The landscapes may be desolate but they’re never empty. Fires burn, crows fly, clouds float ominously, well-worn barns stand at the ready and solitary horses may gallop across fields of grass. Alternately, waters tossed by fierce winds can appear, unexpected, on a distant horizon or rage nearby, just outside a window.

These are some of the dramatic and moody scenes that may be discovered in American Magical Realism paintings by Andrea Kowch. Inspired by the land and lakes of Michigan outside Detroit where the artist lives and works, the paintings also possess an element of the unexpected and draw upon raw emotions inspired by nature’s beauty and power.

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"Night Watch" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on Canvas, 8 x 8 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"Night Watch" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on Canvas, 8 x 8 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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Containing a surreal and mythic quality, rife with symbolism and mood, the landscapes transform Kowch’s paintings from a straight depiction of rural views to places of dreams where the unexpected seems always on the verge of occurring and the bizarre is not out of the question. But the landscapes are only a part of Kowch’s art. Figurative in nature, many paintings feature a recurring cast of three women—sisters, perhaps—with dispassionate expressions and deeply enmeshed in the implied unfolding drama.

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"Light Keepers" by Andrea Kowch, 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 inches. Courtesy RJD Gallery.

"Light Keepers" by Andrea Kowch, 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 inches. Courtesy RJD Gallery.

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Andrea Kowch's star is rising and has been for some time.

According to some of her collectors, it’s the combination of all these qualities that results in paintings that intrigue at first glance and continue to compel long after the paintings are added to sweeping art collections that may include European and American art from a variety of genres and time periods.

These qualities also contribute to Kowch’s history of having collectors purchase paintings before completion. For the past few years, solo exhibitions present new art that is mostly unavailable for purchase so fans can see the work before it disappears from public view, said Richard J. Demato of RJD Gallery in Bridgehampton, NY, the gallery which exclusively represents the artist.

The public’s desire to see Kowch’s art was confirmed by museum curators who mounted shows featuring her art. Calling her an important American Realism and Regional Artist working today, curators noted that her art is held in the collections of the Grand Rapids Art Museum (Sojourn), the Muskegon Museum of Art (Through the Boughs), the Northbrook Public Library (Unexpected Company). Her art is also held in private collections located nationally and internationally.

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"Sojourn" by Andrea Kowch, 2011. Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"Sojourn" by Andrea Kowch, 2011. Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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"Unexpected Company" by Andrea Kowch, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 inches. Courtesy Combustus.com.

"Unexpected Company" by Andrea Kowch, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 inches. Courtesy Combustus.com.

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“We have Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper in our collection but people call and want to know if our Andrea Kowch is on view,” said Art Martin, Director of Collections & Exhibitions at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, MI. “Her work is very popular. There is the technical skill. She’s very convincing and a builder of beautiful but fantastic spaces that immediately resonate with the public.”

The ability to sell out shows before they open or to sell art based on concept or sketches alone is more common for artists with widespread international fame, said both Martin and Ben Thompson, Deputy Director of MOCA Jacksonville in Florida, who selected Kowch’s art as a museum curator for the 2014 survey of American Realism “Get Real: New American Painting.”

It is rarer for a young artist (Kowch is now 31 years old) to inspire that level of confidence that she will make paintings that meet expectations, both men separately said, stemming from Kowch's abilities as a consistent painter of technical excellence and weaver of narrative magical realism.

Born in 1986, Andrea Kowch quickly became known for technical mastery and for figurative narrative scenes with a touch of surrealism. With paintings set in Midwestern landscapes that seem to ache from quiet desolation, it’s easy to see Andrew Wyeth’s influence in her paintings. Winslow Homer is another frequent comparison. So are influences from Northern Renaissance artists and Flemish painters.

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"Dream Chaser" by Andrea Kowch, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 60 × 48 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"Dream Chaser" by Andrea Kowch, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 60 × 48 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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In Kowch’s work, there an elusive emotional quality and an uneasy tension that strikes chords with collectors. The technical skill manifested in her detailed work is admired and inspires confidence in her longevity as an artist, according to those interviewed. Also noted is her ability to transport viewers on the wings of imagination to a realm that was variously described as mystical, metaphysical or magical.

“Her art is absolutely captivating,” said Leslie Norman of North Carolina, an art collector of 35 years; he and his wife Barbara own four Kowch paintings. “The level of detail and the imagination she has is unique to her. No one else can make paintings like this. There’s a lot of tension within the images and she seems to push things as far as they can go.”

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"High Tide" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"High Tide" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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For Barbara Norman, Andrea Kowch’s work strikes a chord of recognition with childhood memories of the vacantness of an isolated Colorado ranch that was rugged, simple and out of the ordinary, relayed her husband. For Leslie, he enjoys the unique vision Kowch brings to her work, the way the titles add another layer of mystery and the transformative power her art has when viewed in their home. They own The CatchMerry WanderersMy Heart Beside and The Road She Walks.

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"The Catch" by Andrea Kowch, 2010. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36 inches.

"The Catch" by Andrea Kowch, 2010. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36 inches.

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“They create an amazing atmosphere,” he said. “I’ve never seen work like hers."

The couple routinely visit art museums in Europe and New York City to look at the masters and to see as much art as they can, he said. Other artists in their collection include Peter Melton, Salvador Dali, Michael Parkes, Margo Selski and many others, he said.

For Steven Bennett of Texas, the technical prowess and consistency of quality demonstrated by Kowch are important. So is her ability to capture realism but move beyond and infuse the work with a sense of wonder, conflict and intangible magical qualities like those found in dreams.

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"Nocturne" by Andrea Kowch, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"Nocturne" by Andrea Kowch, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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“The quality of her technical expertise is flawless,” he said. “There’s something intangible in her work. For painters who are realists, some paint what they see and some people paint what’s in their hearts and draw from the deepest part to transcend reality. That’s what Andrea does. There’s a sense of a quality that goes beyond realism to wonderment and magic.”

“There’s a supernatural quality to her work,” he continued. “I can feel it resonate and vibrate in the space. It goes beyond language and transcends in a way that’s hard to describe what’s happening in words.”

The Bennetts collect only art by women. Diverse in nature, artists in their collection include Katie O’Hagan, Aleah Chapin, Xenia Hausner, Pamela Wilson and many others. Paintings by Kowch include Dream Chaser and The Courtiers.

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"The Courtiers" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"The Courtiers" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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Gallerist Richard Demato of New York is also a collector of Kowch’s work. He first became captivated by the painting No Turning Back, 2008 after seeing it in a magazine. The work grabbed him thematically and he was impressed by the ways Kowch used color and created composition.

“There is a real authenticity and her paintings make you feel,” he said.

Also attractive was the way Kowch’s paintings channel Americana and American Nostalgia but in a new and unique way that weaves symbolism, allegory and evocative mood. “She’s part of a generation of American Magical Realism. It’s realism with a twist to it,” Demato said. “There’s more of an escape in her paintings than traditional Realism.”

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"No Turning Back" by Andrea Kowch, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 24 × 48 inches. Courtesy Curiator.com via pinterest.

"No Turning Back" by Andrea Kowch, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 24 × 48 inches. Courtesy Curiator.com via pinterest.

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Over the years, Demato has seen Kowch’s art grow while keeping true to the emotional well from where her art springs. She continues to find inspiration from the rugged Midwestern landscape and its savage beauty to create her figurative paintings. In her newest works, Kowch introduces a male figure who interacts with the recurring female characters familiar to fans. For her current solo show, "Into The Wind," Kowch also made a series of small paintings that are intimate in scale but rich in detail and narrative implications. All the works stay true to her interest in weaving the natural world with the human condition, manifested through her narrative figurative art.

To hear Andrea Kowch speak about her new work and the show, click here to listen to the podcast by Glistening Particles.

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"Fetch" by Andrea Kowch, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"Fetch" by Andrea Kowch, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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In contemporary realism, glory and satisfaction is found in the details, which are labor intensive to create. This is especially true in Andrea Kowch's new paintings that are so finely detailed they have a strong three-dimensionality to them.

“Andrea doesn’t use assistants,” Demato said. “Every part of the painting is done by her so the art is exactly as she wants it.”

The labor-intensive approach sharpens the dance between creating large-scale works that may become masterpieces for the ages and meeting the demands of collectors who seek to acquire art within short order. This is the kind of stress many artists would love to have, Ben Thompson of MOCA Jacksonville pointed out.

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"Flame" by Andrea Kowch, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"Flame" by Andrea Kowch, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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For a talent such as Kowch, who also has youth on her side, the future appears to be a bright one and interesting to watch, said Muskegon Museum of Art's Art Martin.

So far, Andrea Kowch's star has risen steadily and quickly gained the attention of a public that enjoys her art.

Andrea Kowch has been actively exhibiting since 2005 and become a household name after winning recognition for the first time in the 2009 ArtPrize competition. In 2010, Kowch exhibited for the first time at RJD Gallery. In 2012, she was selected for the Muskegon Museum of Art’s 84th Regional Exhibition and won the People’s Choice Award. She was then offered a solo show at the museum. The 2013 exhibition, “Andrea Kowch: Dream Fields,” featured 12 paintings and 8 drawings.

Echoing the popularity her work continues to elicit at the Muskegon Museum of Art, her work drew crowds at MOCA Jacksonville’s 2014 “Get Real: New American Paintings” survey of figurative realism. The show featured eight artists who are continuing the tradition of American Realism, Thompson said. Artists were selected to represent a range of influences and themes that stretched the genre’s connections to art history and into the global information age, he said.

The show included art by Andrea Kowch, Haley Hasler, Jason John, Bryan LeBoeuf, Jenny Morgan, Kevin Muente, Frank Oriti and Kevin Peterson. In some cases, painters were chosen who had studied with second generation masters, such as Bo Bartlett and Vincent Desiderio, who continued the legacy from Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth, Thompson said. The selection was designed to enhance the exhibition's historic breathe and demonstrate the daisy chain of artists who are bringing the tradition of American Realism forward.

Contemporary Realism is seeing a resurgence as people are enjoying the technical expertise needed to make the art and recognizing subject matter from life.

“Realism reveals so much,” Thompson said. “The art has complex narratives and it reveals, in its complexity and mysterious images, something of life today and of the viewer.”

These qualities contribute to the experience of viewing paintings in person versus online, one that’s increasingly being sought as an antidote to viewing art (and life) virtually.

“Making great paintings still matters,” he said. “There’s a physical experience of standing in front of an object and seeing it firsthand. It’s important, especially in this digital age where everything can be reproduced, to be able to have an experience with the art in person and be able to see the artist in the object.”

Kowch’s work occupies a place in the history of American Realism as a regional painter connected to and inspired by the landscape, he said. Her work channels rural life and offers a counterpoint to contemporary realists who depict an urban environment.

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"Gust" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 14 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

"Gust" by Andrea Kowch, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 14 inches. Courtesy of RJD Gallery.

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Part of the tension in Kowch’s work can be found in the interplay between the figures and the landscapes in her art, Thompson said. The figures are typically dispassionate, avoid direct with each other and offer intrigue in their relationships even as they stand at arm’s length. By contrast, Thompson believes the landscapes in Kowch’s paintings are where the heart of the paintings may lie, reflecting where Kowch’s heart may beat the fastest.

“Her love of the landscape is her real passion; it seems to be where her heart truly connects to her work,” Thompson said. “She has a deep connection to the land. I’d love to see a landscape without any people to see what she would do with it.”

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BASIC FACTS: Andrea Kowch is based in the Metro Detroit Area of Michigan. She is represented by RJD Gallery in Bridgehampton, NY. Click here to see her art. To discover more about the artist, visit her website at www.andreakowch.com.

“Andrea Kowch: Into the Wind” is on view from August 26 to October 1, 2017 at RJD Gallery in The Hamptons. On permanent view is a gallery devoted to Andrea Kowch's limited edition prints. Click here for details. RJD Gallery is located at 2385 Main Street, Bridgehampton, NY 11932. www.rjdgallery.com

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Copyright 2017 Hamptons Art Hub LLC. All rights reserved.

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