A look into a Greensboro-based abstract artist’s past, present, and future.
When you walk into the studio of Angie the Rose at the 205 Collaborative, the first thing you notice is the warm smell of incense hanging in the air. Turning the corner, natural light pours in through rusted windows and the concrete space comes to life as her paintings come into view.
She charmingly compares her room to Harry Potter’s space beneath the stairs, but the quaint room doesn't limit what she accomplishes in it. Set in the middle of the arrangement of painted canvases is a black-and-white photograph from the ‘40s of a young woman with short dark hair and warm eyes wearing a nurse’s uniform. This woman is Angie’s grandmother, a strong supporter of Angie’s pursuit of art who showed her how to see the world differently.
“I like to keep her in here while I’m working so I can channel her strength,” she says. “She really pushed me.”
Outside the studio, Angie the Rose is simply Angie Barker. She hails from the mountains of Sylva, North Carolina, and remembers creating, painting, and drawing at a young age.
Though art was always present, she began to direct more intent to advancing her skills while in high school. Knowing that art was her path, Angie went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Appalachian State University, where she was also the head of the art committee and the editor of The Peel Literature & Arts Review.
After graduating and moving to the Triad, Angie felt fortunate to have a practical degree lead her to jobs in web design but soon found herself needing a greater outlet for her creativity.
Recognizing this void, she found a space at the 205 Collaborative to get back in touch with this part of herself. She soon adopted the pseudonym “Angie the Rose” to represent this part of her world.
The story of Angie the Rose is told in emotive imagery, rather than typography and computer graphics.
Angie finds energy in art that others might find in a high-adrenaline sport. Channeling her energy through painting is the release that keeps her balanced, and she describes spending time in the studio as her “happy place.” The need to express herself in this way takes shape as a visible passion, and when she doesn't have it, she admits that she starts to feel angst.
Where some people might write in a journal, Angie paints. For her, a swipe of a palette knife on a blank canvas is the equivalent of “Dear diary,” and the feelings of the moment lead the way.
While she has her formal education in graphic design, Angie’s skills in painting and ink drawing are largely self-taught, and she relies on her mood to dictate the mediums and the themes.
In this way, she is very similar to two of her inspirational icons, Lee Krasner and Georgia O’Keefe. She communicates her feelings through art, developing her tools and techniques to meet her needs—an approach that leads to very different visuals across her body of work.
Krasner was often criticized for not having personally identifiable characteristics in her work, but she argued that the meaning of art transcended these traditional expectations. Telling personal stories through the arts requires a high level of courage and dedication for an artist, both of which are characteristics O’Keefe celebrated.
Angie believes that the art is already there, but you have to make it and commit to it. In her college years, she mainly focused on ink drawings that were direct, dark, and moody. Later after moving to Greensboro, she did a series of watercolor-based paintings of dreamlike mountain scenes in a reflection of her homesickness. With the next series, the colors shifted to black and blue, with a more abstract theme to represent a kind of bruising as Angie worked through a personally challenging year.
In her newest series “Molecular,” Angie continues to follow her heart towards the emotive abstract and thinks of this as the defining work of her career thus far.
“Molecular” is a drastic turn in style and represents change and growth within our bodies and the world around us. Palette knives and bold acrylics are the primary tools for this series, but she also adds finer details with ink pen to create additional textures and sensations of movement.
This series is in some ways a unique juxtaposition of neuroscience and art, but the primary goal is to reflect on life and the changes and responses going on inside of our bodies at all times.
These pieces communicate Angie’s dedication to embracing happiness and self-awareness, and she hopes that other people will feel that, too. She identifies this work as the highlight of her career, and it has been very liberating for her and a welcome change.
In reflection of her growth as an artist, Angie contemplates what it means to be an artist in today’s society. The loss of art programs and the unrelenting threat of their defunding worry her.
She believes that children shouldn’t be forced to think in one specific pattern and should be given the opportunities to find the path that suits them.
Emotion interrupts her when she tries to consider what her life would be like if she could not paint or create.
Artists have to make a point to tell the political system that arts are valuable and meaningful. While it is seemingly less common today, historically, the arts have had a way of impacting the political spectrum, and there are still possibilities for using it as a gateway to change.
Angie the Rose is richly talented, and the feelings and stories she shares are both personal to her and familiar to everyone, creating an intimate connection.
For more information regarding Angie’s events and new creations, stay up-to-date through her website and on Instagram under @angietherose.