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Honoring The Cover Artist: Lawrence Roberts

This week’s cover by Lawrence Roberts, “Game of Shadows,” is more than meets the eye. While it apparently shows a tennis player in silhouette, the artist takes the idea one step farther: the shadow itself is the most salient part of the image. According to Roberts, it’s not the player on the court that is the focus. Instead, it’s the effect that the shadow will have on the spectators (or even the readers of Dan’s Papers, according to this art critic). After all, the shadow is directed beyond the picture plane. Simply put, it’s about how shadows influence others and why something exists.
Does this subtle theme also extend beyond the cover, signifying Roberts’ worldview in general, meaning that all manner of things may effect us? While we may not have gotten the answer to that particular question from Roberts, we did discover his penchant for politics, tennis, law and digital photography.
Q: The cover image brings up an obvious question. Are you a tennis player or just a fan of the U.S. Open?
A: I have a friend who is frenetic about the U.S. Open. I have gone with him to the event for the last four years.
Q: What’s it like there? I remember calling you on your cell a few days ago, and you were at the match.
A:  It was perfect weather, but it’s a very long day, from morning to 10 o’clock at night. It was relatively uneventful this year, all straight sets, but it was a pleasant day. We had good seats; we could practically touch the players.
Q: It seems that tennis was more exciting in my day, when Billy Jean King was playing.
A: It’s different now; there are other things that vie for our attention. The media has the power to allow tennis to dominate the national conversation, but it doesn’t.
Q: Speaking of other things that get attention, there was just the Republican National Convention. I imagine that being in law gives you an interest in politics. So, what about Clint Eastwood giving a speech at the Convention?
A: It’s hard to take him seriously. By the way, the speech was based on an improvisation routine that a famous comedian used to give. I can’t remember who it was.
Q: Speaking again of the speeches, what about the importance of art in education? Romney and Ryan did not even mention that in their speeches.
A: There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s so important that children are exposed to all avenues of education. All too often, art is given short shrift. The problem is, how are you measuring a school’s worth? It’s the reading and math scores. Things aren’t measured in art scores.
Q: Regarding education, what do you think about how subjects are taught today? What principles do you follow when you teach law?
A: I never use the scientific method when I teach. I apply bits and pieces from teachers I had who were effective. You hear that educators are entertainers, but it’s the obligation of educators to make information accessible. I use a pop culture reference so that the students can identify with a hypothetical principle.
Q: What are the similarities between your teaching law and your photography?
A: They both are about communicating an idea. The ideas and methods may differ, but the underlying idea is the same. It’s not the medium but the message.
Q: That may be true, but what is it about digital photography as a medium that you are drawn to? Lots of people are “purists” and don’t like digital technology.
A: Digital technology is more accessible. And its evolution has developed greatly from not having a great image in the 1990s compared to the density and clarity of the filmic image. I like Ansel Adams as much as the next guy. But my artistic sensibility isn’t suffering beyond measure because I do digital photography.

Contact Lawrence Roberts at His work will be exhibited at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art Sept. 13 – Oct. 5, 2012.

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