Frank Kowing


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Born in McMinnville, Oregon, of Umqua and German heritage, I grew up near the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and became a member of that confederation. Wilderness was all around me, and I began to paint at an early age. My earliest art explored themes of germination, growth and metamorphosis. Nature signified immortality and provided inspiration. I was influenced by Native American art, as well as by Arshile Gorky and others whose abstract art was reminiscent of the shapes of living organisms.

Landscapes in oil gradually changed to made-up, fantasy mindscapes. The landscapes are still there, hidden in subjective interpretations of the surrounding world. I started experimenting with abstracts, which led to low relief collages and eventually incorporated found objects. The shapes I create are forms I have discovered in nature’s rhythms. Even now my artworks have the rough primal look of unpolished objects.

The art insists on an interdisciplinary approach, combining painting with sculpture. Acrylic paint, epoxy, pastels, and a whole host of other non-art materials comprise my working technique. The most mundane and the most exotic things can both be inspirations: a harmony of color, a maze of line… it is the artist’s right to devote attention to the common and banal. The very essence of the web of life is in the details. Patterns, reflections, kinetic light events in foliage transformed into art forms can delight the senses and instruct us in mindful ways to live.

Heedless depletion of the world’s resources and animal life have been of particular importance in my work. Making art with found objects serves to symbolize a culture of waste and destruction that despoils rather than enhances the biosphere. Through use of organic shapes and a chaotic vocabulary, it is possible to awaken the viewer’s own private demons. The world is full of small miracles that are accessible to all of us. We have only to keep our eyes open.

My more recent art reflects eroding values – in the art world and society in general. Under the malignant sway of today’s art market, run by finance manipulators and rich ignoramuses, genuine expertise seems irrelevant. Greed is apparently “good” and art productions are relegated to consumer products. Meanwhile misdeeds and cover-ups occur on all levels, from the Vatican to college football. By lampooning pedophile priests and corrupt politicians, my artwork creates monuments to evil… lest we forget.

Frank Kowing, Silver Spring, Maryland, 2011

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