Amy Lowry grew up in a rural suburb of Cincinnati Ohio, surrounded by meadow, creek, woods, and pasture. She gravitated towards the East Coast for high school and college, and moved to New York in 1979, working in advertising and gallery management. Lowry also free-lanced as a model – a job that led to friendships with three wonderful artists: Tom Wesselmann, Will Barnet and Duane Michals. She took classes at the Art Students League, and volunteered briefly at Bob Blackburn’s Printmaking Studio. She left Brooklyn in 1990 for China, arriving in Beijing shortly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It was there that she was introduced to a group of artists called The New Literati. Tired of propaganda painting and “art serving politics”, they sought to create a new social atmosphere through simple depictions of everyday life, using traditional techniques and materials. Their paintings were classical, yet contemporary, and often infused with poetry and bits of satire. She studied with Zhu Xinjian, an artist from Nanjing, who patiently taught her to work with ink and gouache on rice paper. The influence of these artists on her work was enormous. Lowry returned to the States with a softer palette and newfound appreciation for their minimalist approach. After years dividing her time between Chicago and midcoast Maine, Lowry now lives and works full time in Camden, Maine.
Red Right Returning
In January of 2014, a late delivery of fuel shut down the furnace at Elmwood Farm, my two hundred year old farmhouse in Camden, Maine. The pipes froze, then burst with a fury during a midwinter thaw, soaking the contents and devastating the structure. My home was soon stripped to its core, leaving little more than a shell of raw studs, windows, and earth.
I salvaged what I could. The house had been built in the late 1700’s, using premium wood milled from a forest of Kings Pines that circled the property. The flooring was comprised of 36” boards, which rested on large, hand carved joists. The walls were thick – tongue and groove paneling insulated with two layers of plaster and horsehair held together by hand hewn lath. The patina and layers of history fascinated me, and I hung many of the scarred boards in my studio.
As I spent the better part of that summer restoring furniture damaged by the flood, three wall panels from the old kitchen hung silently in the background , taunting me as I labored over tables and chests of drawers. There was an AHA moment one night, when I began to see images submerged in the marred wood – horizons, fields, oceans, clouds,compositions that referenced landscapes – often water. I began highlighting the layers within the boards with chalk paint – and soon discovered narratives hidden in their chips and scars. The resulting series became Red Right Returning – a nautical term that signals a safe course into harbor marked by red buoys.
Figures tread water, ski on sand, gaze through windows, fight riptides, avoid sinkholes in their quest for safety. I played off the auras that surrounded these figures as they moved with unsure footing. My own life was in turmoil at the time – I found myself in rough seas without a compass. I made a decision to live and work in Maine year round – happy now, in my new, old, house.