover at David Lusk, entropy at Coop and soul windows at Random Sample

    JOE NOLAN JUN 29, 2023


    Painter John Roberts lives in his family’s 100-year-old farmhouse. Beginning with the birth of the artist’s first son, Roberts became more aware of the past and the present as spaces traced by generational bloodlines. The artist’s new show — The Long Passover at David Lusk Gallery — offers offbeat narratives about ancestors and progeny, days gone by and untold tomorrows. Roberts is a talented technical painter, but his works are highly stylized. Some look a lot like black-and-white engravings, while others are drenched in complementary colors that transform scenes of people, animals, cars and farm fields into stills from some lost Wes Anderson project. Roberts brings weirdness to his traditional subjects and reminds viewers that every family’s story is normally abnormal. The Long Passover opened on June 21.

    DETAILS: David Lusk Gallery hosts an open house from noon until 5 p.m. Saturday, July 1.