Anything but Basic: ROOTS Week Artist Statement

By Jessica Clark | August 3, 2017

Back to the Basics, Down to the ROOTS. When I learned of this theme, I immediately wanted to research and represent the beginning of Alternate ROOTS. I began to search The History Project on the ROOTS’ website to familiarize myself with the evolution of ROOTS, and how it began. Back to the Basics means that we are getting to the bare bones of who we are, so looking back at where ROOTS began was the first step. I wanted to symbolize that by having the tree rooted in Tennessee where the Highlander Center is located, and where The Call – the very first ROOTS’ meeting – happened. When I think of Alternate ROOTS, images that come to mind are a large tree, roots, a patchwork, and people of all shapes, colors, sizes, and occupations. Although the southern states are presented in many forms for ROOTS, I still wanted to incorporate them because they are a key part of our identity. We are Southern artists and activists. They are painted to resemble a patchwork quilt with roots weaving in and out to symbolize our branching out and ROOTing. The mountains pay homage to the location where the annual meetings are held. The people represent ROOTS’ membership, which is comprised of dancers, performers, musicians, artists, singers, and advocates of many ethnicities and occupations.

Trying to represent all that ROOTS stands for in one painting was truly a challenge and anything but basic. I am truly honored to be able to showcase ROOTS in this capacity and hope I have made you all proud.


Jessica Clark resides in Fairmont, NC and is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of NC. She received a B.A. in Studio Art from UNC-Pembroke and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from SCAD. Jessica has exhibited in numerous national and international shows. Her work concentrates on documenting, preserving, and educating others on Southeastern Native American identity. She is employed by the Public Schools of Robeson County as a Visual Arts teacher and has a 15-year old son. Her artwork can be found online at

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.