Barbara Kieffer Rowe
Black Hills Artist
Ammonites—Hoploscaphites Festivi

Fossils

Fossils

On a hot stage of sun on black shale, I curiously and respectfully view the iridescence of an ancient fossil, an overwhelming debut since the animal’s last swim about 65-million years. The form is fragile yet permanent, aesthetically shaped, and adorned with long-held detail.

Paleontological studies provide a connection with the ancient past - an aspiration to study and discover. Most importantly fossils provide subject matter for artwork so I can visually share Earth’s hidden imagery with others.

Ammonites—Hoploscaphites Festivi

Ammonites—Hoploscaphites Festivi

Acrylic on paper | 13.5” x 9.5” | $825

Hoploscaphites is among the diversified fossils within the Pierre Shale of South Dakota. This ammonite spirally curves with the final whorl projecting forward in a surge of backward momentum. The diagonal movement explodes in dazzling colors dancing on iridescent shells. This festival of colors is reminiscent of a holiday celebration of nature’s design.

Ammonite Placenticeras

Ammonite Placenticeras

Acrylic on canvas | 6.5” diameter | $325

Circular wrought-iron encapsulates an ammonite and hints of a round concretion that once cradled the ammonite for 65 million years. The lifeless form served as a nucleus for mineral precipitation. Concretion removal exposes an iridescent spiral form — rainbow colors of the ammonite result from transparent applications of pearlescent acrylics. Colors shift and wane within angles of light.

Ammonites—Aquatic Dancing Duo

Ammonites—Aquatic Dancing Duo

Acrylic on paper | 22” x 28” | $3,200

Two ammonites spin in an aqueous dance as they dive within the water column. The “siphuncle” organ facilitated their vertical movement by allowing gases and water to enter the animals’ chambers. Water emerged by touching color loaded brushes to a wet paper surface results in a spontaneous flow of pigments and an uncontrollable saturation in salt crystals. Thickly applied acrylic paint details the ribs and nodes of the textured forms and torn copper paper stabilizes the animals.

Emerging Scaphites

Emerging Scaphites

Acrylic on board | 5” x 7” | $250

Acrylic paint moved the ammonite genus Scaphites through water currents and propelled the animal through cool shadows of the deep sea to a shaft of sunlight. Detailed color on the ammonite’s coils illuminate this upward journey.

Emerging Schaphites Ammonite

Emerging Schaphites Ammonite

Clay sculpture and Scaphites specimen | 10.5” x 8.5” x 8.5” | $450

A favored fossil within this sculpture evokes a thrilling memory of removing the ammonite from Pierre Shale. This sculpture called for the vertical rhythm of organic movement and an apex of emergence. Concentric layers of clay were slab built in a revolving ascent to the thrill of discovery and the uplifting spirit of freedom. Scaphites cradles in a protected curve of the hand-built sculpture.

Ammonites—Medley of Cross Sections

Ammonites—Medley of Cross Sections

Acrylic/watercolor on paper | 14” x 22” | $850

An ammonite’s paired cross sections aesthetically illustrate functional design. Radiating septa divide chambers and provide strength from external forces. Ammonites thrived for 150 million years demonstrating an anatomy for survival. This painting evolves with a positive-negative view held in reds, violets, and ambers that enter a neutral border. Linear background of movement was built by alternating layers of acrylic colors and masks.

Ammonite—Discoscaphites

Ammonite—Discoscaphites

Acrylic on board | 8” diameter | SOLD

Pierre Shale of South Dakota is host to diverse fossils including Discoscaphites, a sea animal with a functional and highly adorned form. This fragmented phragmocone allows a peek into the ammonite’s internal chambers that were protected by its aragonite shell. The iridescence of the animal’s shell was achieved by overlays of pearlescent acrylic paint, and a stippled background of fissile shale echoes the animal’s spiral form that was encased for millions of years.

Ammonite—Jeletzkytes embossi

Ammonite—Jeletzkytes embossi

Acrylic on paper/embossing | 21.5” x 16.5” | $2,000

Jeletzkytes propelled in a 60 million-year-old seaway that divided North America into two land masses. Lifted to life, this extinct ammonite is painted with a style and media that visually describe colors, lines, and textures. Color optics created with layered pearlescent acrylics echo the gleaming iridescence of the aragonite shell as the animal moves through embossed paper waves. A dramatic horizontal band of black enamel – laced with loops of color – anchors the piece in the defined balance of positive and negative space.

Ammonites

Ammonites

Acrylic on paper on board | 22” x 28” | $2,500

Millions of years have passed since the ammonite thrived as a living form. The discovery of the animal’s fossil remains continues to fascinate. This painting displays a collection of ammonite genera, boldly arrayed in iridescent orange, blue and purple and spatially stationed with colored sand. Placenticeras takes center stage exposing septa through fractures of white pearlescent paint. The radiance of this dominant figure makes an artistic and compelling statement.

Ammonite—Scaphites Suspendi

Ammonite—Scaphites Suspendi

Acrylic on paper | 18.5” x 16.5” | $1,600

My fascination and study of ancient creatures within the Great Plains exponentially expands, resulting in this painting of Hoploscaphites. This sea-dwelling ammonite encountered death, was covered in sediments, and if conditions were favorable, the animal fossilized and was covered in sediments. Highly eroded sediments allowed a “first peek” at this 60 million-year-old animal, igniting my insatiable thrill of fossil discovery. Transparent layers of acrylic paint were used in concert to achieve color, line, and texture of the ornate fossil that is captured in radiating bands of sediment.

Acrobalance of Ammonites

Acrobalance of Ammonites

Acrylic on canvas | 3” x 7” | $295

The juxtaposition and acrobatic pose of these fossil ammonites immediately grabbed my attention and ignited creative momentum. Acrylic was the medium of choice for this sculpture-like depiction of this pair. The detailed and colorful subject matter is illuminated against a backdrop of glossy black enamel.

Fossil Crinoid Flow

Fossil Crinoid Flow

Acrylic/watercolor on paper | 4.75” x 8” | $275

Crinoid tentacles open like a flower to filter feed and station to a stem attached to ocean-floor substrates. An endoskeleton of hollow discs supported their reach up to 130 feet. During geologic mapping in the Basin and Range of NV, I viewed these 250 million-year-old crinoid discs scattered on black shale. Mental images of the past conjured masses of tentacled animals swaying with ocean currents. Artistic liberty with color resulted in a crinoid burst of hot colors swaying in cool watercolor washes.

Ammonite—Pale Prism

Ammonite—Pale Prism

Acrylic/embossing on paper | 5” x 7” | SOLD

Color prisms reflected on the ribbed spiral ammonite cast rainbows with each changing view — iridescent light shifts through blues, greens, oranges, and purples illuminated within the pearlescent shell. Multiple layers of acrylic paints were used to evolve colors on this lateral view. The ammonite is tucked under embossed lines allowing gentle and simplistic support.

Teredo—Wood Borrowing Clam

Teredo—Wood Borrowing Clam

Acrylic and lacquer on paper | 22” x 30” | SOLD

The Cretaceous Great Western Sea was home to a fantastic array of marine lifeforms including the gastropod Teredo. This clam sported a functional helmet-like shell of narrow ridges that rasped into wood floating on water. Acrylic paint creates burrowed trails in rusts, golds, and blues that glow within the background of black enameled wood. Fossil tunnels and pronounced texture of Teredo demonstrate how the beauty of nature – from millions of years ago – provides a perfect springboard for creativity.

Ginko Burst

Ginko Burst

Acrylic/colored pencil on paper | 4.5” x 8” | $295

In a room filled with paleontologists and fossils, my glance entered a window framing a backlit “bouquet” of leaves. The cobalt blue jar hugs the stems of ginkgo leaves. The ginkgo tree, a 270 million-year-old living fossil, showcases undulating leaves in a pinnate of arcing veins. The “gingkos” followed me home and glow with dazzling light and detail in a studio window.