‘Root’ shows make everyone an artist

Tree roots. Root causes. Square roots. Getting to the root. Root beer. Grass roots. Root chords.

Anything about or having to do with roots is the subject of two exhibits Homer artist Lynn Marie Naden will be curating at the Pratt Museum in November.

“I’ve really put down some roots here myself,” Naden, a resident for 27 years, said. “The time has come to do another exhibit.”

Naden has two exhibits planned:

• The Root Project, to be held in the basement of the Pratt — “the root cellar,” Naden called it — is an interactive sculpture created by Naden using thoughts written by visitors on scrolls of paper.

• Root, an international mail art exhibit, shows work submitted by mail from near and far on the theme of “root.”

The Root Project came about from Naden’s reflections on her mother’s family roots in Montenegro, part of former Yugoslavia. In 2015 Naden visited her maternal grandparents home in Montenegro.

“After doing a trip there and communing with the trees and picking olives off my grandfather’s trees, that root thing was starting to take,” she said.

All summer at the museum, Naden has had a root sculpture serving as a repository for words people write down on slips of paper. She invites them to share thoughts about their family’s roots or visions for the future. The concept is inspired by a quote from nature writer John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken to everything in the universe.”

After writing on the scrolls of paper, the participant deposits them into the root sculpture.

“I was inviting our guest and visitors to drop a soul into the root,” Naden said.

Naden has developed a sub-specialty as a paper artist. Her work includes alphabet letters made of paper castings that are part of the 1-percent for art collection at the Homer Public Library. With the scrolls, Naden will make a large root sculpture.

“I am going to wrap them all together and create a large root system,” she said.

That work will be shown in the Root Project show, opening Nov. 3 at the Pratt.

She then will take the sculpture to Forester Underground Gardens in Fresno, Calif., near where she grew up in central California. There, she will invite family and friends to write more thoughts on paper scrolls and add it to her sculpture. Eventually she would like to take the sculpture to Montenegro and keep adding to it.

“Dream on, Lynn,” she said. “Dream big.”

The Root International Mail Art show invites artists to explore the root idea more, but with one catch: every work must be mailed to Homer. There are no size or media limits, except that the work cannot include any live organic material and must be capable of being mailed. The art can incorporate the stamp and address. All works will be shown. That exhibit opens Nov. 1, and it closes with the Root Project show on Dec. 30 in a closing reception. Work will be auctioned off. Starting bids are the cost of the postage.

“So many people come here and they love Homer,” Naden said. “In a sense, they’re all kind of rooted here, too. That all fits for me.”

Naden organized Homer’s first international mail art show, Day of the Dead, in 1993, sponsored by the Homer Council on the Arts and shown then at Bunnell Street Arts Center. Most recently Naden organized Heroes, Saints and Sages, a mail art show at HCOA.

Mail art has its beginnings in the work of the late Ray Johnson, a founder of the idea of correspondence art. Naden likes the idea of mail art because it revives the tradition of communicating through the mail.

“We have gotten so far away from correspondence and tangibility. The emoji doesn’t cut it for me,” Naden said. “I would rather have someone smile at me that have a little smiley face pop up on my computer.”

The U.S. Post Office is totally on board with the idea of a mail art show, Naden said. She talked to local postal officials about the project, and about the idea of having a little mail art exhibit at the post office. When they checked with senior postal officials, they liked the idea so much they’re mentioning the show in the USPS newsletter.

To enter Root, the mail art show, send works to The Root, P.O. Box 620, Homer, AK 99603, USA. All works must be received by Oct. 13.

Reach Michael Armstrong at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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