Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Artist reframes familiar spaces

Through architectural sculptures, Heather Rowe breaks through the landscape of commonplace surroundings

By Joleen Oshiro


Our environment affects us, whether we're conscious of it or not. Even those of us basking in bright sunlight amid the gorgeous architecture of downtown Honolulu tend to become oblivious to the charms of our surroundings.

It might simply be human nature to scan over the landscape of the familiar in search of something fresh.

Brooklyn artist Heather Rowe examines the relationship of architecture to the human psyche in a site-specific installation at the University of Hawaii School of Architecture titled "The Framed Guests," on exhibit through Nov. 5.

"Architecture is always around us, yet buildings almost disappear because they're so familiar to us," says Rowe. "I'm interested in re-presenting a space, re-energizing it, in a way."


» On exhibit: Through Nov. 5, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays

» Where: Haigo and Irene Shen Architecture Gallery, University of Hawaii-Manoa

» Call: 956-7225


ROWE WAS INVITED to Hawaii by Interisland Terminal, an arts organization that presents exhibits of contemporary art, design and film in Honolulu. Member Wei Fang says Rowe was a perfect fit for the group.

"Her work deals with cinema, architecture and contemporary art, all the things for which we do programming," says Fang. "She deals with different subject areas and presents a synthesis elegantly."

While Rowe has been a professional artist for just 10 years, her work is already garnering attention.

"Heather has shown at prestigious places (such as the Whitney Museum of American Art), yet she's still fairly young and her work is still developing. We want to show work that can stand up at an international level, and lots of folks internationally are watching her," says Fang.

Likewise, Jaimey Hamilton, who runs UH's Intersections program, says Rowe's success makes her an ideal visitor for UH's art students. Intersections invites prominent artists and scholars to the classroom and the community. Rowe offered critiques of student portfolios and gave a lecture about her work. Students had the opportunity to assist Rowe with installing her piece.

"She's a very young artist who's exhibited in some pretty prestigious spaces. Students here got to see who gets to play in that world. They got to see that working process and her studio practice," Hamilton says.

ROWE ASSEMBLES architectural sculptures that she says create a dreamlike, rather than rational, dynamic between "geometry and space."

She achieves this through using basic construction materials, such as wood beams and metal, as well as interior treatments such as glass, mirrors, veneer and wallpaper, to build structures that respond to a space and "create a little rupture of a theme or in the plane of a wall."

At the UH site, Rowe's installation is a series of lumber frames that look like the skeletal beginnings of walls. Some of the frames deviate from their linear planes, while fragmented mirrors pull in through windows reflections of the outside environment.

"I don't always work site specific, but I do always think about the site," Rowe says. "I'm interested in the psychological ramifications of basic architecture. ... I'm interested in creating a provocative space. It's almost like creating a personality."

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