Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My friend John Clark made this film. It's a short profile of me, my art, my husband, Brian Beattie and some of his art. He did a wonderful job distilling my rambling words into cohesive significance and his camera faithfully honors my vision. Please take a minute to see what it's all about.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Valerie Fowler: Nature and Other Stories! You are Invited!

Dougherty Arts Center, Julia C. Butridge Gallery
1110 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas, 78704 
Opens Wednesday, November 30, Closes January 7

Opening Reception Wednesday, November 30, 6-8pm
Live Performance Dec. 20, 7pm  
Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase
Dougherty Arts Theater

Artist Talk, Jan 4, 2017, 7pm

Dougherty Art Center presents Nature and Other Stories, an exhibition of artist Valerie Fowler’s complex, nature themed oil paintings and large works on paper selected from a survey of work spanning 20 years. Local and personal, both in theme and setting, Fowler explores her place on earth: primarily, that of Central Texas, and how we as humans intersect with our environment. Also included in the survey will be Fowler’s original illustrations for the musical project and book: Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase (written by husband, Brian Beattie). 
On December 20, in the Dougherty Arts Theater, Fowler, Beattie and several original cast members will perform “cranky” shows showcasing Fowler’s illustrated, 30 foot long panoramas, “cranked” along to Beattie and company's musical accompaniment.
Fowler has exhibited widely but this will mark her first ever solo exhibition.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Save the Date!!

Valerie Fowler: Nature and Other Stories

The Dougherty Arts Center
Austin, Texas

Opening Reception Wednesday, November 30, 6-8pm
Show runs November 30 2016 to January 7 2017

I am so excited about this show!
Here's a Sneak Peek. 
I'm in high production mode. December may seem like a long way off but I really don't have much time to spare. I'm working daily. Along with many of the paintings I've created over the last 20 years I will be showing several brand new paintings. 
Here's a studio, work in progress, quick peek, at where I'm headed.

Blunn Creek, 27x72", oil on canvas

In addition to the large scale oil paintings I am also working on my "neighborhood at night" series.

End of the Street, 12x12", ink and watercolor on claybord, 2016

Bastrop, 11x14", ink on claybord, 2016

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Gallery Talk

I was asked by the Georgetown Art Center to give a gallery talk in coordination with the show "The Great Outdoors" (on view Sept. 5-28, 2014). Two of my paintings were chosen for this show so I was, of course, happy to be asked.  My experience with public speaking is limited and fraught with long held fears. But I did discover, last year, when the same organization asked me to talk about my work and present a slide show, that I actually was able to speak. The sky did not fall. BUT, for this talk,  I would not have my slides to prompt me, so I decided to write it all down here and then post it, after my talk, so that anyone who had an interest would have an opportunity to read what I managed to say.
 Except, when we were driving to Georgetown, about a 45 minute drive, and were about halfway there, I realized my carefully crafted and perhaps overly rehearsed notes were not in my purse. No, they were at home on the coffee table in the living room. Ugh. So with no other choice, I gave my talk without notes. Which was probably for the best and strangely liberating. I did, however, hastily jot down certain points on a napkin but I didn't even use them, just held the napkin like a kleenex wad while I spoke.

Anyway here's an excerpt of the original written speech...

.....But since I was asked to speak, well,  I will tell the origin stories of these two paintings. And I'm amused to do so because these two particular paintings, chosen for this show, actually have very specific stories to tell and they are each about one of my two children.

Spring, Everything Changes, 2010, oil on canvas, 54x42"

This, mostly pink one, Spring Everything Changes, was painted about my daughter and a peach tree.
A few years back, I was driving through the Texas hill county. It was very early spring, still chilly in the morning. My daughter was in the front seat of my truck beside me. She was on the cusp of becoming a teenager, changing rapidly. As we drove near the town of Stonewall, an area known for it's peaches, we passed row after row of peach trees, all in extravagant bloom. Peach trees bloom before they put out their foliage so the trees seemed to be all covered with the most ethereal pink puffy clouds. Meanwhile, their trunks looked jet black, perhaps still wet from the morning's dew. The ground was a ruddy red, and what little, new spring grass present was bright lime green. The light was crystal bright and clean and as the sunlight came through the windshield it illuminated my daughter 's face and I knew all in an instant that these two visions were connected. It was all connected. My daughter's beauty and the peach tree's gorgeous potential were all intertwined. I continued on, driving and conversing with my daughter, but I was secretly pocketing the exquisite vision. As soon as I was no longer driving I made notes, a laundry list of colors and shapes, and my emotions, and as soon as I returned to my studio, I set to work. When I needed to remember a detail, I could think of my daughter and the moment would all rush back. I just had to pay attention and follow the vision.

Negotiating Safe Passage, 2008, oil on canvas, 36x36"

The other painting, the mostly blue one, Negotiating Safe Passage, is about my son.
When my son was in 6th grade and starting middle school, he particularly dreaded school. He needed to be there before dawn for a "zero hour" class which began before the regular school hours. Since it was still dark out I would walk with him. The route we chose to take brought us along a small greenbelt, a wooded path near our house, and that autumn, it was especially overgrown and wild. The vines were thick and the trees' canopy blocked out the city lights making it pitch black in spots. My son was never afraid of the dark, what he dreaded was getting to school. As we walked the foliage and tangled vines seemed to be acting in sympathy, a mirror of his emotion. I could not spare him these fears but I could bear witness. When I walked back home, without him, I saw the same vines and thicket of trees in the new day's dawn and I knew that that was what I had to paint. I tried to capture nature's awe inspiring dark and terrible power--along side it's fearsome beauty and I tried to remember that evil is not inherent in nature, evil is a trait we humans sometimes attribute to nature because of our own fears. My son was not afraid of the the dark, the outdoors, or even nature itself, he was afraid of what harm humans can do.
Here's another take on this painting. Something I wrote a few years back. About fear and good and evil in nature in general and human nature in particular.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Woodlands High School Art Trust and Me

This is the auditorium where each artwork was displayed in poster form and where student docents spoke about each artwork and where the winners were announced.
This past weekend I drove to the Houston area for an event at The Woodlands High School. I, along with 19 other artists had been selected as finalists in the high school's program called "Palettes and Paintings" which raises funds with the specific purpose of acquiring fine art for the high school's permanent collection and is organized by The Woodlands High School Art Trust. Each student gets one vote towards the final selection. This was only the event's third annual but the students seemed really enthusiastic--3600 votes were cast out of approximately 4000 potential voters. The student docents (who are responsible for selecting the finalists) display the artworks in the high school's hallways in the weeks leading up to the event so that the student body has a chance to look them over. And each year the Trust purchases the art works which receive the most votes...actually the top 5. Now, I get asked to participate in a lot of fundraisers and I participate in many but this was unusual in that I wasn't being asked to donate anything, and in fact, was instead given a chance to expose my work to a new audience and given the chance of actually selling it. I love that the goal is to surround these students with art. The two previous years' acquisitions (10 pieces, so far) are prominently displayed in the hallways so that the students will have the opportunity to see them daily. I am pleased to say that my painting, Rio Frio, Opening Earth was one of the 5 chosen and will now reside in those same hallways. The evening was entirely charming, run by the students with much help from many devoted parents. This is a wonderful model. It's a learning experience for young artists and future curators and something many schools would do well to imitate. And for the artists it's a great opportunity. I will recommend this program to other artists as this collection will surely grow in variety and sophistication over the coming years.  

Here, my painting displayed in the hallway with the other finalists.

Here is a better view...Rio Frio, Opening Earth, oil on canvas, 12x36", 2011

And this is me, in the bathroom, before the proceedings, and wearing my excellent pallet name tag.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How to Conquer a Nightmare

When I was very little, say 5 or 6, at the oldest, I had a recurring nightmare. In the dream, a sculpture which hung in my home, came to life as a monster, and tortured me. The sculpture, called "Falling Lady", by Don Snell, early sixties, was a life size human mass assembled in old painted rags, spooky mummy style, which looked to my eyes like a really horrific paper mâché piñata. The woman's body was grotesquely twisted and the spattered paint, though multicolored, looked like so much spattered blood. I had to constantly divert my eyes, and as a result, I don't even remember what the face looked like. It hung over a two story expanse in my parents office/studio space. If I visited my Mom in there I would cover my eyes except to look at her. Never would I enter that room at night and if the door was open and I had to walk past, I looked the other way and ran.
Just your average paper lantern, or is it?

My dream took several forms, usually some otherwise benign household fixture would suddenly turn into the horrible creature, often it was the huge paper globes which covered hanging light fixtures in our entry hall, my parents had several hanging throughout our house, big white cheap, paper lanterns which looked clean and contemporary but which I could only run past as a child for fear they would turn into the creature of my nightmare. So I avoided these lampshades also.

When the dream would begin I would feel the scratchy claw-like hand of the sculpture woman on my shoulder. Made of rags stiffened with paint and probably copious amounts of glue, the sculpture's surface was scratchy and creepy to touch. I had only touched it once, in waking hours, and I don't know how I dared. During my dream the monster's touch would send me into screams and fits of terror. My mom would run to my room and try to wake me but I could only feel the monster's touch--my own mother's touch mistaken for the monster's. It would take her some time to wake me and make me feel safe again. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I would spend the rest of the night in my parents bed because as soon as my bedroom light was turned out I would again feel the monster's touch and begin to scream.

It is hard to say how long this went on, weeks or months but it was during this period that my parents moved my sister and I into another bedroom, long planned to be our big girl room, vacating the room which would become our baby brother's room, but with just one hitch: the new bedroom was the room next door to my parents' studio. Now if a lampshade could turn into my monster, the wall which separated me from that monster could not be trusted to keep that monster at bay. The nightmares continued. But gradually, they developed and changed. In my very last monster dream I found myself walking two houses down to my best friend Rosie's house to play, only to discover that the garage door entry was all closed up, indicating that her family was away. I sat at the curb of her driveway, missing her, and there appeared the monster. I remember not screaming, not running, but gazing down at the marbled motor oil rainbow in the water of the gutter and saying, without looking up, that we should try to be friends. And it seems it was as simple as that. My nightmares ended. I'd like to think that I ended them with my own will. I suppose my parents thought I just grew out of them.
Fear, while you experience it, is a hard thing to get around, and simple, in hindsight, to dismiss.

My husband, Brian, had a recurring childhood dream also. In his, he is at a carnival or fair and after exiting a ride realizes that night has fallen and the carnival is deserted. He is alone and terrified.

How do these dreams stop? Is it simply that the child dreamer matures past the fear? Does the dreamer decide to banish the monster or just look at the monster in a new light? I'd like to think that the dreamer plays an active role. In my dream I think missing my friend helped me to see the monster as somebody less threatening. Who knows? But Brian's dream became a seed idea for a musical he wrote, Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase
And here is a song from the musical in which Ivy, our hero, puts a nightmare to bed.
Oh do listen in, and enjoy... 
Below is an illustrations I did to accompany it.

Ivy's Dream, from Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase