Saturday, September 5, 2009

Katherine's World

Quite possibly the best part of the artistic life is the people you meet along the way. The shared interest in beauty and bringing beauty into the world, forges friendships that last among those who are true to the calling. Nobody knows this better than Katherine Lollar Rowland, a woman whose life has been dedicated to art, artists, and a search for the answer to the question of "Who am I?"

I'm so happy to have reconnected with Katherine after many years, and very touched to be remembered in her new book, Katherine's World.

This follows her 2006 memoir, A Painter and His Wife, which chronicled her life with her husband, Elden Rowland, and his pursuit to become a fine artist -- which he achieved with Katherine loyally at his side, and in a way that would be impossible to do in this day and age. I soaked that story up, as I learned so much about their inspiring saga, and it made numerous references to the burgeoning art community of Sarasota, Florida, starting in the 1940s.

The new work is an answered prayer for me, documenting the history and notable people connected with the Sarasota scene, particularly through and beyond the period when it was responsible for my own entrance into the painting world.

Katherine's expert running of the Hilton Leech Studio and formation of the Friends of the Two Arts and Sciences in Sarasota attracted renowned artists and photographers, among others, to visit, teach, and host a number of expeditions to adventurous ports of call. It would be no exaggeration to say that without Katherine's influence and organizational talents, I might never have picked up a brush; the Leech Studio is where I first encountered my most important painting mentors, Valfred Thëlin* and Barbara Nechis. I enrolled in workshops, won my first awards there, and took part in the Two Arts trip to Nova Scotia and Maine.

Katherine's World brings all of this together, and brings back cherished memories for me and countless others. A significant portion of the book is devoted not only to artists and photographers I knew or know -- Valfred, Barbara, Pete Carmichael, Margarette Mead, Nicholas Reale, Frank Webb, and Shirley Hummel, to name several, but a host of others I had heard of and learned about: Jerry Farnsworth, Dorothy and Hilton Leech, Bruce McGrew (whose outstanding watercolor graces the cover), Robert Sisson, Marc Moon, Judi Betts, et al.

In addition, the book delves into more history about Katherine's ancestry, the Shakers, her present extended family, and includes a selection of her glorious photographs and poems. The layout of the book is simply stunning, as are the reproductions. Highly recommended! See Katherine's website for information about ordering.

Katherine will turn 91 this month, and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down!

* * * * *

On page 66 is a full-page reproduction (in perfect color, thank you!) of me with my painting Summer Sonata.

On the facing page is one of my favorite photographs of Valfred, his gal Deidre, Shirley Hummel, and myself on a boat to Monhegan Island, experiencing some rough seas!

On page 64 Katherine wrote:

Since the Down East group was from Florida, most of our participants were from mid-to-retirement age. But there was one younger participant. Nicholas Simmons, a young musician from Iowa had seen Val's work in Sarasota and been so inspired by it, and Val's personality, that he added watercolor painting to his activities. Since that time, he's made steady progress with his painting and in 2007 his powerful "Fresh Sushi" won top award in the National Watercolor Society's Annual Exhibition, one of many honors he has acquired. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area of Maryland, and is married to Olga, from Ukraine, with whom he fell in love on a trip to Russia. They have a daughter, Larissa.

Thank you, Katherine, and when might we expect Vol. III?!


joel said...

great story Nick! i love being transported to other worthy, arty places - as a break from work!


William K. Moore said...

Enjoyed the write-up Nicholas. Painting mentors, peers and acquaintances all make for an enjoyable journey on the trail - well not always enjoyable .. you know how artists can misbehave when egos get bent out of shape. But the highs and lows of our relationships with our fellows in the art world make for a rather interesting (most of the time) and enjoyable trip.

perugina said...

”Quite possibly the best part of the artistic life is the people you meet along the way.” I remember you saying this in a recent conversation. By way of this racconto, you reinforce what you’ve written (and beautifully so) in your opening paragraph here.
ticktock :)

Nick said...

Joel - Katherine's books are a great escape for me, not just because of the personal connection, but the story of her and her husband's odyssey through the art world is one that just couldn't happen these days.

Dayana - thank you Susan, I'll be over to check out your blog.

Bill - nobody has made it a more enjoyable trip than you have, and the backroads you've detoured me with have been the sights least-trampled and spoiled. Got the car a bit dusty, though. :)

PG - did I say that? It's true!