Sculptor, Gallery Owner John Mowen has died

John Mowen, the popular sculptor and gallery owner, died on Sunday in Grass Valley after a terminal illness, his friends and family said.

We will miss John deeply — his intelligence, cheerful personality and imaginative artwork. John owned Mowen Solinsky Gallery in Nevada City.

The Mowen Solinsky Gallery, whose doors opened in 2004 in a restored Gold Rush-era building, has been recognized as a model gallery, exhibiting and selling exceptional contemporary art.

The gallery has been a catalyst to the resurgence of the arts in Nevada County, most recently hosting a reception for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival this past weekend. The gallery was hopping.

“The greatest blessings of this work come from connecting to others who also feel that our passion and where we go inside ourselves with what we do in the world, is vital to the survival of the soul,” John said about his artwork.


John started working for a leather shop in Ohio in 1972, and continued working in leather when he moved to California in 1975, as The Center for the Arts noted in an introduction for a Nevada County Arts salon series featuring John and other local artists.

“A little more than 20 years ago, he began creating sculpture in stone and bronze, and settled into the traveling artist’s lifestyle selling his work at fairs, festivals and galleries across the country.

“John and his business partner and son, Sky, attend 20 to 23 shows a year, giving them national exposure and a growing list of art patrons from around the globe.”

In October, John wrote a poignant letter to the gallery’s friends and patrons about “retirement,” according to the gallery’s newsletter.

“So let’s maybe, just begin to think of Retirement as something we actively do our whole lives,” he said.

A “mere week or two” after John wrote this letter, he learned about “a battle being waged inside his body,” according to the newsletter. “Thanks to Franceska (Alexander), you can learn more about John’s progress and send words of encouragement through CaringBridge.”

The site described a quickening terminal illness. “John is now at the Hospice of the Foothills and quietly resting,” Franceska wrote on January 2.

On Sunday, she reported John has “passed through our midst like a Rumi Road Runner, laughing all the way with immense charm and deep wisdom at the company of his family and his ever faithful Franceska.”

In John’s work he often quotes Rumi, a 13th century Sufi mystic and poet from Persia.

“John Mowen’s work putting stone and Rumi’s words together feels inspired to me, pure and deep. They’re reminders of silence and meditation, Alters to the dawn,” said Coleman Barks, author of numerous Rumi translations and an authority on Sufism since 1977.

(Photo: Dennis Barry’s Facebook page and Izzy Schwartz)

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