Margaret Roleke: Getting a Dialogue Started

Margaret Roleke, Margaret Roleke: Made Visible, 2020, window installation of cyanotype banners and mylar, Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven, CT., photo courtesy of Rashmi Talpade

When Margaret Roleke finished her MFA, she was a sculptor and installation artist. From early on she created installations dealing with issues of water, sound and light and after becoming a mother to four children, notions of motherhood and domesticity became central in her work. As her children grew, current political events became increasingly part of her visual expression. For instance, around 2002 she started including toy soldiers in her sculptures, referencing the Iraq war, and also around this time for a public art project in Brewster, NY, she made seating for the day-laborers who were regularly gathering on that site. She continued to make work that spoke to issues that were important to her, mainly gun control, domestic abuse, and immigrant rights. She says she had no intention to be an activist artist, but became one in the course of making art and exploring her true voice — “The Trump presidency led me to march on the streets and register voters, but I feel I can be a better activist when I create work which starts a dialogue on these important subjects, as this seems to be what comes naturally to me,” she says.

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Las Gravitas at ODETTA

Photos by Sharilyn Neidhardt, unless otherwise indicated
A show of swirling color and geometry finds ways to discuss complicated issues of violence and social collapse.

What drew me to ODETTA on a very chilly Saturday were the colorful, pagoda-like structures in the main space. Human-scale structures that echo lanterns or birdcages are covered in awkward spiky garlands of colored plastic tubes. The festive air created by the riot of bright color seems fun at first, and it’s only on second inspection that a viewer realizes the color is coming from spent shotgun shells.

Margaret Roleke, ‘pop pop’ (installation view) spent shot gun shells, wire, zipties, steel boxes. 2 boxes each approx. 9’h x 5’w x 5’d

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