BETHANY ROWLAND: SIGHTLINES: On Seeing What is Really There

3 September - 17 October 2020


 “The hardest thing of all is to see what is really there.”

J.A. Baker, The Peregrine

We are living in a time that calls for hope and generosity and clarity of vision. 


Our lives have been upended by a virus we can’t see, in a world already wounded and hurting, and where our attention is easily squandered on what we fear. There is so much that feels out of control. 


I believe art can help us find our way.  For me, it’s painting the natural world, which has always given me solace.  Birds, especially.


I believe in the power of art to transform us, often in mysterious ways, much in the way regarding another being with an open heart transforms us. It involves listening. Seeing. Feeling and imagining the heart and soul of another with compassion and curiosity.


Art can hold the grief and anxiety to contemplate the questions, and awaken our senses to what is possible.  


It can help us to see what is really there, which has no limit. 


As so often happens for me with painting, or any creative endeavor honestly pursued, the unconscious provides a richer understanding of the soul of that which is trying to be understood. Painting is a process of inhabiting the land of not knowing. Being open to the unbidden. Making unconscious gestural marks and responding to emergent impulses. Observing, and observing again. And again.


It’s grounding and occasionally unsettling to immerse myself in painting birds of prey. Their exceptional clarity of vision is their strongest tool for survival.  


There is one particular migrant Peregrine Falcon who shows up in my work.  She appeared on my office balcony just a few blocks from here, on a wintry morning in 2016, and stayed for 4 hours. I pulled up a chair and was transfixed.


The gift of her visitation awakened in me a deep sense of gratitude and wonder, and marked the beginning of something new, including some unfamiliar and uncomfortable realizations about the limits of my seeing.   


I wrote about the experience for a painting exhibition in 2016, titled MIGRANT. 


Sometimes you are graced with the presence of something so magnificent, it shifts you into another state of being.


The paintings in this exhibition reflect my longing to return to this state of being, where hope and generosity reside, tolerance for uncertainty and unanswered questions grows, and my window of seeing what’s really there is a little bit wider.  


Bethany Rowland

September 2020