Rosson Crow

Rosson Crow is a 28 year old artist based in Los Angeles, known for her large-scale, vibrant paintings that feature opulent, uninhabited, often historically-based interiors.  Crow's newest exhibition,  "Rosson Crow: Myth of the American Motorcycle," opened last Friday at the CAC and features seven of her paintings as well as 10 custom motorcycles painted by Jim "Dauber" Farr of Westwood.   While in town the artist took some time out of her hectic schedule to discuss some of the inspiration behind her latest work as well as the opportunity to exhibit in Cincinnati.

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Q: This exhibition is another bold move on the part of the CAC, which has always been successful in giving life to contemporary art in Cincinnati and pushing boundaries.  After showing work at major galleries in Los Angeles, Paris, London and New York, how did you feel when an exhibition in Cincinnati was proposed?  What was your perception of this city as an artist living on the west coast?

A: I was really excited to do a show at the CAC- it seemed like such an amazing institution!  I didn't know too much about Cincinnati before coming here, but I must say that I am impressed.  It is really a cultured, cool city with what seems to be a lot of support for and interest in the arts.  It's great that the CAC can provide some amazing shows from artists around the world... and it really seems appreciated here!

Q: Though your paintings typically portray what some might call 'masculine' spaces, you've never specifically worked with motorcycles before.  What were your initial thoughts when approaching the subject matter?  Did your previous work with decadent, underground subculture help in that respect, or was it a completely new tone?

A: I thought it would be really interesting to learn more about the culture... I always found it fascinating.  I think that the work I've done before definitely helped shape this work, after all, much of motorcycle culture is all about being a very decadent subculture.

Q: The scale of your paintings, as well as the rich colors and lack of actual (though implied) figures, allow the viewer to become completely absorbed in your work.  This exhibition is extremely immersive, surrounding the viewer with beautiful custom motorcycles owned by men and women in the Cincinnati area as well as your paintings; the bikes are works of art themselves.  Do you think the viewing of your paintings is benefited by the three-dimensional aspect of the motorcycles?

A: Absolutely!  For this exhibition, it really works.  The bikes are these completely gorgeous, sexy, fetishized objects of desire, and they totally add an exciting element to experiencing the paintings.  I was really happy with the dialogue the paintings were having with bikes.  Even the way the paintings become abstracted and reflected in the chrome or mirrors on the bike it very cool.

Q: Specifically, what kind of research did you do for this exhibition?  Were you  concerned with historical research as in your previous work? Did you get a chance to check out any biker haunts specific to Cincinnati?  We have a thriving motorcycle culture that gets bigger every spring when the warm weather returns.

A: Yes, I heard lots of great things about the motorcycle scene here!  Some ladies from the CAC took me to biker night at the Comet while I was in town, which was really fun.  I did a lot of hands on research like checking out bike shops and biker bars, as well as spending lots of time in libraries and reading about the history of motorcycle culture.

Q: Motorcycle culture can seem frustratingly outdated in its gender stereotypes; how do you think it affected your work? Do you think ideas of gender influenced your research and interaction with bikers, and subsequently your paintings?

A: A lot of my work confronts the sexism that still exists in many aspects of society, so I was definitely thinking about that for these paintings.  As a female painter, I'm interested in taking on traditionally "masculine spaces" and really making them my own.

Q: In Cincinnati recently we have been dealing with incidents of violence due to a few outlaw biker gangs, blurring the distinction between motorcycle culture and outlaw or 1% culture.  In addition, many people have negative opinions of bikers and their debauchery that frame their experiences.  Did you hold any stereotypes of motorcycle culture before you began your work?  How did your research affect those? And lastly, how did the bikers themselves take to the project and your research, and did it take time to gain enough acceptance to carry out your work (i.e. did anyone you worked with hold any stereotypes of you as an artist)?

A: You can never stereotype whole groups of people, so I went into my exploration pretty open minded.  I love learning form people who have completely different backgrounds and life experiences than I do.  Most people I meet were extremely generous and helpful.  I think most of the bikers I spoke with about this project were very interested!  After all, who doesn't like art?

Q: Motorcycles are experiencing their own cultural renaissance, whether as the subject of cable television shows, or as the new vintage accessory.  There is sort of a haunting aspect to the neon Americana displayed in your paintings, a past-escaping feel exacerbated by the lack of figures.  Is this a reflection of a changing of traditional biker culture, or do you feel that it is still going strong in its current inception?

A: Motorcycle's resurgence in popular culture might come and go every few years, but I think that traditional biker culture will always be going strong, with an undercurrent of nostalgia.

Q: Do you ride or own a motorcycle yourself, or if not, are you considering one now?  Did you have a favorite among those exhibited?

A: I don't!  But after spending all this time pouring over them, I must say, its tempting!  My parents would kill me, but maybe I could just get one have a beautiful object!  My favorite bike in the show might be the luscious magenta Indian....

Photography by Scott Beseler.
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