I have had the privilege of being an artist all my life. I am one of the lucky people who found his life’s work and was able to make it a livelihood. I have been in music and theater since the age of 8. I would say music is still the art that most deeply affects me. In my late twenties, while living in Berkeley CA, I discovered modern dance. I redirected my life so I could pursue this new addiction because it combined everything that was important to me at the time: music, theater, people, and the athleticism of my youth. I became a professional dancer and then a choreographer and eventually the artistic director of a company in Boise Idaho.
In my forties, I discovered painting. I mentioned the theater and dance because it has been an influence on my painting. But the first impulse to paint came from my surroundings here in Idaho. I came here in ’79, initially for a dance residency, and moved here permanently in ’80. My first impression of the area was the landscape. Often in the evening I would become mesmerized by the undulating shapes of the bare hills and the play of light across their surfaces. After a while, I realized that this landscape was strongly holding me to this place.
I craved having a way to interact with this Idaho landscape. I realized that I had an emotional, very personal response. Idaho has big mountains, the kind that draws tourists and gets on postcards, but the foothills interested me far more. So, I began to draw them, quite timidly, very much in the closet, and I found this activity to be wonderfully maddening and satisfying. I showed my monochromes to a painter friend and he matter-of-factly said I had tonal values pretty good, why not try color.
As when I started to dance, I soon became obsessed about painting and I organized my life so that I was painting every minute that I wasn’t doing what I was suppose to be doing. Five years later I had my first solo show at a gallery in Boise. Eventually I moved to Boise to co-direct the Idaho Dance Theatre and pursue painting professionally.
As I painted, I realized I saw the land the way I see a stage. In dance, we light the stage from the sides with strongly colored light. This accentuates the forms of the dancers. I also learned in the theater that something could be any color we want. The “real” color of anything is irrelevant because color depends on the nature of the light shining on it. People in particular can be literally any color onstage. Costumes and skin magically morph into new colors, if we want. (To see my choreography click this link: www.carlrowedance.com
I know now why the land here so attracts me. It is human land; sensual, evocative, fragile, made up of shapes and contours that evoke the human form. At least, that is what I see. These forms change colors, often quite dramatically, as the light changes temperature during the course of the day and the changes in season. These are the elements that I emphasize in my work.
Landscape, any landscape, has no inherent meaning or beauty. A field of wildflowers is no more beautiful than a flat, dry lakebed of dirt and rock. We assign the meaning and beauty. My perspective is that we humans must find meaning and beauty in the surroundings of our existence in order to value and preserve it. My paintings are my attempt to heighten our sensitivity by asking you to look, look at this. Really look at it.
I have had a full and wonderful career as an artist. I am fortunate to have been involved in two entirely separate art worlds; performing and visual. The beauty of the human body in motion occupied me for over 40 years. It is a social art form working closely with other people in a charged environment of mutually personal desires for artistic expression. Choreographing uses every part of me as a human: intellectual, physical, musical, artistic, theatrical, and emotional.
Painting is solitary and very personal. What draws me to it is that it provides a way for me to interact with my planet. My first impulse to paint is still my present impulse. The land that surrounds me has a visceral effect on me and I feel compelled to give form to that response. Being a professional painter gives me the additional experience of sharing that response with others. There are few greater privileges than having someone love a painting and purchase it to make it part of their home and life.
Some parts of the U.S. are famous for their attraction to artists and art lovers; such as Santa Fe and Carmel. My feeling is that this land I inhabit is every bit as sensual, mysterious, and full of artistic material as those, and that it should be as famous as these better known regions. I'm doing my part to make it so.