The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.
- Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
The Artist's Roots:
BROOKE THORN MCGOWAN, 26, is a creative cultivator, painter and needlepoint designer currently living in New England. Due to her nomadic lifestyle and upbringing, Brooke’s artistic practice has been dedicated to exploring art’s interaction and reflection through various cultures in society. This interest is often depicted in her work through mixed styles and imagery, old and new.
In order to feed her starving artist and explore her interests further, she has actively pushed her creative potential through a series of programs and travels through St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY), Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI), the University of Georgia (The Lamar Dodd School in Cortona, Italy), The October Gallery (London, UK), The Institute of Ecotechnics (London, UK)
This passion of hers has taken her over the pond to over 25 cities in Europe including London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Edinburgh and Florence. Her extended travels include a four month study abroad program in London, a four month internship in London and a three month artist residency in Cortona, Italy.
A few weeks after graduating from University, Brooke began to develop the roots of Thörn Alexander, a contemporary needlepoint brand. Thörn Alexander's mission is to to instill creative empowerment and plant trees around the globe one needlepoint canvas at a time.
Brooke learned how to needlepoint three summers ago while living in an art gallery in Europe. Needlepoint not only allowed her to create on the go, but to visually meditate whenever and wherever she wanted to. From long tube rides to unwinding at the end of an eventful day, she loved how stitching allowed her to create something that would eternalize that summer forever.
This fall, Brooke and her partner Ethan will be moving to British Columbia.
The names “Thorn” and “Alexander” have been passed down Brooke’s family tree in the same fashion as the art of needlepoint.
In her free time, she is an avid reader and loves to get funky at live shows with friends. When time permits it, she loves to practice yoga, climb, go camping, roller blade and try new foods.
IN THE MAKING
If I were to narrow my look into three words they would be "fauvist, animals & icons." I grew up around makers, an extensive collection of animals and an inherent love for pop culture. My family tree includes fashion designers, illustrators, watercolorists, and beyond, animal enthusiasts. In fact, my grandmother had a pet chimpanzee when she was my age. True story.
Art: I have several memories of my mom dragging me to a variety of galleries and art museums as a kid. As the eldest of five children (at the time) with a family membership to all of the local museums and Houston Zoo, I was probably more around art and exotic creatures than not. The jaguars and white Siberian tigers? Now those were cool. Picasso scared me and Mondrian made me furious. My ten year old self thought, How could paintings so juvenile be worth so much money? They're JUST boxes! You could buy hundreds of chameleons for the cost of one painting... Don't even get me started on Rothko. Little did I know, I would fall in love with Modern Art, come to understand and admire Picasso, Mondrian AND Rothko and ironically, dedicate my life to painting myself.
Animals: My house was always filled with reptiles and crazy critters. In fact, we had everything from Gila monsters to bearded dragons, chameleons, Himalayan cats to more snakes than I count at the top of my head. When I was five, my father came home from a trip to Africa to find that I had turned the dining room table into a fort. He crawled underneath to tell me about all the wildlife he had seen, and I have dreamed of going ever since.
Icons: We were fairly free spirited kids, but the two things our parents made a point to instill in us were manners and music. You could say that they were believed to be quintessential to the education of life. I have very few memories of life without music and I couldn't be more thankful for that. Essentially, the majority of the music permitted in our ears had to have been recorded before 1985, the older the better. The soundtrack of my childhood included the stylings of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Led Zeppelin, The Go Go's, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, The Monkeys and Dusty Springfield. The list goes on… In fact, we would often be tested to make sure we were able to name the artist, title and album within a few bars of the intro. So, while a lot of the artists in my paintings happen to be on trend, they are merely tributes to an important aspect of my life.
My aesthetic depicts a number of parallels to the Grand Tour philosophy. In short, the Grand Tour was an aristocratic right of passage if you will. An excursion young men took in order to learn about the world and collect curiosities. This tradition took place from about 1660 to 1840. Upon their return, their homes would be filled with a large collection of items ranging from ancient Egyptian sarcophagi and ancient Roman sculpture, to Victorian etchings.
It was the art of a globalized mixing of old and new.
As a big history buff, I am into deep dives of various eras, royal lineages, engineers, pioneers and traveling naturalists Drawing motifs, styles, and color palettes from different eras I study allows me to create non-traditional forms that transcend in time. While they are clearly contemporary works, there are several signals to historical periods well before my existence.
My painting style also carries a range of technique. Having worked with oil, acrylic, watercolor, vinyl, intaglio print making, drawing, and even textile design, my designing process is very dynamic. There are lots and lots and lots of layers, thin and thick. Typically a canvas will begin as a generic painted sketch. The composition and palette evolve through the development, changing as my surroundings change. Everything from the playlist on the sound system to whatever I'm watching as I work, have a huge impact on the final product. For example if I had just been flipping through an interior design book regarding a style in Santa Fe, New Mexico while watching Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, there's most likely going to be a juxtaposition of themes from the two incorporated in the final product. As a result, my paintings often feature different cultures and time periods cultivated to create a unique piece.