We had the good fortune of connecting with Roberta Gentry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Roberta, why did you pursue a creative career?
My dad was an artist and educator, so that’s most likely where the idea came from. Watching him draw felt like a form of magic that I didn’t understand but couldn’t wait to learn. I never really wanted to do anything else. It was actually my father who tried to get me to pursue something more practical, because he knew from experience how difficult it would be. I did go to school briefly for production design, but I missed being able to make things with my hands and changed my major back to fine art. The excitement and mystery of making something new is unlike anything else. The process of invention and exploration, as well as the inevitable disappointment and failure and the learning that comes with it; that whole cycle is incredibly addicting.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I primarily make paintings, and have for a long time now. In grad school they were motivated by a fascination with symbols and methods of organizing and containing those symbols. I think now the symbols have more autonomy, they’ve become figures as well as enclosures and each one has its own unique space to exist in. Each painting is a sort of loving portrait of a different form. I’ve spent the last few years exploring how to get my color relationships to create the moods that I want them to. I think of both color and contrast as a rhythmical element, a cadence that the whole painting revolves around. I would say at this point that the most challenging thing about continuing to make art is time and space, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Especially in a city like LA, where space is limited and expensive, and a lot of time needs to be devoted to supporting yourself financially. But I carve out chunks of time to devote to my practice every week, and I set small goals that keep me moving forward. Having a sense of routine and progress in the studio has actually been a huge relief in the last six months when everything else has been so uncertain.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, that’s a tough question because right now our options are so limited. Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, Deukmejian Wilderness Park is a favorite. I usually force people to visit The Museum of Jurassic Technology when they come visit, I love that place so much. I just checked and it looks like they’re open for limited hours so that’s still a possibility right now!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout would definitely go to Monte Vista Projects, where I’ve been a member for the last 5 years. We’re an artist run space in downtown Los Angeles, and even though things have been really rough lately, it still feels like a family and has offered a huge source of community for me over the years. It allows me to contribute to an organization that I really believe in, and to be a part of something that I find essential, which is supporting artists and giving them a place to have their work seen and interacted with.