Monday, April 16, 2012

Ann Rowles: Artist/Leader/Best Daughter Ever

National's latest newsletter has a fantastic article about Ann Rowles:

Meet Ann Rowles: Southeast Regional VP Love & Strength Thru Fiber Art 

Southeast Regional VP Ann Rowles has made her living as a distinguished artist and educator. After receiving her MFA in sculpture from the University of North Carolina, she taught at several institutions including UNC-Chapel Hill, received many grants and awards including a five-year residency at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, had her works exhibited widely in the US and abroad, and added to collections, including The William King Regional Art Center in Abingdon, Virginia. Rowles has been active with the Women's Art Movement since 1980, and a national affiliate member of SOHO20 since 1992. She also co-founded the WCA Georgia chapter and has served on the National WCA board since 2004. She currently maintains a studio at the B-Complex in Atlanta.

Rowles had an active and engaged life as an artist and a leader in the artist community both locally and nationally, when her mother had a slight fall, a few years ago. That seemingly minor injury led to complications and serious diagnoses. Her mother now suffers from a life-long disability. As an "only child and good daughter," Rowles made the decision to be her mother's caregiver. She could no longer count on spending hours at her studio, creating works from a laminated fabric technique she developed, nor devote the kind of energy she previously gave to her organizations.

This unexpected turn in her life shifted Rowles' priorities, but not her desire to create art. Looking for a new way of working, she turned to the past.  The craft of crochet, which she learned as a child from her great-grandmother was a perfect medium. It was something portable which she could carry to doctors’ appointments and hospital bedsides. Crocheting involved a single stitch, repeated over and over in multiple variations. For Rowles, this repetitive and meditative process tied together her unraveling life and created a tangible relic of her attempts to control the uncontrollable as well as record the passage of time spent with her mother.
At first these sculptures dealt with the physical and psychological manifestations of her mother’s illness.  Her health conditions ― advanced osteoporosis, digestive complaints and obsessions ― was Rowles' topic. Eventually,  she became curious about the abstract, formal and spatial possibilities of the technique. Rowles tried various yarns, twines, wires, and other fiber-like materials, and added sewn elements to create multiple layers. Although references to the body and disease remain, their representation diminished in importance. The installation process became a crucial part of the work, transforming the original object into multiple variations and interpretations. Rowles' current goal is to develop large scale site-adaptive installations, combining hanging crocheted forms with free-standing pieces and floor work using a variety of materials and techniques.
Ann Rowles recently discussed her role as Southeast Regional VP and Georgia chapter member:
Q. How did you become involved with WCA?
A. I have been involved with the women's art movement since the 1980's and it changed my work and my life for the better. I joined WCA as a member-at-large and began attending National Conferences in 1990. I moved to Atlanta in 1995 after 20 years in Durham, North Carolina.  I was very lonely, and found it difficult to connect with other artists.  In 1999 Beatrice Schall, an old friend and the WCA Southeast VP at the time, connected me with Cherie Redlinger who was living nearby in Marietta.  Cherie had been a member of the DC chapter and missed it!  Together we called a meeting in February 2000 to see if enough people we knew were interested in starting a chapter in Georgia.  Eleven women showed up and decided to give it a try.  In 2005 the Georgia Chapter hosted the National Conference, and as a result I connected with members from all over the country and became a member of the WCA Board.
Q. Tell me about your region.
A.The Southeast region encompasses the eastern states south of Maryland and east of Texas. There are four active chapters currently: DC, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana.The Charleston, SC chapter is currently inactive.
Q. How would you "sell" WCA to potential members?
A. I believe in WCA as a positive force for personal and aesthetic growth. I personally find it easier to work when I have a supportive community of artists for exchanging ideas, critiquing work, and sharing ups and downs. I believe we can accomplish more by working together to bring about the things we want to see happen.

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