Tim Lowly


Chicago-based artist, curator, musician and teacher Tim Lowly was born in Hendersonville, North Carolina in 1958. As the son of medical missionaries (his father was a hospital administrator), he spent most of his youth in South Korea. He attended Calvin College and received a BFA degree in 1981. In 1981 he married Sherrie Rubingh. Their daughter Temma was born in 1985. She is profoundly disabled (cerebral palsy with spastic quadriplegia) and has over the years proven to be the central protagonist of Lowly’s work.

From 1994 - 2023 Tim was affiliated with North Park University in Chicago as gallery director, professor, and artist-in-residence.  Now his focus is more substantially on art making.

Tim Lowly is represented by Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Seattle.


Artist' Statement

In short: I make representational art.

That said, painting starts with material.  The emphasis of my formal education in art was deep exploration of the materials of painting.  While I make representational artworks I am no less interested in how a work of art is “presentational”.  Artworks have a presence in their materiality; a presence that evokes corporeality. I find art making to be intrinsically related to being.  

Painting, particularly realistic / representational painting is sometimes thought of and received in relation to the convention of “mastery”. This rationale holds little interest for me.  As already stated, I am interested in painting as a kind of conversation with the material used to make it.  No less importantly, I’m interested in painting that involves a regarding of the subject of the artwork in humility. Here accuracy is in the service of trying to represent the subject as honestly and authentically as possible. Put another way: painting for me is learning how to make this painting or drawing in conjunction with trying to understand and represent this subject.

It is reasonable to question whether one has the right to pictorially represent another person, particularly someone who is not able to give or refuse consent. However, an unfortunate outcome of such a well meaning ethic is that those who are intended to be protected are thus relatively invisible and the broader culture has little comprehension of the meaningfulness of their lives. My work is taken up with the no less important other side of this ethical issue: the right of each person to be represented, both literally–in the sense of being pictured–and politically–via metaphoric implication. Significantly inspired by the Minjung Art movement in South Korea I came to working “realistically” with the intent to make art that is 1) as broadly accessible as possible and 2) which attempts to represent otherwise disregarded and “provisional” humanity–those whose presence and voice are conventionally absent in the public’s consciousness. 

The above-stated more general “political” interest has over time found particular traction in a long-term on-going relational project representing and reflecting on my daughter Temma.  Conventionally persons like Temma are categorized as “profoundly disabled”. I find that categorization–which essentially reduces the understanding of such persons to what they lack–to be misleading.  Temma is profoundly "other". My painting centers in an attempt to existentially regard and faithfully represent Temma as a profoundly and meaningfully “other” subject.

Concurrently with work related to Temma I have in recent years returned to a long time interest in making artworks each of which reflect on the depicted individual's personhood and vocation ("voice").  This recent iteration has found focus in monochromatic drawing.  Further–with Bellini's St. Francis as a kind of archetype–I've been attempting to represent the drawing's protagonist in a no less considered and charged context.