Over the last six months, local artist Gaeten Lowrie has made some pretty big decisions. He decided to abandon his culinary career—he was working as a chef at Fortunate Glass–to get back to his roots, so to speak. More so, to get back to that which makes him happy: creating art and spending quality time with family.
“Everyone knows working full time to raise a family can be excruciating,” Lowrie tells, in reference to his job, his girlfriend Ash Crist and the responsibilities of raising a son, Simon. It’s something especially true when considering the rigorous hours of the restaurant industry. “All too often I’ve found my artistic talent shoved into a dark corner of dusty studio,” Lowrie continues.
Recently, the artist faced the importance of taking time off for family. His grandmother, Ann Pascucci, passed away during the preparation of his new exhibit, which opens at Caprice Bistro on Thursday, August 5. Lowrie dedicates the show to her.
“She was, at an early age, an artist as well, and I credit much of my artistic ability and wild imagination to her,” Lowrie notes. “She handed it down to my mother, and her to me. With this series I wanted to create insanely vibrant works that she would have thoroughly enjoyed.”
Titled “New Works,” the art show features fresh pen-and-inks from Lowrie, as well as oils from fellow artist and friend, J. Lance Strickland. The two met when Lowrie cofounded Thrive Studios in 2009, an artist collective that operated a brick-and-mortar gallery until 2012.
“We hosted several annual conceptual shows, showcased hundreds of local and regional artists, featured original works, merchandise, sculptures, and more,” he tells.
Though the gallery closed, the collective still has group shows, including ones that have hung at The Tasting Room and another currently on display at Bottega. Caprice’s art show manager, Darren Mulvenna, approached Lowrie about a solo show last year. “Since openings are limited and in high demand at Caprice, I wanted to make this an exceptional exhibit,” Lowrie says. “I wanted to bring another element in to mix it up, so to speak.”
Thus he asked Strickland to collaborate. Knowing the two work well together and push each other outside of their comfort zones to meet new challenges, they settled on a theme of flora/fauna, wherein extremely large canvases illuminate local landscape in the way of flowers, gardens, butterflies, marine and coastal life. Lowrie and Strickland wanted to go beyond their limits.
“For me, canvas size was the biggest hardship,” Lowrie says, who primarily works in time-consuming pen-and-ink collage that take on the facade of stained glass. “I usually work on much smaller surfaces because they are so meticulous. Suddenly, I had six gigantic blank ‘canvases’ lined up in my studio, and all I thought was, ‘Holy crap! What have I gotten myself into?’”
On the other hand, Strickland’s oils mostly consist of epic scenes of greater proportions. His jagged lines tend to resemble movement and hit the viewer in a cubist fashion.
“[He captures] several vantage points at one time,” according to Lowrie. “Lance’s paintings can be looked at intently for hours and allow the viewer to continually see new layers and juxtapositions.”
“My paintings have been heavily influenced by the futurist and surrealist painters of the 20th century,” Strickland explains. “Also physics comes into play, from older ideas about how electrons exist in a state of flux versus specific locations, to new ideas about how space is not empty, but most likely contains all sorts of fields and yet-to-be-discovered particles.”
The artists set up their easels back to back in a studio and worked in tandem daily. They created two 3-foot-by-6-foot collaborative pieces and four 3-foot-by-4-foot pieces, along with smaller originals. They hand-constructed frames to be consistent with one full body of work. Oils, pen-and-inks, acrylics and metallics will hang, all revering respect for nature.
“As the months rolled by and more paintings were started, we realized our ideas and concepts were beginning to change,” Lowrie says. “It’s still basically in the flora/fauna realm, but we ended up getting a little more creative with it .”
Working so closely allowed the incorporation of similar color palettes, too. Lowrie’s careful coloration includes illustrious jewel tones, all alcohol-based inks on sealed paper.
“This is the first series of a new technique for me, in which I collage the images, fusing together several layers,” Lowrie explains. “This way I am able to produce more graphic lines and better details, using a medium that is otherwise extremely temperamental and unpredictable.”
Lowrie and Strickland provided encouragement and feedback in the construction of their art. Often they would discuss what would come next. “‘It needs more shading over here…’,” Lowire shares as an example. “Or, ‘Compositionally, should I add more fish?’ or ‘I’m so friggin sick of butterflies…’ As artists we are always trying to evolve and absorb new techniques into our existing repertoire.”