Arts » Visual Arts

Jason Rowland is regressing forward at Primary Gallery

A self-described indoor kid draws his muse from 80s pop imagery


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Jason Rowland hasn’t always had the space to build his own canvases indoors. There’s been times when he has found himself outside — under a tarp with an extension cord leading to his power tools — cutting, spray-painting, and sanding in snowstorms.

The fruit of his labor is a large body of highly accessible work — influenced by pop culture, pop art, and comic books — much admired by fellow artists. Sixty such works were on view in his exhibit Forward Regression at Primary Gallery on Friday, June 3. They will be available for viewing again at the closing reception on June 24.


In addition to painting, the 38-year-old Rowland also manages a car wash about a 30 minute drive from his home in Winona Park, Ind.

“So I go over there and do all the maintenance,” says Rowland. “If it’s working well, it affords me a lot of time to paint.”

And he makes the most of his commute.

“As I drive I get a lot of ideas, so I just work them out in the studio,” says Rowland.
Rowland considers his drive—or rather, the ideas generated by it—to be the first step in his composition process. And, in his thoughts, a lot of stuff gets mixed together.


“I like to do cultural mashups…where I’ll take one iconic image and mix it with another,” says Rowland. “And then I’ll draw it up or sketch it up. Most of my work is done with ink and stencils and spray paint. So once it’s done I’ll cut it out and paint it up...”

Rowland, who is self-taught, prepares his own canvas panels or cuts and primes wood as a canvases. “I usually finish everything with an epoxy resin to give it a melted glass look,” he says.


And that “melted glass” sheen, as well as the confident lines of the work, are much admired by Primary Gallery curator Martin Kuntz.

“First and foremost, it’s really clean, really well presented,” says Kuntz.

Superheroes are often part of his subject matter. He also likes to depict crying woman, in a comic book style. In his current exhibition at Primary, his largest to date, you can see said depiction on a pair of skateboards.


But it’s not just the comic books that he read as a child that influenced his art. It was also punk music, and as the 38-year-old Rowland says, “Just growing up in the 80s.”
“We were the first generation with unlimited entertainment,” says Rowland. “Video games and MTV and cable. As an indoor kid, I just soaked it up.”

And he was indeed an indoor child for half the year because of his severe allergies. The upside was that he had plenty of time to do art.

Forward Regression refers to his childhood influences.

“The title honestly is just a take on the phrase ‘arrested development,” says Rowland. “I’m getting older but I’m still regressing back into comic books and cartoons and punk rock. All this stuff that I was into as a kid that I can’t seem to get away from and grow up.”

He’s adamantly not interested in pursuing more “serious” subject matter.

“The world’s crazy enough as it is,” says Rowland.

And life’s good for him right now. Rowland, who has shown in Indy before at Oranje as well as Jake Lee’s Attic Gallery, is currently represented by Chicago’s Galerie F. And Rowland and his family moved to downtown Winona Lake last year.

The town, which was a religious resort in the early 1900s, is now experiences an economic rebound thanks to a cluster of orthopedic businesses and manufacturers in the area.

“There’s a lot of remodeled old houses,” says Rowland. “We were lucky to get in that area last summer. There’s a little art district in the area. It’s a perfect fit for us.”

His current home, where he lives with his wife Michelle and two teenage children Baxter and Mia, just so happens to be 5 miles away from the house where he grew up.
And what do his children think of his art?

“Everything that I’ve done is to try and impress them and to make them think I’m cool,” says Rowland. “Now that they’re in their teenage years it’s getting tougher.”

And Rowland no longer has to put the finishing touches on his work in the snow, as he did while in their previous residence.

“I’m out of the kitchen and I have a legit studio and wood shop,” says Rowland. 


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