Romonia Rowe, Mona to her friends and family, loved to paint landscapes, create children’s illustrations and sculpt cats. And she’s one of the reasons her son, wildlife sculptor and gallery owner Ken Rowe, became an artist. For many years, Ken attended amateur painting classes with his mom, first as a way to distract himself from his day job (drywall finisher, for those who are curious) and, later in life, as a way to spend quality time with Mona, who passed away in 2003.
“She was a really good painter, but she never thought about doing it for a living,” says Ken. “She just did it for fun, which is probably the best reason.”
Mona, who was originally from Kansas, raised Ken, his younger brother and his older sister in Phoenix, but she spent her later years in Prescott. That was convenient for Ken, who moved to Sedona in 1995. “I would see her every week because my foundry was in Prescott,” he says. “At one point, I gave her some sculpting supplies, and she started sculpting figuratives and cats – she loved cats. But she continued to paint and paint. The house was filled with her artwork. I have some of her oils and watercolors hanging in my own house, too.”
And what about those paintings Ken created with his mom in his early days as a budding artist? Are those still hanging around?
“Yes – and they are horrible!” Ken says, laughing.
For many artists, their moms are their first fans, providing encouragement and love. In honor of Mother’s Day, Rowe Fine Art Gallery celebrates Mom during Mother May I?, which opens Friday, May 5, with a reception that takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. Stop by to see new artworks and share stories of how your mom inspired and encouraged you. (Psst: Artwork makes a great gift for Mother’s Day. The gallery will be filled with sculptures, paintings and jewelry depicting the bond between mother and child.) The show runs through May.
Of course, loving mothers can be found in the animal kingdom, too. Just ask bronze wildlife sculptor Kim Kori. Kim has been sculpting for more than 40 years, often giving a voice to nature’s smallest creatures, including mice. At one point, Kim purchased two female mice from a pet store to use as models for her artwork. To her chagrin, one of the females turned out to be a male, and before she knew it, Kim had two adults and seven babies to raise.
“All animals, no matter their size, have different personalities,” says Kim. “My favorite of the babies was a champagne-colored mouse I named Moet. She was so much smarter than her siblings. She figured out how to remove the cap on her cage and would escape during the night. I kept thinking I had forgotten to put the cap on until I saw her in action. One morning she was gone, and when I opened a closet door, I found her sitting on a shelf, looking at me. She let me pick her up and return her to her home. The others never left the cage, even though Moet had given them an easy out.”
It was from her experience with this mouse family that Sheltered, one of Kim’s most iconic sculptures, was born. Sheltered depicts a mother mouse and four of her babies huddled under a sycamore leaf, seeking refuge from the rain.
A recent painting titled Hey Ma! by artist Jen Farnsworth was inspired by a four-legged mom who’s slightly larger than a mouse: a javelina. “Anyone who has observed a javelina mama in the wild knows what great moms they are,” says Jen. “The javelina babies, called ‘reds,’ are never far away from Mom, and if they do get separated, even by a few feet, you can hear the baby call out with their distinctive and anxious squeaks. That was my inspiration for Hey Ma!. The little baby in this painting is not letting Mom out of her sight.”
Mother May I? marks the continuation of a year-long celebration of the art of storytelling. When you come right down to it, artists are storytellers, using paint, clay and precious metals the same way a writer uses words. There’s a story behind each of the paintings, sculptures and pieces of jewelry in the gallery – stay tuned as some of those stories are told throughout the year.
And happy Mother’s Day!
Rowe Fine Art Gallery represents traditional and contemporary southwestern artists. The gallery, located under the bell tower in Patio de las Campanas at Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village, is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 928-282-8877, visit rowegallery.com, or find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.