February 26-April 11, 2012 | Connections: The African Sculpture Collection and Paintings of Glenn Owen
In the mid-eighties, at the age of sixty-two, my first check from teachers’ retirement was in the bank. Also, around this time, a friend from Cincinnati introduced Walter Johnson and his antique shop to me.
A sign posted on the door behind the counter stated “Must be 18 to enter.” Within the forbidden room were African works much too numerous to count. Here were the collections of three Cincinnati doctors dating back to the early nineteen-hundreds. (The pieces themselves range from the early 17th century to the late 19th century.) Upon the deaths of the first two collectors, their works were passed on to the third. Unfortunately, the wife of the last doctor did not share her husband’s tastes. African work, for her, was too sexy, pagan and certainly not for children to experience. When, after his death, she needed extra cash to emigrate to Paris, the entire collection was signed over to Walter to sell… below market value. I remember saying to myself as I exchanged some of that first retirement check for my first bronze, “payback time for those years dealing with the public.”
I knew little of African history or its cultures at that time. My only criterion was a matter of aesthetics. A piece moved me or it did not. It was of me or it was not. Over the years, the work has become clearly “magical.” Its function is akin to stained-glass windows, tombstones of ancestors and all those millions of man-made reminders of those connections among nature, god and man. Regardless of our differences, we remain members of the family of man.
My paintings in this show (1984-1990), influenced by living daily with my African collection and a year’s experience with portraiture, took on a “creature” feel. Somehow, painting human likeness became empty. I sought to give form to the spiritual feelings of the entity rather than it looking like who it represented.
I have been fortunate and even blessed for the opportunity of living with the African magic for all these years. It is difficult to feel alone or bored when surrounded by so many expressions of life.
– Glenn Owen