People don’t float anymore in Terry Rowlett’s paintings. He has lost the deep religious convictions of his youth. But Rowlett’s works, realistic depictions of everyday people in natural landscapes, are still hauntingly allegorical. They are still unsettling and fascinating to ponder. So, it was a treat to visit his home and studio last Saturday when WUGA held their latest installment of the ongoing “Artists in Residence” fundraising series.
The house itself, probably built in the '20s, is unusual in that it is one of the last residences to remain on mostly commercial Broad Street. Rowlett shares his home with AthensHasArt!, a group which maintains the front of the house as a studio/salon space. Rowlett serves as a mentor.
The colors in Rowlett’s living space reflect those in his art. The living area’s walls are earthen red, and the bedroom is dominated by a muted blue with accents of brown, cream and terracotta. There is a feeling of timelessness and stillness in the home, much like in his paintings.
An antique brass bed is the focal point of the bedroom, which surprisingly looks like it could be the centerfold of the venerable English decorating magazine World of Interiors. There is something old and interesting everywhere you look.
“You really should have seen this place BT—before Terry,” says Rowlett’s friend David Bryant—who also served as a docent for the event—while talking about the work the artist has done to the home.
“The room speaks of Terry’s fascination with medieval and Renaissance aesthetics. It reminds me of St. Jerome in his Study,” Bryant says. About the numerous antiques on display, including an arrangement of helmets, he continues, “Terry has always been fascinated by the regalia…not so much with militarism, but with vestiges of art and regalia that have come down to modern times.”
The bedroom also features numerous paintings Rowlett created while living in New York. A self-described nomad, the artist has recently been spending summers in Vermont and Maine and winters in Athens. One of the paintings, Stillness of Winter, depicts a man in a bright red jacket with a chainsaw and gas can; cut logs spill out on the snowy landscape. Rowlett painted it two years ago in the Catskills during a particularly snowy winter in which he heated his old farmhouse with the trees he cut down in the forest. The simple shapes, repetition of trees and the bold red coat against the white snow make a striking image.
After guests had time to explore the home and enjoy brie topped with walnuts and honey and other offerings provided by Marti’s at Midday and Shiraz Wine, Lamar Dodd School of Art Professor Emeritus and sculptor Rocky Sapp spoke about the artist. He recalled meeting Rowlett when the painter was a young art student years ago in Arkansas. Sapp was convinced that Rowlett would make an excellent sculptor.
Sapp compared the artist to painter Edward Hopper and referred to Hopper’s well-known quote: “If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” The two share a realism that is still fresh and modern today.
Rowlett also spoke, leaning on a chair because of a recent knee injury, his hand-carved walking stick propped against a wall nearby. When asked about his models, he said, “Most are pretty darn good friends. Once or twice, I put a stranger in and those paintings didn’t work out very well.” Local artist Jeremy Ayers is a friend who appears in Rowlett’s current exhibit, Moment in Time, currently on display at Gainesville State College in the Roy C. Moore Art Gallery through Wednesday, Feb. 11.
The next “Artists in Residence” event will feature the home of Lori Bork Newcomer, the architect behind many of the modern houses on Pulaski Street. For more information, please visit wuga.org.