This interview features as the first in our new series –My Hometown.
Broken Hill isn’t especially known for breeding ballet dancers-turned-visual artists. But this is exactly the path Stephen Rowe found himself on. From outback Australia to Opera Houses to opening his own art studio in LA, Rowe’s journey sounds like biopic material.
Until someone makes a movie out of him, we’re here to tide you over with an insightful interview.
Hello, Stephen! How does your hometown inform your art?
I have a series of works that is informed by my hometown – my dot series. Influenced by Australian aboriginal culture, the paintings consist of an abstract background with a veil of dots which overlays hidden written messages about love, life, family and happiness.
What was it like growing up in Broken Hill?
In Broken Hill, you had to grow up pretty fast, and leaving school at a very young age like I did can certainly do that to you. It was a tough mining town, with tough miners – ha! But I wouldn’t change any part of growing up there – it’s what made me who I am today. I’m very grateful for that town.
What led you away from Broken Hill? Was there a specific turning point in your life?
At the age of around 15-16 I started doing classical Ballet. My aunt needed boys for her end of year concert, and my cousin and I went along. From then on I loved the challenge of Ballet, and worked really hard at it. It sounds a bit like ‘Billy Elliot’ – I have always wondered how they got my story!
After a few years, I went to Adelaide for a summer course and was offered a scholarship at the end of it. That was a turning point in my life. I went on to an international, professional career in classical ballet that lasted 17 years.
What’s your favorite thing about Australia, or Australian art?
My favorite thing would be the people – they are so true and to the point. Australians say it like it is and make you feel welcome. The architecture is also amazing, and I love the outback; the smell of the rain in the desert…
I don’t know too much about art in Australia, as I’ve lived in the US for the past 35 years. I was however around an artist by the name of Pro Hart when I was growing up, and I really enjoyed his work. He sponsored me when I raced Motocross for Suzuki (another former occupation!)
Oh yeah…and Vegemite ain’t bad either!
Do you have any particularly artistic memories or moments of inspiration from your many travels?
When I was invited to dance with the Lindsay Kemp Company in Europe. Lindsay was the artistic director of the company, but also painted and drew. He inspired me to paint and express myself through art, and I cherish the drawings I have from him from that time.
Where do you call “home” now?
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years now.
Any must-visit art addresses you can recommend in LA?
I’d recommend all the major museums, such as The Broad, LACMA, MOCA… the list goes on. Oh! And there is one more: my art studio! Haha!