Visiting Artist Lecture: John Roloff


Sea within the land

Land within the sea

Sea within the sea

Land within the land

John Roloff opened his visiting artist lecture with these words projected on his designated screen within the uncommonly cramped quarters of Bentley 132.  Roloff spoke to a packed house of graduate students, faculty, and hoard of undergraduates whose presence probably held little attribution to a murmured mention of promised extra credit points.  A geologist turned artist, Roloff spoke of his sources of inspiration (landscape paintings, the ground beneath our feet) as well as the in-depth process that often goes behind each project that he undertakes.

The specific process of each project was mentioned time and time again as Roloff gave a broad overview of some of his favorite, as well as most highly acclaimed projects.  One in particular had even been displayed in the Smithsonian, a dream circulating through most artist’s most forefront realms of consciousness.

An observer of change both human and organic, Roloff invented a word to describe the alteration of an environment by purely human means.  “Anthroterbation,” a word which could easily fool the most scientifically trained, must dwell in Roloff’s close art sphere, for a simple Google search did not bring up any relative information.  Not even an off-handed Urbandictionary creation appeared after a quick search.  An example Roloff used to demonstrate the meaning of his created word was the relation of Broadway in New York to the Grand Canyon.  The bricks of the first example erode just as the earth from the steep cliffs in the second.  The only difference being the way in which they are changed, the factor that creates their slowly changing demise.

One project in particular I was attracted to was his collaboration and contribution to the Snow Show in Kemi, Finland.  Roloff created a water grid, which reminded me of “Don’t Break the Ice” (a favorite childhood pastime of my own) and filled in this grid with imported branded waters from across the globe.  Each emblem of the branded water was chiseled from the block of ice and back lit with LCD lighting, with an end product that resembled somewhat of a disco era dance floor.

(taken from John Roloff’s personal website)

Although I enjoyed the details of Roloff’s numerous installations, and was quite taken aback by the diligent process of each work, a great deal of the material went right over my head in search of the geology degree that I never received.  Much of Roloff’s work involved incredible amounts of geologic planning and often plays]ed off of his first passion before art became to be the main spotlight.

Listening, if only for an hour, to the inner workings of an extremely talented mind is completely worth the mere minutes of travel time to attend a Visiting Artist Lecture.  Come see the next visiting artist, Christopher Payne, at the Kennedy on the 21st.


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