Fine art meets design

by Brian Crean

Paper doll by Jordan Owens.


You know what I like about a few of the young artists here in the Triad? They’re actually really good. They seem to know what they are doing, and they tend to produce images that look recognizable and finished.

While a few of them are still busy being tortured, sloppy and misunderstood, the best ones, at least in my mind, seem mature beyond their years, and perhaps more importantly, they seem to have a good eye for design.

Triad artists like Kat Lamp and Patrick Harris come to mind. Both use bright and bold colors to render their imaginative yet straightforward depictions of people and animals.

Another artist with a similar sensibility is Jordan Grace Owens.

Showing this month at the Green Bean in Greensboro, Owens has been quite visible these last few years. You may also have seen her show at the Swift Wade Gallery on Trade Street back in May or at her booth at Greensboro’s downtown Indie Market.

Born to an artist mom in Winston-Salem, Owens is a 2006 graduate of the NC School of the Arts. She’s also studied graphic design at Guilford Technical Community College.

By being a product of both the fine-art world and the graphic-design world, Owens exemplifies a pretty refreshing trend in the Triad emerging artist community, a trend away from the formalist and conceptual leanings of the last couple of generations.

Instead of making me listen to some bizarre cerebral musing or reading a random artist statement to understand her work, Owens seemed just happy to throw out a few concise words and phrases while we talked.

“Vintage.” “Fashion.” “Family Photos.” “Furniture.” “Collage.” “Records.”

Those are Owens’ themes, and instead of offering mostly talk, she’s decided to leave the details up to the works themselves. If you make it down to the Green Bean for her First Friday opening this week, you’ll be able to check out some life-sized Dancing Girl and Boy Cutouts and a new series of 3-foot Paper Dolls with well-articulated hair and limbs. From what I understand the show will contain mostly new larger work with a smattering of smaller pieces.

On her website,, you can view a sampling of her entire catalogue as well. Particularly engaging are her Petite Portraits. Like a combination between Warhol silkscreens and Modigliani oils, these images are keepers.

From my perspective, Owens seems to be at her best when she allows the surface of each piece to become a bit more painterly. When she strikes that perfect balance between the graphic-design side of her personality and the fine-art side is when the magic really happens. And when she leaves some evidence of her process behind, the images seem to last longer. They seem to hold our attention, instead of simply attracting it.

It’s also refreshing to look at work that doesn’t require a long tiresome explanation to understand it. I’ll forever be secretly hoping that those days are far behind us. Maybe we can leave that to the old school critics and curators.

Like a beloved family portrait, the best art speaks to our eyes and our hearts.

wanna go?

First Friday Art Hops happen the first Friday of each month in Greensboro along Elm Street and in Winston- Salem emanating from the corner of 6th and Trade streets. Click HERE for a list of events.