Sam Roloff: On The Cusp
by Jonny Boys
Art has always been infused in Sam Roloff's life, from family to a career, it has been his expressive outlet. Roloff's mother is an artist and exposed him to the world of avante-garde at a young age. His childhood was spent in and out of the hospitals and creating art allowed him to escape the boredom of hospital life. He continued taking art classes through middle school and high school, he eventually attended the San Francisco Art Institute in 1991 earning a degree in Print Making. He won the Art Institute's Bronze Roller Award for print makers, which he shared with Barry McGee (a.k.a. Twist). His post college gallery space located on Heyes and Fillmore in San Francisco housed all kinds of fabulous art shows and fun parties. But life had more to offer Roloff, so he packed up and moved to Prague with a friend. They took over the top floor, an attic of a home that had nothing but a phone line, and they painted all the time. Throwing parties and hosting art shows helped fill the time they had there. “We were definitely the queen bees that year”, he said.
Sitting in his studio, was an amazing experience to to be in the presence of his paintings--he had some hanging up, some waiting to be shipped off, and others were works in progress. Roloff likes to work with thirty or more paintings at once, and lets them all percolate as if they were a colorful gourmet soup. He primarily works in oil, but recently he's been experimenting with acrylic. He said, “I like oil because you can't just pick it up and do it, you have to learn it. It has an old-school quality to it.” His work has so much depth, it begs the viewer to soak it in and ask questions. His “Back Story” series is the most intriguing to me. It is the idea that all of the layers of the painting hold the key to the original story behind the painting, so each new layer of paint, wax and resin adds depth to the story, but does not necessarily give explanation to what the story is.
Of his four series, “The Women”, “The Abstracts”, “The Back Stories” and “Surrealism”, his favorite is “The Women”, because it's so fast, furious and lovely. He painted a painting of Jillian
Rabe one year prior and was then contacted by her sister to do to do a show at their studio. That show was the first time I saw his work. He said they were all in love with his paintings and has shown there multiple times. Roloff and his agent, Jeffery Miller, are working together to make connections globally.
He has plans to show his work along side a select group of fashion designers from Portland in Beijing this fall. He would like to be represented in Portland but he is really looking at representation outside of the local market. “Portland is the kitchen where all of the art is made, but I want to get into the dining room where all the art is sold. It's easy to sell when you say you are a Portland artist because Portland is already so known as an art Mecca”.
He works with several people to get his finished paintings out into the public's view. Recently he had a series hung in the Radio Room, a Portland venue whose owners are big art collectors which got his work much deserved exposure.
Roloff truly is a visionary. He is currently working on three major projects that benefit children and aspiring artists in Portland. The first project will take him into Portland hospitals such as the Randall Children's Hospital and Shiners Research Center. In essence, he wants to create a collaborative art piece with hospitalized children. But it won't be kids art.
The idea is to take input from patients throughout a day and then he would use elements from the ideas to become a part of the work, which would end up as part of the works on display at the hospitals. The idea came about because he learned to paint early on when he was in the hospital as a child. Visiting artists would come in as well as the gentlemen who ran the art lab in the hospital. “For me it's like it is coming full circle again, getting back to the same thing that got me into art, to bring it back to the hospitals. It just seemed like a natural fit”, he said.
His second project is organizing a fundraiser for the Opal School at the Portland Children's Museum in August. The children need a playground. So he is curating the show which will feature local Portland artists. It's not an auction, it's simply an art sale which will benefit Portland's art collectors and the Opal School.
He's also taken on the creation of his own series of children's books called, The Little Artist and His Magic Painting Pants. It's set in Prague 400 years ago, and its core message is the importance of publicly funded arts. The King wants to build the walls higher around the city to defend it, but the artists convince him that if they paint the walls it will disarm their enemies because they won't want to attack, they will see the art and want to be friends.
Roloff is a sound emerging artist at a turning point in his career. The next few years will launch him out of the emerging art market into international Blue Chip collections.
For more on Sam's work go to: