Jason Rowland: Pop Culture Mash-up Artist
by Benjamin Dehr
Jason Rowland's art is instantly recognizable - not because he doesn't have contemporaries, but because the subjects that he chooses to modify to create this fine art are very familiar.
Take his piece, "Skeet Skeet Skeet," for example. The striped glove of Spider-Man is fairly recognizable while the thick, bold words around it not only give it a modern-slang twist, but make a children's comic book hero into something humorous and raunchy.
Rowland, who hails from Winona Lake, has been exhibiting his artwork professionally for 10 years. It is not his full-time job, as one can come to expect with many Midwest-based artists. During the day Rowland manages a car wash in Syracuse with his father.
Sometimes it takes a commonplace thing like a day job to produce exemplary art.
"I get bored easily and have to change things up frequently," he says. "I think that is one of the benefits to being an artist with a day job: I don't always have to stick with what goes over and what sells. I am free to make the things I like. If other people like it, that is a bonus. If they like it enough to take it home, that means everything."
In the last four years, Rowland's art has become a second career that requires a good chunk of his time. He spends a lot of that time at the library in Warsaw.
According to Rowland, "Someone who works there keeps the comic section really full and it's great!"
Going through the comics page by page can easily spark an idea, even for someone who comes back time after time. Paper and a rough sketch begin the process when something specific yet familiar sparks an idea, or a hero's facial expression is just too interesting to pass up. Then the decision on size is made. Rowland constructs his own panels and frames so he can control the quality of the finished work, in a way producing a multimedia presentation.
When first viewing Rowland's art, one can't help but think of the term "pop culture," as the subjects are highly identifiable.
"I pick the subject matter for my pieces depending on what jumps into my head at the time," he says. "I get influenced by pop culture, familiar logos, comic books, etc."
To create these pop culture mash-ups, Rowland first draws his images in order to hand cut each one out as a stencil to finally spray paint the final product.
Rowland draws each section to size on poster board and cuts the layers out, the most time-consuming process in creating his art. He then spray paints each layer, color over color, until the final image is achieved. Lastly, a clear epoxy resin is applied for "a melted glass look."
Everything Rowland does is by hand, though his pieces look like they are copied straight from something like The Invincible Iron Man #53: The Living Volcano.
"I would love to learn to work digitally, but I never have any time to take a class or sit down and learn the software. Between family, work and art commitments, I am spread pretty thin."
You can find a good example of Rowland's talent in his piece entitled "Lucy." At first glance, the piece looks simple, but look closer and you can find much more detail. Lucy's hair is made up of drops of liquid, and the absence of pupils make the face look eerie. The addition of what one can assume to be tattoos (a cross, spider webs, two teardrops under the eye) add a punk rock element. The teardrop tattoos also play off the real teardrops pooling in and around her eyes. This all tells you more about Lucy than you might first have thought, all within a single snapshot of a comic book belle. Something so simple can indeed make the viewer think about how things can be so much more complicated.
Living in the rural Midwest, people might get the idea that living here can hinder an art career. However, with the addition of social media and the internet, everything is now easily connected. Rowland enjoys the "unlimited networking [that] can be done and ideas [that] can be shared instantly."
In Winona Lake, Rowland is not more than three hours from Fort Wayne, South Bend, Indianapolis and Chicago and less than four from Detroit.
"It's all right here; you just have to make something people want, be willing to drive and most importantly; show up on time."
Rowland's influences include Jim Phillips, a graphic designer for Santa Cruz Skateboards in the 80s and 90s, and, more recently, Eric Clement, Steve Seeley and Joseph "Sentrock" Perez.
"All three have a crazy hard work ethic. They're always pushing themselves and constantly creating new work. Seeley and Clement work in a similar subject matter as I do, and they're always making things that make me say, 'Why didn't I think of that?'" he explains.
All these artists do have a similar style, and some of their work could very easily pass as Rowland's.
There is a difference, however. Rowland's pieces are bolder, as if the comic books they were inspired by were meant to be 30 feet tall, or the band's T-shirts the logos were taken from just came out of the box at the tour stop. They're a little more in your face, especially when viewing a large wood cutout of a stark, colorful face contrasting with a brick or white wall.
To see Rowland's work in person, you can visit Galerie F in Chicago, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Paradigm Gallery, Jennifer Ford Art, Pure Eatery in Fountain Square Indianapolis.
Rowland has a new exhibit opening for February's First Friday Art Walk in Indianapolis at New Day Craft.
Saturday, April 29
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Fort Wayne March for Babies — 3.5 mile walk to support March of Dimes, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 29, Headwaters Park West, Fort Wayne, 918-6343 (register at marchforbabies.org
Michiana Wine Festival — Local and regional wine sampling, live music, 5K, and more, 12-6 p.m. Saturday, April 29, Headwaters Park East, Fort Wayne, $10-$35, eventbrite
Touch-a-Truck — Over 50 vehicles including limos, fire trucks, police cars and tow trucks for children to explore, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, April 29, Northeast parking lot, Ivy Tech Community College, Fort Wayne, free, 480-4120
Tour for the Blind and Visually Impaired — Guided tour of the Expressions of Existence exhibition, 10 a.m. Saturday, April 29, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, free with museum admission ($6-$8, free to FWMoA members), 422-6467
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4 Clicks North — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Danny's Sports Bar, Barbee Hotel, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 574-834-1111
Brent LaCasce Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Rusty Spur, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.-2 a.m., $10, 260-755-3465
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Philharmonic — Philarmonic Pops performance of music from Star Wars at Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $29-$72, 424-5665
He Said She Said — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at Michiana Wine Festival, Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne, 3-4 p.m., $10, 710-0199
Hubie Ashcraft Band — Country at The Venue, Angola, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, 665-3922
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
Jon Durnell Band — Variety at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
Mark Garr and Blues Trio — Blues at Eagles Post 3512, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 436-3512
Oferle — Variety at Two-EE's Winery, Huntington, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 672-2000
The Rescue Plan — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Samuel Harness Music w/Sunny Taylor, Hubie Ashcraft, Moser Woods — Variety at Michiana Wine Festival, Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne, 12-6 p.m., $10-$35, eventbrite
Shane & Eric — Acoustic at Country Heritage Winery, LaOtto, 5-8 p.m., no cover, 637-2980
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
Tone Junkies — Rock at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., cover, 483-1311
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Rockstar Karaoke & DJ w/Scotty — Variety at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
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Funny Little Thing Called Love — Romantic comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Home and Jamie Wooten, 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, April 29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 and May 12-13, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
The Little Mermaid — Fort Wayne Civic Theatre musical based on the Disney movie, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $17-$29, 424-5220
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Next to Normal — Tony Award- and Pulitzer-winning musical about coping with mental illness, 8 p.m.Saturday, April 29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Three Rivers Music Theatre, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 498-2270
The Taming of the Shrew — William Shakespeare’s now somewhat controversial comedy about the battle between the sexes, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 12-13, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
A Wrinkle in Time — all for One productions’ adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult science fiction novel, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, PPG ArtsLab, Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Fort Wayne, $11-20, 422-4226
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37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Juxtapoz Magazine: 25 Years Under the Influence — A chronicle of the iconic magazine’s evolution into one of the most influential magazines of art of the counterculture, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Norman Bradley and Friends — Exhibition of works by friends and colleagues of the late Fort Wayne artist, Tuesday-Saturday thru May 20 , Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Perspectives Live Butterfly Display — Up close and personal perspectives of the Conservatory’s newest collection of live butterflies, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 25, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! — An exhibition of new work by the artist considered the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist and colloquial realism art movements, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3, Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru May 20 (Cinco de Mayo Fiesta featuring mariachi music by Mark Meussling 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 5), Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568