Painter Lynn Green Root’s signature elements are kinetic lines and bold, assertive colors. Born in Jackson on 18 March 1954, Root was the daughter of artist Myra Hamilton Green, who was also her first teacher. Root received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, worked on a master of fine arts degree at the University of New Orleans, and completed additional study at Millsaps College and the University of Alabama as well as with noted New York School abstract expressionist Fred Mitchell. Root began exhibiting work at a young age and was first showcased to large audiences as part of the collegiate show at the 1975 Mississippi Arts Festival.
An artist whose personal vision was cast into such a variety of form and media that it is not easily categorized, Root’s idiosyncratic technique and content are present in figurative paintings, in portraits, as illustration, and in narrative landscapes. When painting, Root often squirted paint from the tube directly onto the canvas and used sparkles, neon colors, and painted frames. Many have classified her work as neoexpressionistic or neoprimitive, while others have labeled it magical realism. Sensuous, spirited, and spiritual, her work alludes to sources as varied as Byzantine and Renaissance art. It is, in a word, exuberant. Museum curator René Paul Barilleaux described her technique as having an “incredible quality of line. That is her strongest formal element, always strong line work.” Gallery curator David Lambert noted, “She creates forms, moods, emotions, portrays action, all through continuous line. . . . Sometimes it is as manic as anything could be; it takes your eye everywhere. You don’t know where it stops or starts. Lynn is a standout consistently wonderful artist, based on her linear work. And, by the way, there is color!” Root’s Portrait of Johnny Langston (1981) exemplifies her lively line work, bold color, unexpected quirkiness, and confidence. The portrait is a frenetic work. The subject’s pale face is given depth by brushstrokes of pink, green, and blue shadows. Scratch lines in the paint create the pattern of his pink-and-aqua shirt and tie, adding a sketch-like quality. Set against a dark, marine blue background, the scratches, blotches, and obvious paint layers add an electricity to the leering Langston.
As evidenced by this and other works, Root exulted in the process of creation itself. Alongside her inclusion in The Mississippi Story, a 2007 exhibition at the Mississippi Museum of Art, her paintings have been exhibited at the Museum of American Illustration in New York, the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, and elsewhere. She illustrated books for the University Press of Mississippi, and her portrait of dancer and arts enthusiast Thalia Mara hangs in Jackson’s city auditorium, Thalia Mara Hall.
Root died on 6 March 2001.
- Patti Carr Black, Art in Mississippi, 1720–1980 (1998)
- Patti Carr Black, The Lives and Art of Myra Hamilton Green and Lynn Green Root (2009)
- Patti Carr Black, The Mississippi Story (2007)