Andrea Kowch’s Haunting Paintings of Rural Life

by Elizabeth MaskaskyPosted on

American artists — from the painters of the Hudson River School to the influential Andrew Wyeth — have long depicted this country’s vast landscape as simultaneously a place of lonely desolation and of awe-inspiring grandeur. Following in this tradition, Andrea Kowch creates gorgeous and eerie acrylic paintings of open-skied pastoral landscapes. Inspired by a deep fascination with the natural world, Kowch’s works also tap into a common feeling of uneasiness many of us have toward the American rural – a place that is iconic for its beauty but that is also often associated with tedium, isolation and a clinging to negative aspects of the country’s past.

Wooden-faced women that look a little something like American Gothic meets Alice in Wonderland populate these tableaux and provide an element of both humor and pathos. Kowch achieves striking effects by juxtaposing the subdued colors of her ashen fields and skies with sudden flashes of color, such as the flaming red of a brightly painted barn. In the same way, her subjects’ melancholic gloom is punctured by quirky details such as a breakfast table strewn with birds in the playfully titled painting The Visitors. These storybook elements serve to deliver Kowch’s women from what might otherwise seem a desolate existence.

Andrea Kowch’s retrospective “Dream Fields” is currently on view at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan.

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