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Artist to Make Presentation, Show Artwork at OUE

North Carolina artist, Skip Rohde, will be exhibiting his artwork at the Ohio University Eastern Art Gallery through Nov. 20. The exhibit, “Faces of Afghanistan,” will showcase his talents in drawing and painting.

Rohde will be featured as a guest lecturer at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov, 19 as part of OUE’s International Education Week. His presentation will take place in room 219 of Shannon Hall, followed by a reception in his honor from 8-9 p.m. in the art gallery.

By his own account, Rohde’s path to a career in art was rather unique. After serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy for more than 22 years, he returned to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, with a concentration in painting, from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Rohde graduated in 2003 and immediately opened a studio in Asheville’s River Arts District.

His work quickly began winning recognition in solo, juried and curated exhibitions across the eastern half of the country. In addition to producing his own artworks, Rohdes was the courtroom artist for WLOS-TV in Asheville, and taught in his studio and in UNC Asheville’s College for Seniors.

He also served as the first president of the River District Artists for three years, establishing the foundation for what is now Asheville’s premier organization of professional artists.

Not surprisingly, Rohde’s artistic perspective is influenced by both his military service and his fine arts education at UNC Asheville.

Rohde’s “Meditation on War” series of paintings about the lasting effects of conflict led to his deployment as a civilian program and project manager with the State Department and Army Corps of Engineers in Baghdad, Iraq, for 18 months. While there, he continued to draw and paint. His experiences resulted in a series of paintings about his experiences completed after his return home.

In 2011, Rohde deployed again, this time as a civilian governance advisor with the State Department in Afghanistan. He served for a year in Kandahar Province, one of the most volatile areas in the country, and one that had been the heartland of the Taliban insurgent movement.

“I found the area to be desperately poor with no natural resources and very little water,” he said. “Its major cash crops are poppy and marijuana. There are few schools, most of which are poorly supported by the government, and none of which allow girls. Yet, despite the difficulties, the people are doing what they can to build their own workable society.”

Rohde regularly attended meetings, called shuras, which were attended by a variety of government officials, district elders, international aid organizations, and local villagers. He would often sketch the participants at these meetings.

“If somebody caught my eye, and the light was such that I had a pretty good view of the guy, and he wasn’t likely to move much over the next 10minutes, my pen would start moving,” he said.

The result is a sprawling catalog of faces and figures that Rohde likens to photographs. These are sketches,” he points out, “so they’re kind of like snapshots in graphite, ballpoint, pen and ink, and whatever else that I had handy.”

“I found Afghans to have amazing faces, full of passion, intensity, humanity and the stress of living the past 30 years at war,” he said. “I tried to capture their characteristics and show them as individuals. For that is how I saw them: each man an individual, yet rooted in the basic human desires to make a living, provide for his family, and raise his children in a safe and secure environment.”

About 50 of these drawings are being exhibited as the “Faces of Afghanistan” at the OUE Art Gallery.

His entire collection can be viewed on his studio Facebook page, facebook.com/Studio.of. Skip.Rohde, and a sampling of his artworks on his website, skiprohde.com.

The OUE gallery, located on the second floor of Shannon Hall, is open to the public 11a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday and 12:30-3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. The gallery will be open from 8-9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19 for the artist’s reception. For more information, call 740-699-2342.

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