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Artist’s Sculptures on Display

Dave Rowe’s work depicts industrial decay.

Tanner Kent, Mankato Free Press, 1-24-2013

MANKATO — Don’t call them models.

Though Dave Rowe’s sculptures might seem to be miniature reproduc­tions of refineries, factories, mills and other rusting relics of American indus­trialism, they are not.

Rather, they are something more.

With no humans to give the densely constructed and sprawling machines a sense of scale, they are at once hulking, impenetrable monoliths of human inventions, and fragile re- cre­ations of a long­forgotten land­scape. In this vacu­um of human pres­ence, Rowe high­lights social inat­tention as much as mechanical inattention. “ These ruins are visually com­pelling,” Rowe said, “ but someone’s livelihood was irrevocably changed along the way.”

Rowe, who is a visiting art instructor at Indiana University, is the artist cur­rently on exhibit at Minnesota State University’s Conkling Gallery. Rowe, who is hosting a free lecture at 7 p. m. on Wednesday, is also the 2011 recipi­ent of the Efroymson Contemporary Artist Fellowship, a prestigious $ 20,000 prize awarded annually to artists in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

At the Conkling, Rowe is exhibiting a handful of his large- scale sculptures, which measure several feet long and are displayed at eye level. Utilizing pri­marily wood, nails and glue, Rowe portrays a roller coaster, a train depot, a refinery and oth­ers.

Rowe grew up in rural central Illinois where it’s not uncommon to “ drive for miles without seeing another human.” He grew up notic­ing and appreciat­ing such icons of industry for their social and psychological properties as well as their aesthetic ones. But, he also came to understand that “ a lot of people were left behind” in America’s post- industrial society.

As such, his designs are not intended to be scale reproductions. They seem instead to be exaggerated memories paying homage to the ingenuity that created such machines while also deploring their abandon.

“The idea of ’the American ruin’ is something that has gotten a lot of attention lately,” Rowe said. “It’s a response to this feeling that there is a lot of change happening.”

During his lecture, Rowe said he will discuss his background and his devel­opment as an artist. He will also dis­cuss the impact of his Efroymson prize, which allowed him to purchase a laser­cutting tool. Rowe said the use of such technology has affected the conceptual premise of his work in the sense that he, too, has begun abandoning certain industries in favor of new technology. In one of his most recent pieces, “ Coaster,” Rowe used his laser- cutter to fabricate long, thin strips of plywood that simulate a roller coaster’s undulating track.

“It shows how my work is changing with the adoption of these technolo­gies,” he said.

For more info about Rowe’s work, visit

“The idea of ‘the American ruin’ is something that has gotten a lot of attention lately. It’s a response to this feeling that there is a lot of change happening.”

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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