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 JoAnn Cowans  (20/21st century)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: oil fields, portraits

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JoAnn Cowans
An example of work by JoAnn Cowans
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
JoAnn Cowans' work covers a wide range of subjects and techniques, however she is best known for her oil field paintings. Cowans received a Bachelor of Arts degree in art from Barton College, formally known as Atlantic Christian College, where she studied with Russell Arnold, a former student of Hans Hoffman. This was followed by postgraduate work at University of North Carolina State School of Design, UCLA, Otis Art Institute and with Carlo Buonora a portrait artist and teacher.

In the early 1960s she painted the Venice California oil fields as they were being dismantled during the construction of Marina del Rey. Her first solo exhibition,  By The Speedway's End, documented the passing of old Venice and Playa del Rey.  Examples of this work are City of Night, and Speedway and Oil Wells.  This body of work now resides in numerous public and private collections.  Through 1968 she continued to paint the local scene, portrait commissions and teach at her Playa del Rey studio and gallery where she also hosted exhibitions and lectures by other artists.

In December of 1968 she closed her studio to take time off for further study, and her
paintings took a dramatic turn in concept. She was encouraged to focus on the effects of light both inside and in plein air and to render that light by painting flat areas of precise color tone.

In 1969 she discovered the works of Faber Berrin, a scientist from the University of Antwerp.  She embraced his technical theories about light and integrated them into her own work.  Her paintings of this period evolved from the close observation of the penumbra, or area between sunlight and shadow.  Combining these observations with her studies of flat color she developed a new way of working.

The technique she developed for her series of Shadow paintings created an atmosphere of glowing light in which the colors vibrate against one another.  In this way of working, realism becomes abstract in form.  This important phase of her work was encompassed into her overall oeuvre so that she has continued to create additional dimensions of light and shadow in her more realistic paintings, as shown  in, A Single Peach.

A selection of her shadow paintings were shown in her 1970-73 exhibitions and in the movie A Time for Love. She resumed this work in 1994 as a parallel to her plein air work, and exhibited these paintings in Hollywood in March of 1998, the City of Brea “ Made in California” exhibition in 2001, and in a solo exhibition there in 2003.

In the following years her career took her in many different directions.  During the 1970s and 1980s, she restored a historic Norwegian home in the city of Encino.  The home, built in the 1930s by actor Ben Blue, was in considerable disrepair.  For the project she studied Norwegian folk art to accurately oversee the restoration of the Rosemaling ceilings, the fascias, carved columns and panels, and even the traditional grass roof.  The project landed her on the front page of the L.A. Times and in press and television worldwide.  During the same period she also owned and directed an advertising-art agency, Encino Advertising and Design.

In 1993 she moved to Orange County, California to a home overlooking another oil field.  It was at this time that she resumed her painting career.  An example of her work from this period is the painting Bastanchury Oilfields which depicts a view from her studio window of an oil field which has since been replaced by a housing development. She again moved, this time close to the Brea oil fields. There she has painted the last derricks in southern California.

In 2003 a retrospective exhibition of her oil field paintings was held at the Muckenthaler Museum and Cultural Center in Fullerton, California. It opened on July 10, and ran through December of that year.  This work is in many museum and corporate collections and has been written about in The Wall Street Journal, Upstream Oil and Gas Newspaper, The American Oil and Gas Historical Society* Newsletter; issue #2 (summer), and Americas Independent, official publication of the Independent Petroleum Producers of America Nov. - Dec. 2004.

Source:
Travis Collinson, Curator
City of Brea Art Gallery
Brea, California

EDUCATION:
1951-1955 Barton College - Wilson, N.C., BA - Art
1955-1957 North Carolina State University School of Design - Raleigh, NC
1957-1958 UCLA - Westwood, CA
1968 Otic Art Institute - Los Angeles, CA
1978 UCLA - Santa Monica, CA

COMMISSIONS:
Mr. & Mrs. James Garner; Mr. & Mrs. Ben Gazarra; Rick Jason; Benson Fong; Mr. & Mrs. Earl Lachman; Colonel Bob Blair and Mrs. Margaret Blair

PRIVATE COLLECTIONS:
Mrs. Rick Jason - Moore Park, CA
Jane Ardmore - Cheviot Hills, CA
Mr. & Mrs. Warren Phillips - Playa del Rey, CA
Dr. & Mrs. Mitsou Inouye - Mar Vista, CA
Dr.& Mrs. Iwo Kawakami - Bel Aire, CA
Director of Witherspoon Gallery - University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Margaret Moore Marsh - Durham, NC
Mrs. Lewis W. Brumsey - Farmville, NC
Ellen Ballard - Fullerton, CA
Mr. & Mrs. James Reins - Irvine, CA
Peggy Albert - Brea, CA
Mr. & Mrs. Dale Schumacher - Fullerton, CA

CORPORATE COLLECTIONS:
Diamond Products International, Inc. - Houston, TX
City of Lagos de Moreno - Mexico
Itek Corporation (Government Systems) -Los Angeles, CA
Barton College - Wilson, NC
Muckenthaler Cultural Center - Fullerton, CA
Graham & Co. - Orange, CA
Pacific Wealth Management - Orange, CA
Harvest Productions - Anaheim, CA
Fullerton Arboretum - Fullerton, CA

GROUP SHOWS:
2003 Recycle-Renew - Muckenthaler Cultural Center - Fullerton, CA
2003 Hillcrest Festival of Fine Arts - La Habra Heights, CA
2002 Hillcrest Festival of Fine Arts - La Habra Heights, CA
2001 Hillcrest Festival of Fine Arts - La Habra Heights, CA
2000 Echoes and Visions - Laguna Niguel, CA
1999 Showcase North All Media - Santa Ana, CA
1998 Echoes and Visions - Laguna Niguel, CA

SOLO EXHIBITIONS:
2003 Black Gold in California - Muckenthaler Cultural Center - Fullerton, CA
2000 Whittier City Hall - Whittier, CA
1998 City of Brea Gift Shop - Brea, CA
1996 Muckenthaler Cultural Center Gift Shop - Fullerton, CA
1973 JoAnn Cowans Paintings - Studio, Encino, CA
1972 The American Club, Hong Kong
1971 Sunlight & Shadow - Studio, Cheviot Hills, CA
1968 Standard Club - Cheviot Hills, CA
1967 Notre Dame Grand Ballroom, Beverly Hilton Hotel - Beverly Hills, CA
1967 Experimental Works, Playa del Rey, CA
1967 Recent Portraits - Studio, Playa del Rey, CA
1965 More Marina - Studio, Playa del Rey, CA
1965 Small Paintings - Studio, Playa del Rey, CA
1964 People & Places - Studio, Playa del Rey, CA
1964 Security First National Bank, Playa del Rey, CA

PUBLICATIONS:
September 13, 2001 Fullerton Tribune
January 8, 2001 Brea Progress
October 11, 2000 Whittier Daily News
May 15-31, 1998 Fullerton Observer
May 7, 1990 Daily News
June 18, 1987 Los Angeles Times
March, 1982 Decorating & Craft Ideas
February 13, 1981 Scholastic News Ranger
October 18, 1980 Valley News
April 23, 1980 The Enterprise
April 22, 1980 Houston Chronicle
April 16, 1980 LA Times
October 18, 1974 Valley News
April 23, 1980 The Enterprise
October 23, 1974 The News San Fernando Valley
October 10, 1973 Chronicle San Fernando Valley
November 2, 1971 Raleigh Times
May 24, 1970 Greensboro Daily News
November 29, 1968 Venice Evening Vanguard
November 29, 1968 Evening Star News



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