An artist who wears black and paints erotically with light
Goth subculture, values, beliefs and identity are far more complex than the dramatic clothing and moody sounds that most outsiders tend to notice most. Dig deeply enough and one can find unique lifestyles that find their expressions in the cutting-edge of fine art and creativity.
So, what happens when a tiny, body-building, elfin girl in slinky black attire paints subjects of all races and cultures in sensual poses and costumes?
We interview her, of course.
Rose Adare is a Hawai’i-based portrait artist who has spent most of her life in artistic communities and subcultures that exist on the fringes of mainstream society.
Self-identifying as a Goth, her oil paintings contrast darkness and lightness to create luminous works that seem to glow right from the souls of the models themselves. And now for the interview…
Passion of Joan of Arc. Image copyright © 2012 by Rose Adare. All Rights Reserved.
Rose, how did you become a Goth?
I don’t think it was ever a conscious choice. When I was about seven, I begged my mom to buy me these black boots and I wore the hell out of them. Black to me was the universe and I felt like one of the zillion stars held within. When I was in my teen years, I got very withdrawn and I could pull my hoodie over and just disappear.
There’s a lot of different pockets in the Goth community. Of course, I was known as a happy Goth, as the name implies to be a really happy, outgoing, positive attitude, black-wearing person. My favorite jacket was a black trench coat with silver smiley-face, perfectly-round buttons and the silver was etched into. It sums me up nicely.
Didn’t you also spend time as an improvisational actor in the Renaissance Pleasure Faires?
We stumbled upon it when I was 14 and it was one of the saviors of my life. Without thinking about it too much, I was dragged onto the stage and had these amazing tools of quick thinking, witty responses, and dynamic movement. I find is a huge benefit for me, as I still have that aspect of story teller in my system, and it allows me to hold amazing conversations with individuals in large groups without the fear of being seen.
Has living in communities with diverse populations had an effect on how you approach the arts?
Absolutely. I’m always astounded by not only the diversity in our population, but the diversity in a group and community. One Goth is completely different from the next. Between the two, there is a universe of differences and I absolutely love exploring, not just what a person represents, but who they truly are at that moment they are painted.
With San Francisco, I found the spaces between groups, especially in regards to wealth versus poverty, really interesting and quite often sad. I believe that’s when I started fighting for what we would consider the underdog. I decided to paint classical portraits, as this was my avenue into museums with painting people that are hardly ever seen in museums. I want for all people to be represented and to be seen, to be known, and to be heard.
I actually felt very stifled and my art felt dried up in Arizona (where she lived for awhile in Tucson). Again, I was struck with the amount of poverty and scarceness and this turned me inward to drawing more non-reality, as a way of coping and escaping.
Hawai’i has been hugely influential. There’s an amazing multicultural society out here, with people vastly rich and vastly poor intermingling and not being able to tell one from the other and it is absolutely beautiful! The diversity is breathtaking and there is a true joy out here to being who you are and not a carbon copy. So, I found a huge array of people to paint that I’ve been ecstatic over!
How has your own racial or ethnic background influenced your art?
I’m adopted. So, I have my parents’ and then my biological parents’ background intermingled, and as such I feel very free and unbound by ethnic or racial labels. I get to identify as myself, or if there needs to be a label, “artist,” as that is a very broad-spectrum label. I think this freedom can be seen in my art.
Genuflect. Image copyright © 2012 by Rose Adare. All Rights Reserved.
Unconventional forms of sexuality are a dominant subject matter for you. Why is that?
Because it is not dominant in the art world. There is so much diversity in sexuality and sensuality and also gender and that’s not being talked about, shown, or really even understood. That’s why I really want to hold those conversations, firstly in my paintings and secondly by having art talks and discussions. I’m a very open book and happy to discuss anything with anybody who is willing to expand their understanding of human nature. Bring on the conversations!
Has working with portrait models from diverse cultural backgrounds influenced how you approach sexuality?
Absolutely. Every time I do a portrait I learn more about the human condition and it is thrilling. I like breaking my own taboos and my own biases and being able to expand my understanding. It is so liberating and beautiful!
Do you view unconventional sexuality as a subculture in its own right?
I would honestly like to view sexuality without any labeling. I would like to view it as humans like sexuality, sensuality, touch, communication, love, lust, like, and everything in between. There usually isn’t a hard line where you jump from “normal to see” to “subversive” or “unconventional.”
What kind of clientele do you have?
This is the funny part. My clientele ranges significantly. I am currently getting flown to another country to do a portrait of somebody in their natural landscape, that will have a beauty and sensuality to her. On my easel right now is another woman who died an untimely death, and I am recapturing her for her heart-broke husband, who only has blurred, small photos of her.
I am truly honored when somebody asks me to paint them, or somebody they love, or even an idea or a vision. I love co-creating with the client and will often include them in the actual painting process, especially the first stroke – and the last stroke, if they wish.
Do you ever receive criticism from socially conservative sources about this subject matter?
I have been absolutely in awe at the fact that I have not had criticism about my work. When I did the first show I was expecting to have to don armor for what I perceived were going to be flailing judgments. When this didn’t happen I honestly was in shock at how these paintings have been so accepted, and have opened up amazing conversations and expanded people’s understanding of what would be considered subcultures. It’s been remarkable and has brought me to tears.
Why do you focus on hand-painted works, instead of the digital art forms that so many artists today have turned to?
I have an absolute love for the Old World, passed-down secrets. I love the buttery feel of oils, the flex and give of my brush against the linen canvas, and how all these tools speak to me. I learned from University and The Atelier School of Classical Realism in Temescal, California under the tutelage of my 84-year-old teacher, who opened up the universe to me in what feels like a constant conversation with the old masters.
Has that affected your business career as an artist?
Oh yes, computers are where the money is and slick, eye-catching advertisements as well. There is an amazing place for both of these and I am glad they exist in the world, but I am also very glad that I have a studio which smells of oil that I can sequester myself in. I live in an amazing place that has a huge garden so I will not fall into the starving artist category.
I have an amazing partner, Alex Stitt, who has been an incredible muse for looking past my brushes and canvas into the world of conversation via paintings. Our book, Restraint & Revolution, showcases all thirty-one paintings and the brilliant stories of the marvelous people I have had the honor to paint. Alex was the writer and collector of these stories and it is so much fun to co-create with another artist, in this case a visionary and writer.
Venus Unbound. Image copyright © 2012 by Rose Adare. All Rights Reserved.
Are you experimenting with anything new?
I love experimenting. I never like doing the same thing over and over again once I’m done with the series. I just finished a seven by ten-and-a-half foot painting that falls free from the ceiling for the Schaeffer Portrait Challenge in Maui that I got to paint during a hurricane and eight days without electricity.
Waking up as soon as the sun rose to paint and having to put the brushes down once it got too dark to see what I was doing, by the sun – it was amazing and frustrating. Every time my brush hit the canvas it would push back and come forward because it was not on stretcher bars but just hanging like a huge parchment from the ceiling. It was this amazing dance with my canvas and since it was a painting of under the ocean it flowed really well.
This one specifically was about ageism, capturing a seventy-plus-year-old woman looking beautiful, joyful, enchanting, and even, yes, sensual!
How do you use contrasting light and darkness so effectively?
Everything we see, the three dimensionality of this world, is created by shadows and it is this understanding that thrills me. Often times the darkness gets relegated to negativity. As a “happy goth girl,” to me the color black is infinity. To make black, you take most of your colors and you mix them together, and so when you see black, you are seeing most every color there is!
Do you teach?
Absolutely! When I left the Atelier to move to Hawai’i, my teacher, David Hardy, pulled me to the side and said that he gave me his blessing to open up an Atelier. This was an honor I absolutely did not expect.
He also stated that now I was the repository of this knowledge. It was my duty to pass it on, to not let it fall into dust, and to spark the imaginations and passions of other students, whatever level they may be at, even the stick figure level. It’s amazing how quickly you can teach somebody to draw a human figure, within an hour!
What recent shows have you held and what shows are planned for the future?
I had the amazing honor of being part of a three-woman concurrent solo exhibit at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center this last June through August, and it was mind blowing to see twenty-one large paintings lit so beautifully and with such love. It moved me.
One of the pieces, which was two individual canvases at two-and-a-half by fourteen feet, hung as you entered the curtained expanse. Then, as you rounded the corner, there sat an individual space for a 45-minute documentary we did, with a number of the models talking about their lifestyle and their views on life.
It was incredible, for one night we had over 2600 people attend the art show. It was mind-boggling!
New shows include The Schaefer Portrait Challenge in Maui and Restraint & Revolution is coming to the mainland, hopefully to your town! And as such, all art lovers keep your eyes open for museums which we can bring this educational art tour to and start the dialogue of diversity.
How do think your artistic vision and style will evolve in the future?
I hope it’s a supernova and goes in every direction that needs to be spotlit! I believe that an artist does not have one signature to their work, but a lexicon, and as such I intend to explore as many signatures as I can through my own abilities, and constantly continue the learning.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Life is beautiful and brilliant, and there is not just one story within a human being, but an infinite library, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to flip open to a page and learn something new about somebody? This is what I love to do with my art!
I also believe that magic is just science that has not been explained yet, and as such energy moves energy. One of my favorite things to do is to breathe into my brush, which physically calms me down because I’m taking a deep breath.
On other levels, there’s a bit of me going into the painting. I love to do this when I’m painting something that is special to the person. Often their eyes, their lips – especially if their mouth is open – and you can feel them breathe. Sometimes the deep red of a knuckle or the pink blush on the cheek. This can say as much about a person as any eyes could.
I also believe in putting essences into my paintings. What is connected to that person I’m painting, such as peyote, or Hemp oil, whiskey, blood, and even bubblegum pink nail polish.
Rose Adare, Hawaiian goth artist extraordinaire. Image copyright © by Anita Nowacka. All Rights Reserved.
Seeing is believing. If you can personally identify with her creative vision, then learn more about Hawaii-based goth artist Rose Adare at roseadare.com.
Or for more on Goth subculture on this site, read Eye of the Tiger, an account the social backlash in the wake of the tragic Colombine massacre.