Since earning her MFA in painting from Arizona State University in 1985, Rebecca Crowell has led a life focused on painting. When she is not traveling for teaching or for artist residencies (in such places as the Catalonia region of Spain, northern Sweden, and coastal areas of Ireland) she works almost daily in her studio in rural western Wisconsin. She draws significant influence from these residencies and travels, as well as from her surroundings at home.
Rebecca Crowell is known for her innovative painting techniques involving cold wax medium and mixed media, and is represented by a number of fine art galleries in various locations including Dublin, Ireland; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Telluride, Colorado; Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Columbia, Missouri. Her representation with Gormleys Fine Art in Dublin has recently led to international exposure, including several European art fairs.
“Rebecca Crowell has what Richard Diebenkorn and Agnes Martin had: the ability to let the landscape come through her.”
Rebecca Crowell’s work is slow work that is the end result of many processes —including looking, seeing and feeling—all spread out over time. “Many ideas and images pass through my mind as I paint,” Crowell observes: “The passage of time and aging, the accumulation of experience, the symbolic and visual aspects of natural processes including stratification, collapse, compression: the ephemeral marks that people leave behind.”
Crowell’s works are abstracted from nature: they are personal responses to the visual forms, colors and atmospheres that have surrounded her in a variety of locations. There are vestiges of representation in Rebecca Crowell’s work, but it is a type of representation that has been refined and re-constituted through her artistic sensibility and through her emotions.
Like other artists who have both abstracted the landscape and used it to feed their souls—including Richard Diebenkorn and Agnes Martin—Crowell is extremely sensitive to the nuances of time and place. She is the same person wherever she goes, but her work changes when she travels to Sweden or Ireland. During a residency in Ricklundgarden, Sweden, Crowell drank in the textures and colors of Ice and snow, rocks, lichen, and birch bark. In Ireland she studied crags, bogs, rocks and ocean spray and let them come through her into a series of richly evocative semi-abstract fields of color. Crowell’s “Atmospheric” series features veils and tones that evoke specific places seen through the tendency of memory to obscure specific forms.
Rebecca Crowell’s work challenges us to travel with her and to share her sense-memories. She invites us to stand with her and take in the world and its transcendent beauties slowly. As an artist she does the hard work of finding the essences that surround us so that we can stand in front of them, transfixed.
“For Crowell, rugged textures, earthy colors and a feeling of light, open spaces reveals her subliminal interest in the colours, mark-making and abstraction of at least a ‘memory’ of landscape.”
Rebecca Crowell uses a kind of "memory mapping" to create her works which, although visually quite abstract, often still retain faint echoes of landscape and nature - its plant life, earth and rocks. For Crowell, rugged textures, earthy colors and a feeling of light, open spaces reveals her subliminal interest in the colours, mark-making and abstraction of at least a "memory" of landscape.
Her process of working in multiple layers, cutting, scratching and digging back brings to mind the observation by Louis le Brocquy: "The painter, like the archaeologist, is a watcher, a supervisor of accident; patiently disturbing the surface of things until significant accident becomes apparent, recognising it, conserving this as best he can while provoking further accident. In this way a whole image, a whatness, may with luck gradually emerge almost spontaneously". This is Crowell's process too.
Although Crowell's work is generally quiet, orderly and meditative in its finished form, the production of the work can be quite violent with sharp tools and aggressive "archaeology" coupled with periods of careful editing and decisiveness - considering the place of any fortunate accidents and random occurrences.
Above all she has learned to "trust the process." Crowell has written: "The goal in my process is not to render something in paint but to allow the paint to suggest a path through the work as it develops. I remain in charge of what to keep and what to discard, and how to structure and organize the image."
Crowell is an artist of considerable talent and stature and it is not difficult to envisage a major breakthrough into the mainstream of the American art scene in the very near future. Recent international representation would indicate that her future reputation will not just be limited to America.