The work of multimedia artist Sarah Rowe is often described as having a “sense of playfulness and a hint of sarcasm,” and Rowe herself says that art sometimes speaks in a way that is provocative and challenging more than serving as a thing of beauty.
“I’m just a firm believer in not questioning what it is that you’re called to do. I’m not trying to please anyone, not even myself necessarily,” she says.
Native American themes from symbology to history are prevalent in many of Rowe’s works; she is of Lakota and Ponca descent and is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. “I was brought up with Lakota ceremony and tradition,” she says. “I identify with both, but I would say my spiritual ties are definitely Lakota.” Through her art, she has confronted issues from self-identity to the history of exploitation of Native Americans as well as honored the traditions of her ancestors.
“It’s been an interesting journey, certainly, as an urban Native. And there’s been a lot of discouragement there, but in a way it’s inspired me to carry on and use that part of me and that voice. I almost feel like I have a responsibility,” she says. “Using art as a platform is such a great way to raise awareness and have a dialogue…I want people to feel comfortable to approach me, and share my ideas and history, and connect as human beings that way.”
Her calling has led her to explore a wide spectrum of media, from metal to photography to performance art including traditional flute and dance.
“I went to art school as a sculptor but I was so interested in learning all of these new techniques that I left with a studio degree,” she explains. Rowe received a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Webster University after studying in both St. Louis, Missouri, and Vienna, Austria. “I kind of just gave everything a try.”
Rowe is not only a visual and performing artist, but also a practitioner of the healing arts, or as she succinctly puts it: “Very hands-on.” She works as a licensed esthetician at Curb Appeal Salon and Spa in the Old Market, where she’s been able to integrate her heritage by practicing holistic, multisensory body treatments with aspects of Lakota healing ceremonies. Rowe says she believes sharing knowledge of these healing ceremonies “enriches connections to ourselves and the earth, promoting well-being and balance of mind and body.” She also enjoys connecting to nature through hiking and exploring with her 11-year-old daughter, who’s already showing her own artistic talents as a writer and illustrator.
Rowe has exhibited through numerous galleries and arts organizations including the four-year project Sweatshop Gallery in Benson (which she co-founded), RNG Gallery in Council Bluffs, The Union for Contemporary Art, and Joslyn Art Museum’s Art Seen. She is currently represented by Darger HQ Gallery, an international artist collective based in Omaha. Some of her pieces are commercially available at Hutch, a furniture and home accents retailer in Midtown Crossing, and samples of her artworks can also be seen on her website, saroart.net (the name winks at her lifelong experience of people running her first and last name together as “Saro”).
“You can never learn it all, and I think that’s part of the fun,” Rowe says. Encounter
Visit saroart.net for more information.