Thursday, January 27, 2022
Artist Scott Roberts works on a sculpture now on display at the Owatonna Arts Center. Roberts’ art is a pastiche of popular culture which mixes references from childhood cartoons, comic books, and other entertainment to create sculpted montages.  Submitted photo

Artist finds therapy in sculpted creations

Scott Roberts has always been interested in art, but when an accident on New Years Eve in 2019 left him paralyzed he returned to his greatest passion as a means of healing.

“I always loved to be actively doing something with my mind,” Roberts said. “I graduated from Mankato State for graphic design and animation and I’ve done freelance art outside of my work for almost 35 years.”

Roberts, whose freelance artwork has been featured for many companies and organizations including hotels, casinos, and even the Steele County Free Fair, now turns his passion into a great resource for physical therapy.

“It’s a physical hand activity that keeps me moving my hands for hours a day,” Roberts said. Exercising his hands is important and keeps them from getting stiff and sore as he sculps and paints his meticulous recreations of pop culture.

After suffering from a fall on December 31, 2019, Roberts was left with Asia 3 Spinal C2-C3 Incomplete Quadriplegia. “Both my arms and legs are affected, but I have mobility in certain areas and there’s certain things I cannot do like grip things well,” he said.

“That’s why it’s important that I do continual therapy, so I don’t just start stiffening up,” Roberts said of using his hands to craft his artwork. “I feel like it is a good thing that I always did have this passion for art.”

Roberts finds solace in the art of creating and it has given him new life. “For years I wanted to sit in my studio and create art for hours and low and behold that’s exactly what I get to do now,” he said. “it’s given me a better understanding of my art and my accident does have some things I try to be thankful for.”

Despite being bitter about his situation, Roberts now finds opportunities to not only create art and share it with others but to also share his story.  His artwork is being featured at the Owatonna Arts Center through Feb. 27. “I’ll have over 50 pieces and some are more complicated than others,” he said.

All the unique and fun works of art on display are in part credited to the Minnesota State Artist Grant through the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council with appropriation from the Arts and Cultural heritage Fund.

“I wrote the grant wanting to give both disabled and able artists encouragement to press on when confronting adversity.,” Roberts said.

Taking inspiration from cartoons and popular culture, Roberts’ art comes alive in three-dimensional sculpted montages with various references to his favorite films, characters, and cartoons. “My inspiration comes primarily from my admiration for animation,” he said. “I grew up on Saturday morning cartoons.”

Disney films, Gary Larson’s Far Side comics and many other pieces of pop culture have contributed to Roberts’ self-described “cartoonish style”. The creation of these works is meticulous. “The average piece for me to do takes seven days at about 12 hours a day.”

It’s amazing considering where Roberts started this journey. “I had to relearn how to do art just like I had to relearn how to do everything,” he said. “It was a new experience and I want people to understood that it can be overcome.”

Roberts has become an advocate for those with disabilities and use his passion not only for art but for life and communication, to help others understand. “I want others to understand that it’s the capability of people to overcome obstacles, everybody has the capability t overcome adversity,” he said.

“I’m making it a new desire to help people understand the dynamics of the handicapped,” Roberts said. “I want to give people the opportunity to have a go-to person to talk to and I think this is a service that is needed out there.”

Roberts’ exhibition is titled: “ADA, Me and the Minnesota Arts Community. ‘My Road to Recover’ paved in clay”.

 

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