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Hidden In the Fort: Lynn Rowe Reed
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
While Fort Wayne may not be a cultural Mecca, yet, it certainly has a strong knack for having hidden treasures which are quiet locally, and incredibly vocal abroad. One such hidden treasure is Lynn Rowe Reed, a brilliant and highly acclaimed illustrator, fine artist, and published author. Working in various arts for the past twenty years, her illustrations have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, on the National Public Radio website, and in a number of children's books, having penned six publications with two more being released in 2010. Reed's work has garnered her many awards and was included in "The Best of Children's Book Illustration" at the Museum of American Illustration in New York City.
Reed’s work will be showcased at an exhibit entitled "Kids Books, Whimsy, and Serious Stuff” at the Kachmann Gallery in December.
Reed's journey has been a complicated one including so many moves she even gets a little confused trying to sort out where she has lived. Originally from Garrett, IN, Reed has lived in Texas for 20 years, went to school in Atlanta, to a portfolio school called the "Creative Circus"(the accredited two year portfolio building program for advertising and design), and has lived in both Chicago and Cleveland. So far, Reed has lived in Fort Wayne for the past 10 years although she has been making frequent pit-stops on both coasts during this time.
All of this movement and freedom can be experienced in Reed's illustration and fine art as well. Primarily working in acrylic and gouache on canvas, Lynne Rowe Reed's work is, on the surface, very whimsical and simplistic. Yet the work also makes art historical references across the spectrum including Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and many other early and mid-modernist masters. While Reed admits to being obsessed with Fernando Botero early on, her work has grown to contain much more than just a strong graphic signature. Reed's control of color and its use to create space is very sophisticated, and follows and stretches most of Hans Hoffman's lessons on placement and effect.
Reed's larger acrylic paintings especially play with space and dimension by using layered ambiguous shapes and vibrant background colors to over-stimulate the eye. These pieces are then populated with somewhat simple outlined drawings of figures, mostly in neutrals and also heavily layered. The end results are playful, abstract, near gestalt images of bustling crowds. The New York Times stated, "Lynn Rowe Reed's Childlike acrylic paintings perfectly capture the mood of whimsical fantasy." Throughout this exploration of outsider "Art Brut" and the early Modernist ideas of a purity through the "natural art" of the lay person over the last few years, Reed has begun to find a great thread between her illustration and fine art, without compromising the purpose of either.
After attending Creative Circus, Lynn Rowe Reed decided to pen a manuscript and just go for it, calling publishers and pitching her work. Because of this ambition, Reed can now say that her illustration has been published in 15 children's books (nine books of others’ words, and six of her own). Though Reed's illustration is primarily used for hers and others' books for children, like the very popular "Punctuation Takes a Vacation", "Rattlesnake Stew," and "Silent Letters Loud and Clear," the images themselves are all incredibly detailed, and exude her mastery of color and form. While they lack some of the content of contemporary fine art, Reed's images are easily technically matching the gouache paintings of Layla Ali or the collaged works of Trenton Doyle Hancock. This technical prowess has allowed Reed to work with major publishers like Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, who have published dozens of Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize writers over the last half century.
In addition to these major bodies of work, Reed has also used her art to express herself and as a catharsis after successfully battling breast cancer from 2006 to early 2008, and also dabbled in ceramics and metal sculpture. Reed's strength and resolve surely assisted her through her bouts with cancer, and inspired her to do a number of paintings, as well as participate in the last two years of the "Bust-A-Move" fundraiser for services and supplies for women with breast cancer. While this impacted Reed's art and life significantly, it is beautiful to see that Reed can use her work to create a dialogue about her bout with cancer, and not let her work be shadowed by it. And almost to prove that her creativity couldn't be curbed by her health, Reed has since worked more heavily on her fine art, and added ceramics and sculpture to her repertoire. After taking welding classes at Anthis Career Center, Reed has created 3 relatively large steel sculptures to accompany the 30 or so pieces of two dimensional work for her show, "Lynn Rowe Reed: Kids Books, Whimsy, and Serious Stuff", which opens December 12th from 6-9pm.
While Reed's work continues to gain accolades nationally, she will hopefully begin to gain more recognition locally for both her illustration and fine art. She represents the exact breed of creative individual that Fort Wayne needs to cater to. As our low costs of living and relative amount of culture makes it look attractive to some, we must continue to realize the need for diversity, valuable urban living, and a concerted effort to retain and grow our hidden talents like Lynn Rowe Reed.
"Lynn Rowe Reed: Kids Books, Whimsy, and Serious Stuff", December 12, 2009-February 28, 2010. Opening night December 12, from 6-9pm.
*The first 30 people recieve a free autographed book by Lynn Rowe Reed. Autographed books will be for sale during the exhibition.
**Reed's studio is also in the Kachmann Gallery building at 1301 Lafayette Street.