Archive for Monday, September 29, 2008

The artist’s signature: Local artist finds success with new and different forms of expression

Artist and teacher Elizabeth Rowley likes to discover remote places in the countryside and set up her easel and paint in the open air. Behind her is "Bella Verde," 48-by-48-inch oil, encaustic on canvas.

Artist and teacher Elizabeth Rowley likes to discover remote places in the countryside and set up her easel and paint in the open air. Behind her is "Bella Verde," 48-by-48-inch oil, encaustic on canvas.

September 29, 2008


Elizabeth Rowley "September Sunday," 27-by-27-inch oil on paper.

Elizabeth Rowley "September Sunday," 27-by-27-inch oil on paper.

Elizabeth Rowley&squot;s painting "Submergence," an oil encaustic on canvas, 36"x36"

Elizabeth Rowley's painting "Submergence," an oil encaustic on canvas, 36"x36"

"Art is not a philosophical system embracing the whole world; it is an immensely local affair, and the outstanding characteristic of any original style is the local signature, the impress of a specific environment which, by modifying traditional techniques, makes possible a new mode of expression."

When Kansas art critic Thomas Craven wrote this in 1939, he couldn't have known he was describing the work of contemporary artist Elizabeth Rowley, who has lived and worked in Lawrence for five years. She's trained in traditional techniques, but, from an early age, was influenced and encouraged to find new forms of artistic expression.

Her father, writer and artist Patric Rowley, mowed lawns in Wichita in exchange for lessons from William and Betty Dickerson, members of the Prairie Printmakers group whose works (from 1930-65) are now collectibles.

"Our family went to the Dickersons' house every Sunday for brunch," Rowley recalls. "They had paintings and drawings everywhere, some finished and some not. Santa Fe mugs were displayed on kitchen shelves. Everything there was a visual feast of mixed colors and patterns."

Patric Rowley's home, like the Dickersons', was filled with original art. He constantly encouraged his five children in their artistic endeavors.

"Every Friday night we'd make art and hang it up," Elizabeth Rowley remembers. "My father gave us mini-critiques before awarding each of us a prize."

She admits she was particular as a child, caring about how she looked and obsessive about the tidiness of her room (she's since recovered.) She loved spending time working beside her father and making art in his messy but minimalist studio.

"Looking back, I realize how the Dickersons and my father influenced my life in terms of how they lived as artists," Rowley says. "They lived for their art, were willing to make sacrifices and experiment with new techniques, and shared their gifts with others. I also learned the importance of critiques in improving and developing my art."

She graduated from Wichita State University in 2002, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing, and a Bachelor of Arts in studio arts.

Rowley's work, like that of her early influencers, is based on the Kansas landscape. When she discovers a remote place during meditation and reflection in the countryside, she'll return with her easel and paint in the open air (a style largely associated with 19th century Impressionists who captured outdoor light in their paintings.) Rowley paints quickly, capturing an immediate impression of what her eyes see and her spirit feels. It's a fusion of the real landscape with her emotional response to it - moments of the natural world captured in paint.

"I put lots of paint on the canvas with a palette knife," she explains. "There's never too much paint to be used to describe the layers and textures of nature."

Rowley takes this experience further and produces larger abstract work using encaustic technique, often referred to as the "poor man's glaze" by artists. This process utilizes molten wax (locally produced beeswax), resin and pigments that are fused into a continuous layer and fixed to a support with heat to achieve the lustrous enamel and translucent appearance.

"The process isn't precise and meticulous, it's bold and passionate," she explains. "I use painting knives, kitchen utensils and my own hands to manipulate the surface to build and deconstruct the layers. As I tear and gouge the painting with my tools, I'm trying to find the beauty within the tensions. I look into the natural world, its outer surface and its internal light, its violence and its calm."

She adds fibers and thread to her work to create more depth and light.

"The fiber creates texture; thread creates a makeshift grid in some of the work. This invites and enables the viewer to see a snippet of the work and also makes a statement about conventional landscapes," she explains.

Scenes aren't expressed with object and form, but with place, color, texture and movement that reflect her personality and spiritual vibrancy.

"I try to truly see - not just look at - the landscape," Rowley says. "I'm not bound by conventional standards to create these landscapes. The materials and process I use creates the contemporary feel and modern light expression."


kansascrone 9 years, 6 months ago

i am a proud owner of some of elizabeth's work. i am no art critic but i know what i like. elizabeth is a wonderful teacher as well. you go girl! - ginny

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 6 months ago

BTW, Elizabeth, if you're reading this, I hope you've learned by now that those without the ability to create things on their own tend to be plenty willing to tear down what others create -- it takes no time, effort, or talent. You can't be the artist anyone else wants you do be, so don't try. Good luck.

sedona 9 years, 6 months ago

Actually, for clarification purposes. The plein air work is not new. Many people need an art history lesson and I am certainly not one them, however I continually learn about post-modern work that artists are doing as well as artists using more traditional techniques combined with contemporary materials such as myself. I am sorry that the writer may have conveyed that my traditional landscape work is contemporary. What she meant was the work that I do after during traditional work in the landscape when I am using contemporary materials such as fiber, thread, tar, mixed with traditional materials: oil and encaustic are put into atmospheric landscapes that I have drawn inspiration from the landscape while painting outside. The contemporary materials are used on work in the studio. The work is pretty formal and not conceptually based in a post-modern environment nor is it meant to be. I do have lots of mixed-media work using childrens drawings, typed poems, watercolor, coffee and tea, found photographs from abandoned houses, photo transters, paper dolls, fiber, and even discarded trash. I have a strong statement for a gender-identification show that will probably be shown out-of-state but the formal elements that I learned just from traditional painting are still there even in the stronger conceptual work. It is very hard to be a working artist and I do have a job that keeps me very busy. I appreciate all of your comments and I was happy to just be in the paper showing a very small snippet of my work . I am used to critiques and welcomed them in school and now. Thank you for all of your comments.

SirReal 9 years, 6 months ago

Your work is pretty good, but expressionist landscapes are several hundred years old. Don't try and pretend or critique this work as if it's something entirely new or something it's not. It's fairly universal and widespread, maybe in early 19th century Europe this was personal and new. But not now.

tonythetiger 9 years, 6 months ago

I am not bound by means of convention either. It sure would be nice to be considered an artist myself. For many a year now it has been to the dismay of others around me and the instructors at the Lawrence Arts Center that their art about me outweighs my art about myself. I am not sure how it is that others and what they have to say in my presence or not in my presence is more creditable than what I have to say. I mean. I ruined somebody that was slandering me and selling it as art? They actually came to me to whine about it. Wow, do you think I should care a lick for them?I am a talented artist and done renditions of the Haskell House on 14th and Haskell and the first hospital in Lawrence on 8th and Ohio and other places like the former Maupin house at 14th and Tennesse and I posted them on the internet and not many people paid attention so I bothered not to paint them.Everyone is an artist. This lady is one as well. I am not sure why some people engage themselves in the form of art they do. I am not sure I care.

Confrontation 9 years, 6 months ago

If you want to see some art from artists who were actually talented and didn't just crap on a piece of paper, then I'd recommend going to the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Once you see the talent of ancient Roman art or even 16th century European art, then you'll recognize how weak most of our artists are today.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 6 months ago

I changed my mind. I only like what Confrontation likes.

yankeevet 9 years, 6 months ago

Not sure about the art; but she sure is cute.....

SirReal 9 years, 6 months ago

On the contrary I AM a working artist, (I won't reveal personal information here or I'd put a link to my gallery) and I wasn't tearing the work down. I said it's pretty good. But the writer of the article is implying that expressionist landscapes are something entirely new. They are not. Read an art history book. It's excellent work, I'll say it again, It's excellent work, but is it new or experimental has the title or content of the article suggests? Not by a couple hundred years.

Confrontation 9 years, 6 months ago

Hey, look, I just threw blue, yellow, green and brown paint on a canvas. Just in case you can't tell, it's actually a landscape of water, trees, and the sun. Now, pay me too much money for something a preschooler can make.

Confrontation 9 years, 6 months ago

geniusmannumber1: I don't care if you like this junk art or not. Feel free to adore the landscape paintings done by paint being shot out of a watergun, or a painting done by a naked artist sliding around on paper. I'm sure that takes real talent.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Confrontation -- if somebody doesn't tell me something is good art by putting it in a museum or a book, it's not good art.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.