Exhibitions

JOHN ROBERTS: NOTHING EVER GOES UNSEEN

David Lusk Gallery Memphis / 97 Tillman St. July 5 - 31st

John Roberts

This July, David Lusk Gallery Memphis welcomes John Roberts for his first solo show NOTHING EVER GOES UNSEEN. Shaped by his family history, Roberts’ paintings and drawings express the extraordinary within everyday environments.

“I remember loved ones that have passed on and the stories and legends that they shared with me. Woven into these stories are threads of my own experiences with the supernatural world. Significant objects from my past act as markers of time and reminders of mortality.”

The Watchers, as much a celebration of matriarchs as it is a nod to famed American Scene painter Carroll Cloar’s The Ghost, features three women peering into a room with a perfectly made bed. The tight blue-and-white bedspread parallels the planked walls while the bedposts and chair mirror lines in the field in the background. Three women look through the window with unmoved expressions. Although an eerie encounter, they’re not there to pass judgment or reprimand, but rather to reassure.

“In 1838, my distant grandmother, Mary Camp Roberts, bought and settled land in Weakley County, Tennessee. Eight generations later, my family and I live on this same land which holds the houses and possessions of my ancestors. We are surrounded by vast fields of crops and large wooded areas which comprise the Roberts family farm. This environment evokes a sense of being watched by the former inhabitants of the place.”

Beginning with a sketch, Roberts plans his precise compositions with an intricate grayscale drawing that serves as the foundation of his paintings. Then he paints in detailed rows of crops, stoic figures, solid wooden homes, and vast blue skies. Tiny gravestones, perfectly pitched roofs, dogs, and recurring characters - daughters, sons, grandmothers - are surrounded by sloping hills and curved lines of fields. Roberts’ nostalgic paintings remind viewers of generations, ways of life, and tranquility that no longer exist. They are warm, quiet, and deceptively complex works.


John Roberts was born in Memphis, TN, and grew up in Searcy, AR. He holds a BFA in Painting and Drawing from Harding University and an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Arkansas. As a long-time tombstone etcher, he comes by supernatural encounters honestly. In addition to writing and recording music, he works with an orphanage in Andhra Pradesh, India. He lives on his family farm with his wife and eight children.