While physical growth tends to plateau during teenaged years, mental and emotional growth never ceases. Subsequently, talents and goals continue to grow as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us. One local artist has created a visual representation of how far along his craft has developed throughout the last few decades. Mixed-media artist Dick Roberts invites guests to embark on an exploration of his career thus far in his new show, “Retrospective Exhibition.” In line with his tagline, “tattered hopes and dreams, necessary steps of the journey,” guests will have the opportunity to witness the progression of work Roberts has completed from 1978 through 2000 at ACME Art Studios on Friday, January 27.
“Art has always been a part of my life,” Roberts says. “It’s one of those things I’ve always felt compelled to do.”
Roberts is from Brevard, NC, and uses a wide range of tools to create his abstract pieces. Although he largely works with oil paints, fabrics and broken glass can be detected in some of his work.
“The title piece of the show is called ‘Love for Sale’ from when I was first trying out stencils and fabrics,” Roberts says. “The content and colors made for an eye-catching poster.”
Along with fabric, the piece also features bits of old credit cards, which add to its complexity and provocative dynamic.
While painting came naturally to Roberts, his parents weren’t keen on him making a career of it. Attempting to honor his parents’ wishes, Roberts found himself at the University of Miami pursuing a major in marine biology. After studying at the university for three years, he realized he was holding himself back from his true passion.
After discontinuing his studies in Miami, for two years Roberts worked odd jobs and took creative writing classes at UNC Charlotte. Then he made the decision to study art at Western Carolina University.
“I studied clay and painting, and walked out of there with a bachelor of fine arts in ceramics and painting,” he tells. “It was a great time, and I probably stayed there too long because it was so beautiful. I’ll also have several pieces in the show from when I finished school.”
After completing his studies in 1979, Roberts went on to become curator of exhibits at the Science Museum of Charlotte—later becoming Discovery Place, which Roberts helped create. He eventually found a job listing for an exhibits curator in the Port City at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. He remained in Wilmington where he’s served the community as a local advisory board member for WHQR Public Radio, planning committee chairman of the Wilmington Railroad Museum, as well as co-founder of ACME Art Studios in 1991. His work has led him across the world, even.
“In 1996 I went to an artist colony in Macedonia at a monastery,” Roberts states. “There were about 12 of us there, painting from all over the world. I’ve made many friends that are family now. Now I go to Macedonia almost every year.”
These creations will have a place in Roberts’ exhibit. In fact, he points to it as a pivotal time in his artistic output. “After attending the art colony, my paintings really changed,” Roberts says. “During that time, I was really trying my way as an artist. That’s what this show is largely about. A lot of these pieces represent me trying to find where I was going.”
After returning from the first trip to Macedonia, Roberts collaborated with artists Pam Toll and Gayle Tustin, who shared similar experiences with the Macedonia art colony. Together, they created No Boundaries International Artist Colony in Bald Head Island, NC. Roberts eventually handed the reins over to his colleagues in 2010.
While he has created countless works of art, he is not one to let the success convolute future endeavors. “If I finish a piece I really like, I will turn it toward the wall before starting a new one,” Roberts says. “I don’t want to see the success of the painting. I’d rather start the new one with an empty head.”
Guests will have a chance to meet Roberts at the exhibit’s opening reception and learn a little more about the fascinating stories behind his art. The opening reception for “Retrospective Exhibition” will take place on Jan. 27 at ACME Art Studios in downtown Wilmington from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. as part of the Fourth Friday Gallery Night by the Arts Council of Wilmington. Guests will be able to view the exhibit by appointment from through February 17.