top of page

Shelby Roberts

Essex cal.jpg

Artist Statement

Origin Myth started in 2018 as a series of color photographs made in the corridor between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City that he frequently roamed while addressing troubles at both ends. The project expanded in 2019 to include locations in Kentucky and New England while contemplating the remains of those troubles.


Roberts looks plainly and empathetically at the state of the country and our actions as citizens. His work is informed by his family’s pre-revolutionary war American identity and the schism between his youthful experiences in a more vacant Oklahoma contrasted with his adult life spent in the urban complexity of New York and Los Angeles.

In Origin Myth, Roberts explores both vast and intimate relationships between humans and nature as written on the land, after two centuries in the vein of manifest destiny. Roberts visits historically charged sites such as a contemporary cotton field near Keyes, Oklahoma where the dust bowl began in 1930. He finds the extraordinary in pedestrian sites such as Main Street in Bristow, Oklahoma were Donald Trump support is proclaimed in peeling paint above an equally worn classic American muscle car; or a city park in Ridgecrest, California were a replica of Fat Man, the first atomic bomb, is displayed with a fighter jet. These twentieth century monuments of heroic power replace the iconic equestrian sculptures of an earlier age.

Origin Myth

Limited Edition Prints Available

Foto Forum Santa Fe Exhibition Record

  • Origin Myth, solo exhibition, 2020


Shelby Roberts is a photographer who lives and works in Los Angeles.  He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts, NYC in 1987 and his MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 1990.  His photographs investigate fragments of environments that humans have built:  ancient neo-lithic sites in Scotland, a vista of abandoned grain elevators from the industrial age in Buffalo, New York, or the border fence between the United States and Mexico.

Shelby has exhibited his work in museums and institutions such as the Torrance Museum of Art, Torrence, CA, the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Indianapolis, IN,  Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA, Irvine Fine Arts Center, Irvine, CA.  His work has been exhibited in commercial galleries such as Sam Lee Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Monte Vista Projects, Los Angeles, CA and published in “Nest” magazine. 


Roberts has taught photography at University of California, Irvine since 1997.

bottom of page