Born in Seattle, Washington in 1953, Johannette Rowley moved to Hawaii in 1973. She began her studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1993 and received her BFA in Ceramics in 1999, a time when discussions in the Hawaii art community were about a sense of place locally and globally. With long held interests in the civil rights movement, women’s movement, and counter culture movement, Johannette’s early figurative work explored her indigenous roots, shamanism, the goddess culture, the sacred feminine, and issues of gender and identity. Figuring largely in her work have been explorations of the female body as the site for so much political, personal, and cultural projections. For example, as Johannette explains, “Tattered Dreams was about marriage, Scars was about having a hysterectomy, Eve Bites Back was about traditional religion's portrayal of the feminine, and Beasts of Burden was about narrow definitions of gender.”
Johannette’s figurative clay sculptures are deeply informed by the colors, textures, sights, sounds, and landscapes of Hawaii. She has used a range of materials, glazes, and techniques associated with the islands, including fish skins, lava glazes, drawn tattoo surface decorations, and the portrayal of the flora and fauna of everyday life in Hawaii. Her most recent body of work centers on dogs, a cultural reference to 2018 being the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dog.
Often using both literal and visual puns, Johannette infuses humor into her work as both political and spiritual acts. “To laugh at life and it's mysteries is a gift that transforms us in the moment. Humor allows us to lighten heavy ideas and to open our hearts to new ideas and to bring about new, kinder solutions.” Her intuitive use of wordplay and association with movies and popular culture relates to her own love of movies and music “and their ability to affect our emotional and internal environment.” Word play, she explains, provides “a way to expand the mind into the heart and see the possibilities… and the interchangeability of images/words/ideas.”
Currently living and maintaining a studio in Honolulu, Johannette credits the work and teachings of well-known Hawaii artists and mentors, including Esther Shimazu, Fred Roster, and Yida Wang. Outside of Hawaii, she has drawn inspiration from the work of Lisa Clague, Adrian Arleo, Beth Lo, Kensuke Yamada, Beth Cavener, and Kelly Garrett Rathbone, among many others.
Johanette’s ceramics sculptures have been selected for group and juried exhibitions in Hawaii, throughout the United States, and internationally. She has received numerous awards for her ceramic sculptures, which have also been published in 500 Ceramic Sculptures (Lark Books, Summer 2009) and Ceramics Monthly (November 2001). Her work is in various private and public collections.
For more information on Johannette's art, visit her website at www.johannetterowley.com.