past exhibitions

Ross Rolshoven
Inventions and Imagination

June 13 - August 4, 2002

North Dakota artist, Ross Rolshoven, widely known for his hand-tinted photographs and assemblages, holds the inaugural exhibition in a program to spotlight local artists at the North Dakota Museum of Art. Rolshoven's assemblages are brightly-colored, intricate displays of miniature toys, dolls, country and Western artifacts, and other memorabilia, usually in frames. Many of his assemblages are whimsical and have strange utilities such as comic book holders, cap gun displays, and time machines. Other pieces commemorate an event such as the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center or pay homage to war veterans; others chronicle the lives of characters well known in the history and lore of the West.

An obsessed collector of vintage toys and memorabilia, Native American art, and artifacts, Rolshoven creates assemblages using disparate objects to tell stories and evoke memories. The title of the exhibition, Inventions and Imagination, refers to places and things that don't exist. Rather, through the accumulation of related and unrelated objects, Rolshoven builds a world that encompasses his children, his love of the West, and his deep immersion in contemporary popular culture. Rolshoven is a visual storyteller and each piece has a theme that the viewer can interpret. Rolshoven thinks of his assemblages as memory conduit pieces and the interaction between the viewer and the artist creates an emotional bond.

In one of his assemblages centered around a single object, Captain Midnight's Secret Squadron, the focus was a 1946 decoder badge that was given away by Cream of Wheat as a toy premium. Cream of Wheat sponsored a radio show in the 1940s called Captain Midnight, and the badge was Rolshoven's inspiration to create the nighttime squadron of vintage toy airplanes.

Reminders of the past abound: one assemblage features an old Roy Rogers comic book marked at ten cents; Buffalo Creek Railroad is a bevy of toy trains including Northern Pacific Railway, Santa Fe, and Union Pacific engines and carriages, tiny images inside frames evoking worlds once known and now re-imagined and celebrated.

Cowboy life assemblages are among the most poignant of Rolshoven's artworks: cards showing cowboys steer throwing, at roundup time, around the campfire and rodeo busting. There are miniature toy metal and plastic guns in holsters, a miniature golden jewel-studded saddle, cowboy boots, and a belt buckle featuring steer horns.

Quirkiness is everywhere: "I Remember Getting Stuck on the Ferris Wheel at the Mandan Carnival" conjures up the childhood fears of all ferris wheel riders, and testifies to Rolshoven's desire that the viewers bring into play their own memories of past pleasures and fears; humor and nostalgia shine in Fish Lies, a whimsical assemblage of a fisherman's tall tales; Captain Midnight's Secret Squadron is a boy's delight: plastic planes under glass bring to the viewer dreams of the world of planes and adventure; Travel Signs 1942 features emblems and stickers from many states and bygone eras.

Other assemblages include pocket watches and antique clocks, part of a grandfather clock, and a haunting, standing assemblage of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.

Ross Rolshoven's hand-tinted photographs include portrayals of the cowboy life - one depicts a cowboy seated on grass, waiting his turn in the rodeo - and there are brilliantly tinted photographs of Fort Lincoln, Rancho De Taos Church, and Taos Pueblo.

Rolshoven, a lifelong resident of North Dakota, was born in Mandan and spent countless summers looking for arrowheads, playing on Calvary block houses, and exploring Mandan Indian earth lodges at local state parks. Western and Native American themes are common in Ross' work due to the influence of his upbringing. Art making was in his blood. His grandfather painted landscapes of his native Germany as a way of remembering after immigrating to North Dakota where he became a commercial artist, and continued to paint and to hand-tint his own photographs. His son, Rolshoven's father, became a civil engineer and photographer as well. Like his ancestors, Rolshoven both paints on canvas and hand-tints his own photographs, mostly of Western subjects and landscapes.

Rolshoven, a graduate of the University of North Dakota, manages a private detective and insurance claims office in Grand Forks and travels extensively, using business trips to collect the objects used in his artwork. He has participated in many local, regional and national art shows. Two of his tinted photographs are included in the permanent collection of the Van Vechetin-Lineburry Museum in Taos, New Mexico. His artwork is also in the collection of the North Dakota Museum of Art, and the East Grand Forks public Library, Custer County Art Center, Montana, and the Rourke Art Gallery, Minnesota, and he has won numerous awards for photography. Rolshoven has also worked in elementary schools as an artist and is a trustee for the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.


The exhibition, is the first in a series organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art to document the history of art in our own region.



Exhibition funded by:



Programming is supported in part by a grant from the City of Grand Forks through the North Valley Arts Council.


Ross Rolshoven
Buffalo Bill, 2001