Arts Visual Arts

Cover Artist: Leslie Rowland

By Gina Malone

Nature has always been a driving force in Leslie Rowland’s life, beginning with her carefree days roaming South Florida as a child. “My sister Melanie and I and our childhood friends would hang from the branches of Brazilian pepper trees that reached perilously low over the canals that held the remnants of the recently drained Everglades,” she says. “We watched turtles, alligators and cottonmouths swim beneath us. We caught minnows in nets and set them free. We watched water birds wade through the shallows. We were always covered in dirt and scratches from crawling beneath the tangled vegetation that grew along the muddy banks.”

Cover Artist: Leslie Rowland

“Brilliance Aloft, I.” Leslie Rowland, artist

A memory of excitedly holding a baby lizard in her hand when she was four or five years old, then opening her hand to find it dead stayed with her and helped shape her sentiments about nature. “I stared at the crushed baby lizard and was hit with the realization that, despite being a small child, I was actually big and strong in the scope of the world and that I could love something to death,” she says. “I realized in this moment, alone in my yard, that I had to be gentle with nature and handle it with care.”

Creativity was the other guiding element in her young life, although when it came time to choose a career, she says, she was discouraged from becoming an artist for the financial difficulties that might result. “With my nature being what it is,” Leslie says, “telling me that I couldn’t be an artist and survive was the best encouragement I could have received. Later, my parents became my biggest fans.”

Leslie completed an undergraduate degree in environmental science and a graduate degree in environmental policy and management while continuing to create and sell her artwork. “When I started to look for a job as a scientist or policy specialist, I began to feel unsettled, claustrophobic and panicked at the idea of working in a sterile and controlled office environment,” she says. “I loved my field of study, but not the avenue of application prescribed by society. I was at an impasse. I started integrating science into my art, science that I hoped would inform people and, by doing so, inspire them to love and protect the wild things and places I held so dear. I never looked back.”

“You Have a Beautiful Soul” binary code painting. Leslie Rowland, artist

She creates as a means of gently communicating her strongly held ideas. “I have always hoped to find a way to be a catalyst for positive change in our world,” she says. “I’m compelled to be a voice for the creatures that cannot speak for themselves, for the wild things and places that find themselves defenseless to the indifferent and destructive march of humanity across our planet.” She hopes that her art evokes awareness without scolding or preaching. “People deserve more respect than that,” she says. “Exposing people to new ideas, broadening the scope of what they already know or even creating an image to represent what they already know is a great way to elicit this kind of evolution of thought. Thoughts lead to actions.”

And art, she says, can help present facts in a more intimate way. “People tend to think of science as hard, cold, unapproachable and intimidating. Science is just the search for truth. It’s seeking answers to questions about our world.”

“Intricately Entwined.” Leslie Rowland, artist.

Her works are created with acrylic paints on wood panels, but with her own technique developed during 20 years of experimentation, a process she likens to a “big adventure” that fills her with a sense of wonder. After a sketching and research session on paper, she commits a more final sketch to the panel. “I paint most of my imagery and then begin to layer paint over all, or portions, of the work,” she says. “As I build up the layers, I place more imagery between. I then begin removing layers to reveal the imagery that has been buried. There is often a lot of taking away and adding color and layers during this process. It’s labor-intensive but delicate work, kind of like an archeological dig.”

She has created several series including one with images of pollinators and their preferred flowers; the Gifts They Bring, depicting animals in ways that symbolize how they benefit the greater ecosystem; and binary code paintings that convey messages of love and positivity. In her binary code piece titled Revolution–Evolution, Love, she plays with words, writing Revolution backwards so that love can be read there. “It states that we can have a revolution in which the primary motivation is love,” Leslie says. “We can evolve past hate and division to focus on unity and love. Love across borders, political boundaries and across racial divides; love across our neighborhoods and our living rooms. We can choose this.”

Making art is “peaceful and tranquil,” Leslie says. “It just feels right, like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and doing exactly what I’m supposed to do.”

L Rowland Fine Contemporary Art is located in Riverview Station (Suite 101), 191 Lyman Street. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. To learn more, visit, or find on Instagram @lrowlandfinecontemporaryart and Facebook @leslierowlandart.

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