Tag Archives: contemporary art

Edificial Epistemologies: Thesis Talk

This performative lecture was given as part of my MFA thesis. The primary goal was to contextualize my process and interests. It is about 30 minutes long followed by 30 minutes of Q&A.

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Updated Artist’s Statement

Edificial Epistemologies, 2012-2019, mixed media, 13’x17′

I recently completed an MFA in Studio Art at the Maryland Instituted College of Art. The image above is from my thesis exhibition and represents a new direction for my work–an ongoing, modular drawing. I have several projects in the works, but I wrote a short artist’s statement to sum up my overarching interests and the foundation of my practice:

My practice is built around investigating Edificial Epistemologies—humanity’s efforts to construct knowledge into mental and physical architectures in a search for truth and transcendence. My research materials span from ancient cosmologies to speculative fictions and the myriad of philosophies, theologies, and aesthetics between.

This project manifests through various media and modes, but the scaffolding guiding the construction is an ongoing modular drawing. On these modules I map, diagram, and notate my research into a labyrinthine puzzle of references and structures that serve as a semantic gesture towards both the above mentioned concepts and, more simply, the aesthetic pleasure of thought.

I use drawing as my primary tool because drawing is thinking. It is a method of transcribing the intangibilities of thought into material substance. By drawing forth structures that can be seen, manipulated, and shared I make visible the abstract mental realm and create a dialog between ideas and reality. Like thoughts, these modules can be endlessly reconfigured, separated, dispersed, replaced, and updated.

In examining humanity’s projects and endeavors throughout time and space I begin to see the shadowy outline of a fragmented edifice crumbling towards heaven.

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Saturday Studio Shot

Working on my thesis show. Coming summer 2019!

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New Work: The Mechanism of Language

I just finished this commissioned piece for a friend.

The Mechanism of Language. Jacob Rowan. Ink, graphite, and flashe paint on watercolor paper. 2018. 24″x12″

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Thursday Thoughts: Circles

“The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary picture is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay “Circles”

Circuit. Ink, acrylic, flashe, and mylar on watercolor paper. 24″x18″ © Jacob Rowan

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Saturday Studio Shot

Gaffer’s tape, string, ink, and colored pencil on watercolor paper

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Jerry Saltz’s abandoned illuminations for “The Divine Comedy”

The following is a combination of quotes from the critic Jerry Saltz’s article “My Life as a Failed Artist.”

“Before I became a critic, I was an artist, and for about ten years, beginning in the early 1970s, I feverishly devoted myself to a single, gigantic project: illustrating the entirety of Dante’s Divine Comedy — starting with Inferno.

“These are the gates of hell. The famous inscription appears above the portal, the one that begins, in first person, “I Am the Way Into the City of Woe, I Am the Way to a Forsaken People.” There are no doors on the Gates of Hell because anyone who ventures too close can easily enter. Around the gate are ten diagrammatic spinning spheres, one for each of the levels of hell.”

[Why Dante?] Dante is a paradigmatic figure of the canon — therefore a perfect picture of the dream of artistic canonization — but he’s also a weirdo Boschian fantasist and so satisfied my obsession with hermetic traditions, indexes, myth, archaic cultures, and mystics and visionaries like William Blake. This late-medieval universe freed me from making choices; the story and structure told me exactly what to do, what to draw, where to draw it, what came next, what shape things should be, everything, even sometimes governing colors, as with making Virgil blue and Dante red according to past art. Without knowing it but in desperate need, I’d contrived a machine that allowed me to make things that I couldn’t predict; I still think of this as one of an artist’s first jobs.

“These are the gates of the citadel of Limbo, the First Circle of Hell, the Virtuous Pagans. Here Dante meets Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Horace, Ovid, Lucan, Hector, Aeneas, and many others whose only punishment is to live without hope. The gold, silver, and bronze spheres represent the souls of those who Dante meets there.”

The project was meant to take me 25 years, but I only made it to the fourth canto by the time I quit; nevertheless, in that time I had developed an unbelievably intricate language that would allow me, a technically poor draughtsman and even worse painter, to depict Dante’s complex narrative.

“A large diagrammatic drawing of the Opportunists being blown in all different directions in the tempest of hell.”

[Oscar Wilde] wrote that art that’s too obvious, that we “know too quickly,” that is “too intelligible,” fails. “The one thing not worth looking at is the obvious.” This sort of art tells you everything in an instant and can only tell you the same thing forever. My work had the opposite problem. It was vague, arcane, and therefore obsolete. Only I could decipher it.

I often judge young artists based on whether I think they have the character necessary to solve the inevitable problems in their work….Oscar Wilde said, “Without the critical faculty, there is no artistic creation at all.” Artists have to be self-critical enough not to just attack everything they do. I had self-doubt but not a real self-critical facility; instead I indiscriminately loved or hated everything I did. Instead of gearing up and fighting back, I gave in and got out.”

You can find more images from this project here.

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