Washington Citypaper | Anne Rowland at Hemphill Artworks

By Louis Jacobson
June 22, 2023

Anne Rowland works from Northern Virginia, but her latest creations span the globe, thanks to the explosion of satellite and aerial images available to those who wish to look. Rowland uses these as grist for works as large as 74 inches by 56 inches, first putting the raw images through an almost literal blender of Photoshop-type software. The resulting works look different up close and afar; seen from inches away, details like stands of trees, suburban housing developments, and even location tags are visible, but from a distance, they offer a patchwork of circular forms. Sometimes, these broad forms contain echoes of Japanese prints, Robert Motherwell abstractions, Georgia O’Keeffe flowers, or the heavy strokes of Vincent van Gogh. Others suggest more humble patterns such as a wedge of green-and-white cabbage, marbleized paper, or prosciutto curls. Many of the locations are obscure: a lake in Tibet, a salt flat in Bolivia, and rural areas of Idaho, Iowa, New Mexico, and North Dakota. But in some works, the specific geography is crucial. In “What Difference Does It Make,” Rowland blends the border region of warring Ukraine and Russia into an inseparable, sphere-shaped whole. The most meaningful piece for locals may be, “It’s Not What You Think,” which is based on the borderlands between Loudoun County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland. Close up, its undulating layers of fields, trees, and water echo the meandering Potomac River that separates the two counties. From a distance, the work’s pastel tones resolve into a version of a New Yorker cover commenting on geography from above.

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