By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoube Reporter
I was pleased to find Claire M. Rowley’s works at Odie’s Deli again recently (she has shown her work at Odie’s many times in the past), as she has something new to say to the world.
Rowley is an artist concerned with both form and function. She loves the mediums with which she works, and she is intent on saying important things with her work. The body of work was inspired by time she spent in South Africa, and the pieces are lighthearted enough to be appropriate for a coffee shop, but have substance beyond what you typically find in those venues.
There are no tags with the art, but the accompanying write-up states, “In the beginning of 2011, I spent about seven months in South Africa and Sierra Leone working on the world’s largest nonprofit hospital ship, the HMS Africa Mercy. If I were to say that I came back a different person, that would be putting it mildly. In seven months I saw some of the most spectacular things, but also some of the most horrific things I may ever see.
“Most of the paintings that are here at Odie’s are part of a series I am doing about my time in Africa, and about my readjustments into the culture of America. This selection from that series has been done with a variety of mixed media, including spray paint, acrylic, and fabric surface design. I hope that you enjoy what you see and remember just how blessed we are.”
The most intriguing of these works bring up numerous questions for me, both about her experience abroad and her use of materials. One painting shows only the cupped hands and wrists of what appears to be a young African. There are hints of maps behind, as well as dyed material that is reminiscent of long swaths of African mud cloth, which is typically manufactured by the men. Paint sort of rains down on the scene in a soft overlay, and my sense is that the cupped hands are trying to capture some of it.
A vertical triptych seems to have scarcity/abundance as an issue, as well, with the top panel holding an actual dinner knife, and the bottom a fork. The central piece has a smiling young man, and the graphic nature of the design combined with interesting textures created by the variety of mediums is appealing and feels uplifting.
The knife piece by itself, however, feels ominous and visceral. The contents of the “plate” are abstract and disturbing, and come off a little like raw meat. The bottom panel has a fork but no plate, just a placemat full of patterns.
It is the kind of work one sees in places like the Metropolitan in New York City, or other large city museums and galleries, and there is a reason. Art with substance has both the aesthetic appeal and evidence of the discipline of art, as well as a deeper meaning that can resonate on intellectual and emotional levels.
Look for more of her work this January at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center in a joint show with two
other young and talented artists, Ben Hastings and Joel Isaak.
Connie and Jay Goltz are also advocates for social causes, and have pulled together a joint exhibit of their work at Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Jay’s quiet little watercolors are a nice balance to Connie’s bright and bold fiber work and photography.
Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and the exhibits and cultural coordinator at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.