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Understanding Place: Ideas and Process

An Exhibition by Liz Roth

January 11 - April 9, 2022


For Liz Roth, to understand a place is to see it deeply, to consider the surface and excavate beneath it. This exhibition features work made recently, but is the result of many years of considering “place” from an artistic perspective. 


Roth’s interest in landscape as subject grew out of a love of travel, a residency in Japan, and America 101, an epic four-year project to create two landscapes from each of the 50 states. Time constraints meant that she was only able to document the landscapes she saw with photography, which later she used for a series of 100 small paintings that rendered the enormous range of vistas on an intimate scale. Roth noted, “My career post America 101 is trying to sift through what got asked [during that project] in a way.”


She was able to slow down in 2011 for a residency on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. At this point she began to take geology courses and conduct research so she could truly understand what she was looking at. The whole four-week residency became an opportunity to sketch views, make color studies, take photos, and create drawings that she used as source material as she created paintings over the next three years.


For her next subject, she turned her attention to her state of residence, Oklahoma. Some works from the Oklahoma Landscape series — such as Cimarron — focused exclusively on natural beauty. Others considered the complicated relationship that the state has with the oil industry, which provides income for many Oklahomans and at the same time represents a threat to the land that they call home. The series that opens this exhibition Oklahoma Landscape: Before, During, After documents the ways in which the oil industry can erode and eventually destroy a landscape. 


In 2019, Roth was a Fulbright Scholar in China. There she was able to travel along the historical silk route — in trains, cars, and memorably on a dromedary — to see some of the spectacular landscapes of China’s interior. Through photographs and sketchbooks, she documented the subtle shades of sand and fog in the desert of Dunhuang and the vibrant hues of the mountain ranges of Zhangye National Geopark. 


Roth understands place not only through her research and travels, but also through the process of creating art. Most of the works in this exhibition are screen prints developed at the Xiaoxiang International Printmaking Center in Changsha, China, where she first traveled for a printmaking residency in 2016. Roth went to Xiaoxiang with extensive experience in printmaking, though she had previously focused on etching and woodblock printing. The Changsha residency gave her the opportunity to try screen printing for the first time. In their well-appointed studios, she was able to work with master printer Mr. Jian Feng Tong, with whom she has developed a symbiotic relationship that transcends their language barrier.


Roth found that the screen printing process took advantage of her style as a painter as well as her skills as a draftsman, and Mr. Tong provided expertise along with a skilled team. The exhibition offers a window into Roth’s way of seeing the landscape through the process of screen printing. Through color separations she divides the image into an elegantly simple number of screens, while color studies give her the opportunity to figure out the exact hues. The resulting works are beautifully graphic, offering landscapes of striking clarity and rich colors that present both beauty and emotion. 


Understanding Place: Ideas and Process documents the many different ways in which Roth considers a landscape: researching it, experiencing it, and then seeing it deeply through her artmaking, whether in drawings, paintings, or prints. The resulting works are not merely records of the earth’s surface; they explore what is underneath and the traces left by both time and mankind. 


Liz Roth is an OSU professor of painting and drawing. She also serves as the interim head for the OSU Department of Art, Graphic Design, and Art History.


Reception: February 17 from 5-7 p.m. at the Museum. All are welcome!

Guest Curator

Jennifer Scanlan



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