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Roger Carlson Art Gallery

Paintings displayed in a gallery
The Roger Carlson gallery ran through Nov. 30 at the Rialto campus in Joliet.

Although the Encounter On The Arts  has come and gone, there is still plenty of artistic talent throughout the community that should be appreciated and applauded. This month, we admire the intricate and multifaceted works of a USF 2006 alumni, Roger Carlson. If you were not able to stop at the USF Art Gallery over the past month to check out any of Carlson’s work, then we have you covered.

Carlson’s art series “Innocent Dawn” is unlike the traditional artistic displays that you may be used to. In this series of art, Carlson has created reverse paintings on plexiglass through usage of traditional and digital media. He first created each of these pieces as digital artwork, then painted each piece onto the plexiglass with acrylic paint, spray paint, paint marker and ink.

Without a doubt, Carlson’s way of creating this series of artwork was about as refined and precise as it gets. However, he was a lot more absent-minded throughout the composition process than most may imagine.

“A lot of these compositions, I don’t even know what they’re about,” Carlson says. “Off to the side, I’ll write little notes. They don’t really make sense, but they’re interesting.”

With this commentary, Carlson is referring to the plethora of works he has in which there is script written within the composition. In this series of artwork alone, written messages can be found in the following compositions: “Wish,” “Scarlett Sunset Skies,” “Eternal Vessel,” “Red Flower,” “Rising Sun,” “The Land of our Skeletons,” “Buried Within,” “The Calm Remains,” and “Trinity.” Each of these are especially extraordinary in that the images depict mostly sinister and sometimes even demonic beings.

In fact, the number 666, which is historically linked to the Antichrist, can be found in “Buried Within” as well as “Internal = Eternal.” However, these compositions are not exclusively meant to emit a wicked and Satanic aura. There are deeply humanistic aspects to each of Carlson’s pieces of art, especially the ones with notes discreetly written within the images.

“I try to go at it not just from my perspective, but from everyone’s perspective, from a human perspective,” Carlson said.

When asked about the certain images depicted within the artwork, Carlson stated that “it has to do with the afterlife. The reality is our life here is temporary, and once we die, that’s what reality really is.”

These thoughts mentioned by Carlson are visible through both the portrayed images in the artwork as well as the messages transcribed onto the canvases. The “human perspective” which Carlson alludes to is particularly evident in the syntax messages within some of the artwork. The human perspective is, perhaps, most notably observable in “Red Flower.” Within this composition, there are the phrases “I’ve lost my way,” “all that I’ve felt inside, it has no meaning now,” “I feel betrayed,” “in no way do I feel reformed,” and “I need to feel more alive.”

All of these messages are displayed in a variety of different fonts and font sizes, and the word “alive” is the only word depicted in white-colored font as opposed to black-colored font. Why is all of this laid out the way it is? Carlson does not exactly provide unambiguous answers to any of these questions. However, in many ways, this causes his work to be revered to an even greater extent. So many aspects of Carlson’s work are left up to the audience’s interpretation, but it seems that this is exactly how he likes it. For the most part, Carlson claims that his finest and most exemplary works have come to fruition when mistakes were made or when he did not know what he was doing as much.

When speaking on an interaction with a professor from Joliet Junior College, Carlson explained how the professor told him “This one [composition] is the best one because I think that’s the one you screwed up. That’s the one where you didn’t know what you were doing as much. These other ones look like they’re safe havens.”

“I have to make myself a little more uncomfortable when it comes to the next piece and the next piece because I have to figure things out,” Carlson stated  while describing his future work. “I can’t just go at it and know exactly what I’m doing because every single one of these [compositions] I had an issue with.”

It is certainly moving to observe everything that Carlson has achieved since his graduation from USF back in 2006. Thankfully for us, his career is still in its earlier stages.

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