Garrison Roots (Tribute)
Since the late 1970's, I have engaged in a variety of art and public art activities. Throughout this time I have held a particular interest in the integration of art, architecture and design as a viable way to connect humanity. I believe such endeavors help communities as well as individuals find solace, promise and excitement in the everyday activities that bring us together. At the same time individual and public artworks may provide a reflection or transcendence with respect to the current cultural frame-work. Given this, art can provide a generous catalyst for independent exchange. I believe it is my responsibility as an artist to provide vision and to take things noticeably further, always questioning the current cultural framework.
My interest and contributions in this arena may be more akin to that of an explorer than to that of an artist and I realize that the images of work I am offering within this web-site may not speak to this directly, but they do lend to a passable understanding of such possibilities. Regardless of what process is involved, my goal is to do everything possible to live up to this idea. I believe the art making process to be an opportunity for me as an artist to respectfully push beyond the reflection of a superficial common ground within a given context and to produce art that reflects an informed view, with regard to the multiple dynamics that make up our cultural frameworks, from individual, to family, friends, neighbors, city, and so on.
I believe the communities within in we work and live to be made up of many diverse individuals representing many different realities. They are places where varied individuals propagate discussion about their concerns for "our" larger community. My work is intended to activate a thought process that invites dialogue or conversation regarding subject matter that ranges in its investigation from history, beauty, reality, desire, and value to indifference, etc. I believe art can reach far beyond existing boundaries and act as a center-piece on the table of a larger "cultural family" where contemplation runs rampant through the structure of that cultural framework. I believe this can be done while at the same time reflecting on the composition of the very fabric that holds that community together.
In many ways I believe great art is like a “near accident”—that elicits a response similar to when one is driving and, just for a moment, attention fading, something crosses suddenly in front of the car and the driver slams on the brakes and is urgently “snapped back” to consciousness. There is a rush of adrenaline, the heart races, the imagination is piqued, and then soberness sets in completely and thankfully. Just for a moment after the incident, one feels fully alive again, shaking with life and thankful for “only” the reminder. We are built from such experiences and should with every opportunity allow them to resonate through our efforts. As one who produces as well as consumes art, and has served on a number of selection panels, design teams and other collaborative efforts over the last thirty years, I feel strongly this is what art can offer, a kind of “snapping back” without of course the actual "near miss".
Art allows us to know ourselves again. It prompts us to new discussions with our neighbors, creates new perspectives and helps us to make new friends. Most of all it has the potential for culture, through the artists eyes, to take a fresh look at itself. I attempt to do this by recognizing and confronting difficult issues that I feel are often overshadowed. I believe now more than ever it is a time to seek out original thinking and to explore the unknown. As an artist, I believe ours is not to make the statement directly, but to prompt the conversation regardless of how wonderful or complex the subject. After all, as a people we have and will continue to survive more difficult issues than that of a resilient “snapping back” might provide as a result of our art making endeavors.
Garrison Roots received his BFA with distinction in 1979 from the Massachusetts College of Art, and his MFA fromWashington University in 1981. Roots is noted for his large scale, site-specific sculptural installations and collaborative public works that are often allegorical and made to be walked through rather than around.
Roots has exhibited his work nationally and internationally since the 1980's, including projects in Chile, China, Mexico, Peru, Palestine, Russia and Spain and is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts individual artist fellowships. He is a founding member of ARTNAUTS, an organization dedicated to promoting a visual dialogue between economically diverse artists around the world and is the author of Designing the World's Greatest PUBLIC ART, Images Publishing Group, 2002.
Currently, Roots is Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he recently presided over the construction of the universities new 180,000 square foot facility, Visual Arts Complex.
In 2004 Roots was an Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Institute, sponsored by the Department of Art and the School of Landscape Architecture. Roots taught a seminar called “PUBLIC ART; from Statues to the Internet” and hosted a symposium entitled "The Madison Project: Challenging the Public Art Paradigm."
Roots was recently awarded the 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University and has just completed a large commission for the new Denver Justice Center. Additionally, he continues to explore ongoing ideas regarding patriotic nationalist icons, contradictions in popular world views and impending global calamities.
Garrison Roots was a founding member of Artnauts and passed away in 2011. The info on this page is directly from his personal website.