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Tilting the Horizon - Dawn Roe - December 2013Taking Off
with Dawn Roe

Artist-in-Residence at
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

 By Susan Davis

Airports are – first and foremost - in the business of efficiently moving people from one point to the next.  Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is exactly that – busy, bustling and growing with an expansion project.  It does not sound like an artist’s project, does it?  But that is where Dawn Roe enters the picture.

Dawn Roe is the Artist-in-Residence at the airport as it undergoes this complicated runway expansion project.  Her mission is to document the changes as they occur and to record the transitions with an artist’s eye.  Roe is not a traditional artist in the sense of using paint or clay.  She combines the media of still photography and digital video.  Her work will culminate in an installation of artworks which show the development and construction of the south runway and Terminal 4 expansion.

Since no major projects of this size have taken place at the airport for years, Roe’s opportunities are limitless.  “This project allows me, the artist, to respond to ongoing progress.  Showing the subtle shifts in the existing space is fascinating, and I am thrilled to be involved in this venture,” Roe explains. Multi-panel photographs and video works show how her images explore the passage of time as the construction continues.

 "This project allows me, the artist, to respond to ongoing progress.

Showing the subtle shifts in the existing space is fascinating, and I am thrilled to be involved in this venture."

The work being done by Roe is not only a promise of a powerful exhibition in the airport, but it is also a process that demands audience participation and feedback in its early phases.  Broward Cultural Division’s Public Art Administrator Leslie Fordham explains: “Dawn conducted a community workshop in Terminal 1.  She was out in the open and readily available to answer questions or simply let passersby watch.  She would patiently explain what the project was about as she continued to photograph items from the work outside.  Sometimes it was just a pile of sand.  Other times it would be a piece of rock from the area or even a plant.”  This interaction provided an open dialogue between the artist and the observers. 

One of the most frequently asked questions by observers is very simply, “Why?” These are Roe’s favorite types of questions to answer.  “Construction is a fact of life and studying the process allows for a more extended consideration of its impact and import,” she says.  “Approaching the project as a sort of field study allows for the production of images that bring things to the surface that a cursory glance may not reveal.”  Through her work, Roe is “thinking about the very nature of space and place by repeatedly recording discrete portions of the site throughout the construction process as a means of allowing both myself as well as potential viewers a more intimate type of access than is normally expected or even desired,” she adds.

 From The Field - edits.

Images above and opposite From The Field - edits Still photography and digital video December 2013

“These photographs and videos currently playing in Terminal 1 will truly show the beauty in construction work.  The colors she captures and the textures she reveals will be a lasting time capsule of this momentous project,” Fordham continues. “As the County prepares to celebrate its centennial, more and more travelers will pass through our airport.  The videos and powerful images will show the birth of the project all the way through to its completion. The appeal will be to all passersby whether they are Broward County residents or travelers from other places.”

When all is said and done, at the end of 2014, Roe’s work will take many forms throughout the airport terminals.  Roe describes portions of the finished project by saying, “The visuals within the photographs and video will likely combine elevated and ground imagery including indigenous fauna and surrounding wetlands in relation to the perimeter of the site.” One of her stated goals is to keep her work subtle with a general sense “of quietude.”  This idea certainly will appeal to weary travelers as they observe the passage of time through this relocation of land to make way for progress.

Broward County is about to celebrate its 100th birthday.  Historically, the County has always grown – always reaching forward for a better way of life for its people. 

What better tribute is there to the forward momentum of the County than the work of this artist at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport documenting the major expansion project?  Once again, Roe says it best herself: “I am particularly interested in the ephemeral qualities that natural materials share with personal processes of recollection and recognition.  It is within the landscape that time moves most slowly, and distinctions between now and then become less clear.  Here, the enduring theme of time marks its presence most succinctly.  The rich histories within Broward County coupled with the metaphoric removal and redistribution of the land throughout the construction process are perfectly suited to the nature of my work.”

Give yourself an early present to celebrate the birthday of Broward County in 2015.  Visit the airport and spend some time with Dawn Roe and her exhibition, which will on view in the Lee Wagener Gallery on the departures level in Terminal 2 from July through September.  You will be glad you did.

Cultural Quarterly


Broward County Cultural Division
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