Painted Journal II

Factory Works Gallery invites you to an exhibition of work by artists Rita and Steve Bower titled “Painted Journal II,” a chronicle of the creative journey they have traveled over the years. The exhibition will show Friday through Nov. 24, with an opening reception 6-9 p.m. Friday at Factory Works Gallery at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave., Studio 10.

The Factory had been doing shows in the gallery for several months when Steve and his wife Rita approached the director regarding a two-person show, which was scheduled for the month of November. Additionally, they have accumulated a number of pieces of themes they developed while traveling, many of which were exhibited at the Station Gallery in Lock Haven.

Rita and Steve share a working studio space together at the Pajama Factory which doubles as a classroom one or two days a month.

“At the Factory, we met a lot of talented people who also lease studios and work in many mediums,” Rita said. “Ralph Wilson, a photographer at the Factory, was also the coordinator of exhibitions for the Factory Works Gallery. We were talking with Ralph about traveling and creating works of art inspired by our journeys — and that’s how this exhibition came to be.”

“Several months ago, after three weeks in France, our freshly inspired art was featured at the Station Gallery,” she said. “We called that exhibit ‘Painted Journal.’ It was so much fun to have a theme and build an exhibition together.”

Since then they have been to Georgia, South Carolina, California, and Rita went to Italy for several weeks. “Painted Journal II” includes pieces from the “Painted Journal I” show, as well as their latest inspirations. The pieces on display will be in watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel and mixed media. The content of the pieces ranges from landscapes to cityscapes in various locations in Ireland, France and Italy. Rita’s work will include oils, acrylics, chalk, fabric and mixed medium pieces.

Having attended Mansfield University and earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art education, Steve and Rita accepted teaching positions in separate districts. As Rita continued to teach for 35 years in the Southern Tioga School District, Steve left teaching and began a career as a professional watercolor artist for 15 years. He concluded “full time painting” in 1988, when he again accepted a teaching position in the Southern Tioga School District. From 2001 to 2008, Steve served as adjunct professor at Mansfield University, teaching drawing and water base media.

The Bowers opened their “studio-classroom” space at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport in 2010. Steve retired in 2013 and together they have continued to create and exhibit their work. Together, they have shown their work at the Gmeiner Art & Cultural Center in Wellsboro and The Station Gallery in Lock Haven, and separately at the Genetti Art Gallery in Williamsport. Additionally, their work is on continuous display in their Studio 48 at the Pajama Factory.

Rita graduated in the mid ’70s with a bachelor’s degree in art education and attended graduate school, earning a master’s degree and focusing on painting, fiber art and jewelry. During that time, she was offered her first solo show where she featured over 20 woven and mixed medium relief sculptures.

“I remember as a 10-year-old, sitting at the kitchen table making pictures with crayons, glue, scissors and a variety of shapes of pasta,” she said. “I took one to school and was so proud of it. I guess even then I mixed mediums and techniques.”

Throughout her teaching career, Rita instructed art history, painting and drawing, as well as ceramics and sculpture. She received the Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year award twice in her art teaching career. With a passion for color and combining mediums, Rita extends that enthusiasm into teaching adults and children alike. As a professional artist, Rita has exhibited in juried shows, group and individual shows and continues to do so. Inspired by a curiosity of technique and love of learning, she creates new artworks in a variety of mixed mediums.

As an art teacher, Rita found her passion. She inspired her students to create their own pieces and related to them as a maker of her own art.

Although she is more comfortable wearing the hat of the “art educator,” Rita said that when she makes art she is often filled with a sense of accomplishment and honesty.

“I really have so many interests and I love so many things that I would like to share; which is why I teach workshops at our studio,” she said. “I especially love the use of color and textures. I admire the works of passion that Vincent van Gogh created.”

For Steve, it is almost painfully difficult for him to describe art and the art experience.

“Try to describe the wind, the sun on your face, or the look in a child’s eye — and that is what it is like,” he said. “For each person, it is a distinctly different experience or sensation and we as artists try to create things which in the presence of others are transcendent enough to connect. I believe that the greatest gifts an artist can have are tenacity and a willingness to stretch and reach to where they have not been before. It is a wonderful thing and I am blessed to be a part of it.”

For Rita, every painting has a story. Her goal is to express images and ideas that move people, without writing the words.

“An art work may invite people to consider, question, or sense,” she said. It is my dream to one day make art that will stir someone.”

“The conscious and subconscious mind store personal thoughts and perceptions of our experience,” Rita said. These speak to me and I try to tell that story in the medium that best describes it.”

Steve is inspired by beautiful things, dramatic effects, and often by a creative reaction to something that most would regard as not being noteworthy.

“Often, the shape and texture of a canvas becomes the impetus for a piece of work,” he said. “If one approaches art with disciplined effort, inspiration will always present itself.”

“Mostly, perceptions of where I’ve been, people I’ve met, words that have been spoken, and memories or stories of experiences inspire my subject matter,” Rita said. “But I must admit, sometimes, just looking at a box of chalk or a pack of tissue paper can make me want to start a piece.”

“All art is something that is greater than the sum of its parts — whether it be dance, music, painting, or theater — real art is transcendent,” Steve said. “I am simply working and searching for something I cannot describe, but when I find it, I feel it and know it. It is truly wonderful when you do something that others can see and feel.”

“The work is mostly self-reflective and expresses personal thoughts and perceptions of shared stories, places, and feelings,” Rita said. “Someday I hope to know that perhaps others can relate to it in their own way, from their own story or experience.”

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