Quincy Owens grabs a metal bucket of sky blue house paint from a shelf in the tiny Harrison Center studio he selected, for the most part, because it included its own bathroom. When you have three children under 5 years old, as Owens does, close proximity to a toilet is crucial. Quincy Owens oversees the work of his sons (front to back): Grady, Robin and Noah. Owens will have his first solo show in Indianapolis this month.
Those three honey-blond boys, with brushes in hand, wait for Dad to pop open the paint lid. Owens - a young and energetic father with baggy, paint-splattered clothes and a long goatee - crouches between them, smiling, as they dip their brushes and spread color on the small canvases he hung for them on the wall.
A full-time artist, Owens usually brings his boys - Noah, 4, Grady, 3, and Robin, 1 - along while he works in the studio and his wife, Nikki, works. A television and stack of kids' DVDs help occupy the boys. But, just as often, they join in the creative process, painting or coloring their own pictures and offering Owens feedback on his work.
"Noah, especially, gives me nice critiques," Owens says. "I like to see him think about what he sees. I don't paint straight-forward pictures of trees or anything. So, for him to see the stuff I do in my work, which happens, is amazing. It already gives him a different way to look at life."
The Harrison Center at 1505 N. Delaware St. is hosting Owens' first solo show in Indianapolis, Pop Tartan, in its gallery all this month with a Jan. 7 opening reception running from 6-9 p.m. Other Scottish-related activities - including samplings of traditional food and music - also happen that night.
Tartans are Scottish patterns that identified particular families. "Those were all about relationships," Owens says. "That's what a lot of my work focuses on. I had been incorporating lines that represented the divergent paths people take to get to the same place. This has taken me all the way to the tartans."
An old chrome toaster Owens found at Value Village helped provide the impetus for the pop half of the show. He's painted the toaster's image several times, mixing this with other appropriated pop-culture images and his own family's tartan patterns. The new work differs in many ways from the abstract splashes of color and texture that Owens created in the past. "People have told me that as different as these new ones are, it's still clear they are mine," he says.
The colors Owens chooses for his work are a major link. Just as in his earlier pieces, the new paintings radiate vibrant and happy colors. "I enjoy bright colors," he says. "I like the kinds of colors kids like."
Kids aren't the only people who relate to these paintings. Even though Owens has shown here less than two years after studying at the University of Indianapolis, he's been able to make a living at his art. Part of that comes from working hard at promoting himself - something he's not ashamed of doing.
"I've never had a problem getting a show. It's not because my artwork is better than anybody else's. It's just because I asked," Owens says. "I don't want to portray myself as a businessman, but I'm doing this as a living."
And he'd like other artists to begin to see showing and selling art as an important part of the equation. "The worst problem with visual arts in Indianapolis is that so many artists sit in their studios and paint and don't show their work," Owens says. "You have to get out there or you're going to have to have a day job."
Making a living as a painter in Indianapolis can be challenging for an artist interested in edgy, non-decorative work. But Owens feels his paintings are both inviting and personal - inviting viewers to make their own interpretations and emotional connections while each one also means something specific to him. "I don't think painting nothingness is possible when there's so much going on around you - whether you have the kids in the studio with you or not," Owens says, referring to some Abstract Expressionists' claims that they painted nothing.
"Even if a painting was about nothing, there were the thoughts I had while painting it. And I attach those to it. If it doesn't relate to my relationship with my wife and or my family as a whole, then it always relates to being a father."
what: Pop Tartan, work by Quincy Owens
when: Artist's reception Friday, Jan. 7, 6-9 p.m.
where: Harrison Gallery, 1505 N. Delaware St.
An extension of the artist's reception will be held in the Harrison Center's gymnasium featuring a Scottish "Ceilidh" (traditional country dance), bagpipers and Scottish-inspired dishes. Following the reception, musicians Scottish McMillan and Arminta will perform at 9 p.m. for the new CATH Concert Series in the Harrison Center's Underground music venue.
The Pop Tartan gallery exhibit will hang through the end of January.
More information: 396-3886