Give a group of artists a word. Then let them create.
That’s how the single word “roots” yielded the enticing range of artworks and visual media behind Impact Nebraska Artists’ “Roots Exhibit” now on display at North Platte’s Prairie Arts Center.
“This is usually how we work,” said Patsy Smith of North Platte, a co-founder of the 34-year-old group of 25 statewide artists chosen by independent juries.
Saturday artist’s reception allowed visitors the chance to view and ask exhibiting artists how they came up with their particular approach.
The free exhibit can be seen through Aug. 31 during the arts center’s operating hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Impact has four or five major exhibitions touring the state, said Smith and group treasurer Jo Brown of Lincoln. Their themes must have a national appeal but otherwise evolve from Nebraska or regional sources, according to the group’s website.
The artworks in the Roots Exhibit, Smith said, tend to gravitate toward one of two interpretations — family roots or tree roots — if not both.
She drew upon both aspects in her own painting “Nebraska-My World,” which features a tree from roots to branch while incorporating sunlight, sandhill cranes and the telltale outline of Nebraska’s state borders.
“We used to live by Jeffrey Lake (near Brady) and went on walks and saw the roots hanging out below the trees,” Smith said.
Brown went for a simple approach with her painting “Nebraska Roots: Earthworks,” depicting a brown, grassy hillside below a deep blue horizon streaked with grayish-white clouds.
Among several inventive metal-based sculptures throughout the exhibit hall is “Occurring Repeatedly,” which Kearney artist Beth Jasnoch launched by mounting a reclaimed metal basketball hoop onto the sculpture’s base.
As she worked, she said, she incorporated other aspects of “the circle of life” in both geometry and nature. Viewers will see pieces of machinery and harnesses and a leaf Jasnoch created from a piece of a green 1970 Ford pickup truck.
The final sculpture should depict how “my roots are in my faith, my family and my friends,” Jasnoch said.
One of the exhibit’s most striking creations, however, literally shines on the south wall — one intended by Impact Co-President Janna Harsch of Greenwood to reflect her own roots many miles from her home between Lincoln and Omaha.
“The Afternoon Herd,” an alkyd-painted collage layering aluminum, steel and brass, alluringly depicts horses in a rolling Sandhills pasture.
Harsch took her visual inspiration from the Black Angus cattle ranch her grandfather once owned near Swan Lake north of Burwell. Her own parents lived farther north in Atkinson, on the Sandhills’ northeast edge.
Different gauges of brass and aluminum help the artwork’s equine stars to stick out, she said. But it’s the steel on which they’re mounted that causes “The Afternoon Herd” to light up.
“Other painters have to portray light,” Harsch said. “I get to use actual light in the reflections on the metal.”