Monday, April 23, 2018

Local Art Seen: Wendy Rouse's "What Goes Around" at Lizzard's

Yesterday I mentioned visiting Studio 101 during the Earth Day Gallery Hop here in the Twin Ports. Another gallery that participated in the gallery hop was Lizzard's Gallery on Superior Street, a 30 second walk from the Tischer Gallery, which also had its doors open.

Thursday evening Lizzard's hosted an opening reception for Wendy Rouse, whose work I have long admired. I was grateful for the opportunity to finally meet the artist, and to share a bit of her story here.

EN: There is a fairy tale quality to much of your work. Where does this influence come from?

Wendy Rouse: A fairy tale quality. Hmm. I have thought more about myths than fairy tales.

I like to tell stories with my paintings and I do find inspiration in fairy tales, nursery rhymes and myths. What fascinates me is the way fairy tales are impossible/ improbable yet we choose to believe them, this suspension of disbelief is what I want the viewer to have when looking at my paintings.

I prefer to paint from life, using toys and objects set on a table top or mirror. The objects are small and that smallness may contribute to the story book quality. For example the polar bear is a little toy and the iceberg is a piece of styrofoam. I use realism to convince the viewer that a little boy could sail into the arctic to check on a polar bear.

EN: Have you been doing art full time since UMD or did you have a career in between UMD and NYAA?

WR: Art full time? No My husband and I met in the restaurant business 40 years ago. We have worked in many restaurants and owned and operated two. The first was Lake Avenue Cafe in Canal Park and the second was Farm Table in San Francisco. Restaurant work cut into my painting time and energy but it paid the bills and was a nice break from being in the studio which can get lonely. After I earned my masters degree I did quite a bit of art teaching, community ed art classes, private lessons and a few art classes at St. Scholastica.

EN: I see a couple of paintings that have ties to the story of Narcissus. Can you say a little bit about these?

WR: The Greek and Roman myths have often been a backstory for my paintings. I think of myths as fairy tales for adults. Ancient societies use myths to explain the big things; love, life, death, nature and mankind's place as part of nature. These issues are just as relevant today. My paintings may look sweet and decorative but I paint slowly and have lots of time to think about serious issues that hide under the surface.

Narcissus was a beautiful young man who fell so in love with his image he fell into a pool and drowned and the beautiful nymph that loved him was heartbroken after Narcissus drowned and all that was left of her was an echo... the Greeks way of explaining where echos came from and warning about narcissism. I did some unintentional gender bending in my version; Narcissus female and Echo male -- maybe the result of living 3 years in San Francisco? Sometimes these paintings take on a life of their own.

EN: What did you learn from being a student of Chee that has stuck with you to this day?

WR: Chee stressed the importance of designing a painting. No matter what your subject or style, underlying design holds it all together. He was one of those instructors who truly shared his passion. Also, interested adults from the community often took Chee's classes, subsequently his classes had a different atmosphere than my other art classes at UMD.

EN: How did NYAA advance your skills, career as an artist?

WR: When I attended UMD in the early 80's it was all about creativity and expression. The fundamentals of drawing, anatomy, perspective, color were not taught, I guess that was out of style. I wanted to be able to draw and paint realistically and learn about oil painting. Thats what I got at NYAA and much more. They have a great Thursday night lecture series with a different artist from New York or beyond every week. A rigorous academic training but relating it to what was happening in the New York art scene. Plus spending two years in New York with access to museums and galleries was ideal.
* * * *
Receptions are always a nice way to meet the artist.
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your work with us.
A very nice turnout for "What Goes Around" Thursday @ Lizzard's
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Next Friday, April 27
Three More Great Art Events
Here's the Lineup
The Inimitable Leah Yellowbird

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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