November, 30 x 24 inches, oil on canvas. Peaches, Eagle Island, 30 x 24 inches, oil on canvas.
“THIS painting speaks to a couple of things,” Rowe says.
“During the pandemic, we all had lawn chairs outside,
that’s how we said hello to each other. I loved the fact
it was November and there are these bright fruits
paired with the front door that kind of hovers in space.
I’m intrigued with inviting people to participate in the painting in a
personal way, for the painting to have a mood to it. I’m interested in
what a person can introduce their own story to.”
Rowe’s own story includes a circuitous route to her craft. She always
loved art, and her childhood held mostly drawings of dogs and ballerinas.
She took her first art class in 2013, collage mixed media at Cameron Art
Museum. Later, working on IT global projects for IBM found her doodling
in meetings to organize her thoughts. Art had always been calling, yet
she decided to pursue a career first and creativity later.
“When I got started, my friend suggested classes at Cape Fear
Community College,” she says. “Then I met professor Ben Billingsley
and got my Associate in Fine Arts. It’s really one of the best things I’ve
done. It’s an education in drawing and painting. I have a big debt of
gratitude to the faculty there.”
A late but adept learner, Rowe began to focus on lush oil paintings that
display wondrous everyday things. Her Homegrown Series was inspired
by her upbringing in the Pisgah Forest of North Carolina. She then looked
inward to her now-home of Wilmington, be it ripe peaches in baskets at
Eagle Island Seafood or fish on display at Motts Channel Seafood.
Each of us holds memories with food. It could be collards plucked from
the garden and prepared by grandparents, the smell of chicken coated in
egg yolk and flour while frying in crackling grease, or the way juices from a
ripe cantaloupe drip down your chin in the height of summer.
“If I’m going to do a painting about okra, it’s not just about okra,”
Rowe says. “I’m looking for something that evokes a feeling. In
Cantaloupes, that’s Eagle Island in the dead of summer. You can smell
the cantaloupe. We brought home one and ate it, it was warm and ran
down our chins. That’s what I want the painting to be about.”
Collards become not just a vegetable but a lush color palette of
lavender and green juxtaposed by the royal blue bin they were placed
in. Onions could be seen as simple minced ingredients, but Rowe
communicates pearlescence and beauty while leaving subjectivity on
“I know people who say they eat to live and live to eat. I’m more on
the live-to-eat side,” she laughs. “Before Hurricane Florence, I went to
Motts Channel with a friend, and she brought home two Spanish mack-erel.
I asked her to take some photos for me before she cut them up.
Jack and Charlie’s Supper were the mackerel she made for her grand-children.
36 december 2021
I’ll have fishermen come in, see that painting and say, ‘Oh, I
love catching them.’ People can relate to food because it’s part of who
we are, they’re reacting to their memories and thoughts.”
Mountain Apples 1-4, speak to Rowe’s childhood. She used her
grandmother’s piano throw to add pattern. Mountain Apples 3 displays
a rushed decadence with apples spilling from an earthy green bowl
alongside ornate glassware. Mountain Apples 1 shows organization while
communicating reflection and color from a fruit that is anything but