I am honored to be a part of the 2015 Southwestern Invitational and happy to have my painting chosen as a part of the traveling exhibit. The show will be on the road until August 2016, with 2 month or longer stays at each of six gallery/art center venues, starting at the Yuma Art Center and ending at the Phoenix Airport Museum.

The Southwestern Invitational has a long history in Arizona, starting in Yuma in 1966. At that time, Yuma Art Center was housed in the old Yuma Train Depot, a beautiful and historic place to show art. Eventually the annual Invitational was included in the Arizona Commission on the Arts traveling program and toured the state each year after the initial show in Yuma. Until 1993.

Jim & I had a connection with this show back in the day. His work was included in several of the Invitational exhibits. As a result of trips to see the Invitational in the mid-80’s we got to know the then-director of the Art Center, James Nelson. Jim and I ended up photographing and designing a number of posters & invitations for various shows and other events at the Yuma Art Center. We became friends with James & had many delightful trips to Yuma to work, play & stay with him. Our son Jeremiah loved to visit James and his huge collection of Smurfs and other quirky kids toys. And I’ll never forget one of the breakfasts James served—huge pieces of Devil’s Food cake left over from an opening the previous night. Strictly against the Cowlin appropriate for breakfast rules. Jeremiah was in hog heaven. As were we all.

James put his heart into the Yuma Art Center and built a wonderful program of art exhibitions. Sadly, in 1993 a fire destroyed the Art Center along with the large collection of art by Arizona artists purchased by the Center over the years.

And James moved to LA. For a few years he’d stay with us in Phoenix when he came back to visit favorite friends and places in Arizona. Then he moved to Portland. We gradually lost touch with him. James, where are you now?

A number of years later funding was acquired and a beautiful new 6,700 square foot Art Center was built. It is located in historic downtown Yuma and is one of the premier art gallery spaces in Arizona.

David Woodward, Executive Director of the Art Center, decided it was high time to bring back the Southwestern Invitational and the current show is the result of his herculean efforts. He hopes the Invitational will once again become an annual event. So do I!

It opened at the Yuma Art Center where it was on display in April & May. From there it traveled to the West Valley Arts HQ Gallery in Surprise, northwest of Phoenix.

Last Friday we went to see the show on the last day before it moves to Prescott. It was nice that the West Valley Arts HQ had a closing (like an opening but at the end of the show instead of at the beginning). As you’ll see below, it’s a beautiful gallery & there was a nice crowd for the closing.

Big overview 480Overview of the gallery

With sculpturesLooking the other direction

Bonny's ptg from sideVisitors viewing my painting. To the left is a mixed media painting by Prescott artist, Bonnie Stauffer.

Me looking at Bonny's workTrying to figure out how Bonnie creates these 3-dimensional paintings.

Bonnie and I had never met before, but she contacted me before this event and we’d exchanged some emails. I was delighted to meet her in person. And fascinated to see her work in person, too. It’s amazing. You can see more about her on her website.

SWI—Sarah KriehnDeep in discussion with Phoenix artist Sarah Kriehn.

It turns out that Sarah and I have quite a few mutual friends. She is a printmaker from Phoenix & has a beautiful original monoprint in the show. I checked out her website and it’s impressive.

Portrait of meIn front of my painting Light Dance  

All photographs courtesy James Cowlin

Next the show travels to Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam Hill Warehouse where it’ll be up in September & October. Then on to the Tubac Center of the Arts, south of Tucson in November & December. In 2016 the Invitational will spend January & February at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, finally landing at the Phoenix Airport Museum from March through August.