‘Temma on Earth’, Tim Lowly © 1999, 8′ x 12′, acrylic gesso with pigment on panel, Frye Art Museum, Seattle

Good art wrecks me, stirring my inner core, and leaving me uncomfortably raw.

Such was the case when I recently intersected with not only the words of Tim Lowly, but his body of work revolving around his daughter and the reality of her disabilities. These images are hauntingly tragic and beautiful all at the same time. And, as a parent of a child also with special needs, I resonate with this inexplicable need to create in order to understand, heal, and beautify.

“I think I’m increasingly not sure what I’m trying to express in my paintings,”  
Tim says.Lowly-paints-tondo

“Meaning is something that I want to come from within the image rather than being imposed. One of the things that’s most difficult for people in looking at my paintings of Temma is that she’s so outside their comprehension–it’s almost like looking at a martian. But the fact that I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours making images of someone that most people don’t even want to look at must say something about the beauty I see there.”  

Interview taken from ‘Temma Lowly and the Meaning of Life’ by Fred Camper

“I feel like I know Temma very intimately, and yet she’s more mysterious to me than any human being I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

There is something to the mystery and the love of the subjects that artists choose, the obvious presence of a connection or the striving for, and the absence of an agenda.


‘Carry Me’, Tim Lowly 2002, drawing on panel, 108′ x 48′, private collection, Chicago.

“Andrew Wyeth said to paint what you love, and I think I’ve always agreed with that. I don’t know how many times I’ve painted or drawn Temma, and I don’t know if I ever will exhaust her as a subject.” – Tim Lowly

How deep our love goes as artists, can lead us into the act of  creating something tangible; something that in a sense, stands witness to our affection and embodies the beauty of an inexhaustible subject.

“I think one’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes.” – Andrew Wyeth

I can’t help but wonder what love I should be stewarding and uniquely acting upon as an artist. Are my affections, allegiances, obsessions, and vulnerabilities obvious to the people who view my art? I suppose if I create out of an authenticity, naturally they will be. I cannot help but feel exposed even at the thought. Yet, I believe that is what gives good art the power to wreck us, because it has the courage to address these mysterious and unknown places, driving us into the very heart of what it means to be human.