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Themes of Displacement and Spatial Disorientation Fuel Creativity

By S. Mathur

The title of the Monya Rowe Gallery's first show in St. Augustine, FL is "Out of Place". Artworks in the exhibit explore the themes of displacement and spatial disorientation. Perhaps these resonate with Owner Monya Rowe's own experience as a recent transplant from New York to Florida. Rowe's new gallery opened in July this year and exhibits works of contemporary art, with a focus on emerging artists.

A New York Times Review of her gallery described it as "one of a handful of independent-minded, tight-budget spaces that function as alternatives to a corporatized art world mainstream." In practical terms, this meant for Rowe a career of encouraging new artists: "It is personally very rewarding to professionally grow with an artist. My gallery has always operated like a family environment; we work together and build each other's career together."

Inquiry by Vera Iliatova, 2015
oil on canvas 40 by 50 inches

Working with new artists is also a chance to shape the future of the art world. Rowe says that "Part of the fun of owning a gallery is contributing to the cultural landscape. Before artists are shown at museums, they are shown at galleries." Rowe looks for work that appeals to her personally, speaking with a unique voice: "I look for artists whom I think are making a significant contribution to the canon of contemporary art; artists with a unique voice who are making work that has a dialogue with art history."

Several of the artists in the opening exhibit have been showing with Rowe for years, though the works were curated with the Florida gallery opening in mind. "Out of Place", runs through Dec 20 and includes the work of Larissa Bates, Natasha Bowdoin, Vera Iliatova, Giordanne Salley and Dasha Shishkin.

Two Mrs. Nixon (after John Adam's 'Nixon in China') and Chiquita Bananas by Larissa Bates, 2011
gouache on paper 10 by 7 inches

Comparing New York and Florida, Rowe believes that while there are many advantages for young artists in New York, these must be weighed against the high costs of living and working in the city: "The abundance of galleries, museums, and art available in NYC makes it a great place to see what is really going on now in the art world. For artists, it allows them to mingle within the art world, have a dialogue about art, and take advantage of exploring many different kinds of galleries, which is research every artist should do. On the down side, NYC has become a very expensive place to live and this is hurting the creative community."

When asked why she wanted to open a new gallery, Rowe's answer is that she wants to make the decisions about who is being shown. As a self-made and self-taught gallery owner, her advice to those wanting to begin an art collection is simple: buy what you like.

After twelve successful years in New York City, Rowe brings with her a loyal following of artists, collectors and critics. The Gallery has been welcomed by the arts community in Florida as an important addition to the contemporary art scene.

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