the feast andrea kowch
"The Feast," by Andrea Kowch

At first glance, Andrea Kowch’s nostalgic tableaus look like sentimental reminders of simpler times — but there’s always more to be seen and numerous potential underlying narratives for us to view.

In most of Kowch’s paintings, you’ll see ethereal women in idyllic rural landscapes. Some are baking. Some are picnicking. Some are drinking tea. Some are tending chickens or collecting butterflies in nets and fireflies in glass jars.

Take a closer look, however, and you may see a deeper, cerebral, or alternative reality. While the women gaze impassively toward us, the world around them is shifting with action, intrigue, and multiple subtle storylines.

Lightning strikes. Grasshoppers swarm. Flocks of crows swoop over a cornfield ready for harvest. Yet wherever you look deeper into Kowch’s work, storm clouds seem to be gathering, hay wagons burning, and tornadoes bearing down.

As nature looms, potentially challenging the state of things, the women in Kowch’s paintings seem lost within deeper thought, impervious to threats and danger. At first glance, the world around them might appear to be unraveling, yet they are calmly in their private moment. The only hint that the women might be aware of changing times is their wild, windblown hair, or a piercing look toward the viewer.

There is a dreamlike, fairy-tale quality to most of Kowch’s artwork. The worlds she paints are unusually curious, she admits, but they’re still recognizable.

“I loved old illustrations growing up, so a lot of that has influenced my own path. The world of imagination and fantasy and mood and mystery have always appealed to me, and I hope this show invites viewers to go on that journey as well. I would like them to be swept away into the alternate worlds that my paintings present.”

Kowch’s work is realistic, and her attention to detail enhances the mystery of her work. She relies on a sophisticated palette of sepia tones, the color of memory, highlighted by one unifying characteristic: Most of the women she paints have fiery red hair.

Kowch uses rural landscapes as a metaphor for human experience, and she incorporates a menagerie of animals to symbolize primal emotions. Farm animals make regular appearances, along with pheasants, seagulls and sandhill cranes.

The Museum of Art – DeLand will feature more than 40 of Kowch’s works Jan. 17-April 9. Her husband, Richard Demato, has shown some at their gallery in The Hamptons in New York and in Michigan, but at least a third of the works will be on display for the first time.

“It’s a spectacular opportunity,” Demato said. “Some of the paintings have never been exhibited, and never seen publicly, because they were sold to people who waited years, sight unseen, for one of her paintings.”

According to Demato, there are many art collectors on the current wait list and Kowch is fully booked for the next two years, as her prior works have already been sold.

The DeLand exhibition also will include developmental sketches that offer insight into Kowch’s creative process.

“I look at her paintings and see something different every time,” Demato said. “There’s so much complexity.”

Kowch hopes her work will help viewers find a sense of release amid the challenges of daily life.

“I hope the DeLand show allows people to take a moment to observe and go within themselves,” Kowch said. “I hope they can take a journey into their own imaginations — and into their soul. I like it when viewers can look at the imagery and feel what’s being presented, and then bring their own story to the table.”

“That’s especially important,” she said, “given the collective realities of the last few years. There’s been a lot of global change and tumult. I hope my art can help people understand how they experience the world and the human condition. I hope it will take them on their own personal voyage.”

Ultimately, she said, “I hope my art can help people feel centered again, regain a sense of wonder, and feel at peace.”

Born in Michigan in 1986, Kowch graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Her paintings have garnered multiple Best of Show awards in juried exhibitions nationally and internationally, and she exhibits full time in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries, including RJD Gallery, London and Rome’s Dorothy Circus Gallery, the Muskegon Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, ArtPrize, Art Basel Miami, the Los Angeles Art Show, ArtHamptons and SCOPE NYC, who, in 2012, named Kowch one of the top 100 emerging artists in the world.

She is also regularly featured in and on the front covers of several national and international publications. Kowch’s works can be found in both public and museum collections, such as the R.W. Norton Art Gallery Museum, of the R.W. Norton Art Foundation, Muskegon Museum of Art, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Northbrook Library in Northbrook, Illinois, and in significant private collections worldwide. Kowch lives and works in Michigan.

For more information about Kowch, visit https://rjdgallery.com/artist/andrea-kowch.

Exhibition details

Mysterious Realms Ticketed Gala, 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Downtown Galleries, 100 N. Woodland Blvd. Tickets on sale now. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.MoArtDeLand.org.

Members Opening Reception, 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15. Members free, nonmembers $20, 100 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, FL.

“Andrea Kowch: Mysterious Realms” will be open to the public Jan. 17-April 9, in the Museum’s Downtown Galleries at 100 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, FL. Admission is free for museum members and costs $10 for nonmembers.

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