Catching up with Meghan Rowswell

2020 has been a huge kick in the pants for me, and as my husband so calmly assessed, “We were about due.” But, before I get into what a slog the last couple months have been, let me share how awesome 2019 was.
In February 2019, my show Spaces in Between was installed at the Liberty Center in Sedalia, MO. It was the best presentation of my work so far. I reworked some installation pieces from a previous show, and added another large floor installation. Botanical influences from Japanese flower arranging (Ikebana) and trying to create really elaborate sculptural forms with fabric are still the major influences of my work. I am striving to be more intentional with my color palette, and with the emotions the art is conveying. Got to keep working on the work. Do you ever look at your work from previous years and think, “Wow, I’m really getting good at this! I like my work so much better now.” That’s me!

My husband was notified in August 2019 that we were PCSing to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama in February 2020. Suddenly, the drawdown of all my worldly possessions began. I finished up projects that had been put on the back burner, and began de-stashing all the fabric and threads I’d acquired. There was an overabundance of art materials because our apartment had copious amounts of storage and closets for things to be forgotten in. My studio was the master bedroom with the walk-in closet, because, you know, priorities. It was sad to let things go, but we didn’t have the space to take everything with us.
Then, the Jentel Artist Residency invited me out to Wyoming for the month of November! It was such an amazing and informative experience. The other residents shared a lot of reading and listening references with me to incorporate into my future art pieces. I’m still mulling over the photos and sketches of the Wyoming landscape. I wrote about the experience for Milspofan here:

Fast forward to January 2020. I am a PCS warrior, because I love the packing, sorting and planning. At the first sign of orders, I’m making the mental lists of things to pack and things that need to get done, and saying the goodbyes to the wonderful people that we’ve met. By mid-January we had a great handle on downsizing, and of wrapping up obligations, that we were almost ready to pull chalks. Then disaster struck.
While walking my dog along this wooded path, I slipped on some ice and broke my ankle. It felt like bone grinding on bone and my foot was flopping around like a flag. Of course, I didn’t have my cell phone, and I was in a place where no one could see or hear me. The only option to find help was to drag myself out to the main road before the morning school traffic ended. With a lot of swearing and crying, I crawled and scooted the length of a football field and to hail a minivan.

Two weeks before PCSing, I had broken both the bones in my lower leg, and was in a cast. Confined to the couch and, unable to carry anything while using crutches, I couldn’t even feed myself. My husband stepped up in a big way, by taking care of me, the dog, and our child all while trying to out process. It was hard for me to just let go of doing everything myself, even though there was nothing I could do. The dog and I watched our life packed up into boxes for days from an air mattress on the floor wrapped in an island of blankets. Watching people work while holding my tongue was extremely trying for me, because deep down I am a control freak.
The whole experience was and is frustrating and humbling. If anything good comes from my ordeal, it will be recognizing how to be still and take things in, and learning how to ask people for help. So many people helped us wrap up our time at Whiteman, from giving us rides, bringing us coffee, and to last minute marathon cleaning. Let’s also not forget all the people I have called up and complained to through the whole process, because these were mighty times with mighty big feelings. I am so thankful for our great community at Whiteman, and hopefully we are lucky enough to build a great community here at Maxwell. We wouldn’t be here without all the love and support from our military community, and especially military spouses.

On a happier note, it is now March 2020, and I have a new studio! I also got this sweet peg leg (named Peggles). Once we got to Alabama, and had an address to send things to, we figured out a way to make me more self-sufficient. Now I can navigate stairs and help unpack while everyone is off to work and school. My days are now filled with shifting boxes and unpacking everything. My studio time is spent touching all the lovelies I’ve been carting around the world, and dreaming up new art pieces. With beautiful morning light that comes through the studio windows.
How is all this going to affect my art practice? I’m going to be working small and in embroidery for a while. Wrestling large projects and sewing is a bit too much for me until the cast is off. Maybe I’ll take up painting and drawing in earnest? Who knows? But that’s the way with PCSing. Every move is a reinvention of my art practice and career. If you’ve got Alabama tips, tricks or connections, give me a shout on Instagram @MadMegh or FB at MadMeghStudios.

My show, Transmutations is going up at the University of the Ozarks in the Stephens Art Gallery, March 2nd – 20th. Opening reception and artist talk is March 19th, 5:30 – 7:30. The work is about endangered native species and promoting ecological consciousness in the fashion and textile industry. It’s full of sparkly, soft, and brightly colored beauties. I would love for you all to come out and see the work.

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