Mike Lowery and Katrin Wiehle marry their talents at Kai Lin
The husband and wife illustrators exhibit new work at the Westside gallery
Performance artist Marina Abramovic often gives these stark words of warning to bright-eyed young hopefuls: “Never fall in love with another artist.”
The title of their joint show, I’m Lucky to Be Here (With Someone I Like), might describe the happy animals gazing out at you from the wickedly charming illustrations currently on view at Kai Lin Art — those little fellas obviously seem to like each other — but it also just as handily describes the artists themselves. Lowery and Wiehle say they feel lucky to be exactly where they are, creating things they love, with each other.
“It’s the way we treat each other in the relationship and then we kind of carry that over into our artwork,” says Lowery. “All of our work tends to have that feeling that’s very light and happy.” Take that, Marina.
Lowery and Wiehle have remarkably similar aesthetics that, surprisingly, formed on entirely different continents. Wiehle grew up in a small town outside of Hannover, Germany, and Lowery grew up in southern Maryland.
“We met at the perfect time,” says Lowery, who teaches as a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. The two met four years ago when Wiehle came to the States. “I was already established. Her work was already very mature and very stunning by the time we started seeing each other. Our work thematically and stylistically had a lot of things in common. That’s one of the things that drew us to notice each other in the first place, our work.”
The pair married two years ago, twice, in very different ceremonies in Germany and Decatur. Wiehle’s family held a big festive occasion at their 500-year-old-house in the German countryside with an invitation designed by the couple and a traditional spit-roasted whole pig served to guests. For legal reasons, the pair also went for a quick civil ceremony at the courthouse in Decatur. “The guy was like, ‘Do you and you? Done,’” says Lowery. “It seemed like a joke.”
Either way, the couple has since adjusted to the busy and often somewhat chaotic schedules of living together as husband and wife who are also freelance illustrators. “There’s really not a typical working day,” says Wiehle. “It’s unpredictable. Sometimes, there’s a day you thought you had nothing to do, and you end up working till 3 in the morning.”
Wiehle mainly works as a writer and illustrator of her own children’s books published with the prestigious German firm Beltz & Gelberg. Lowery illustrates books, including a chapter-book series for kids by Norwegian mystery writer Jo Nesbø and a series of young adult trivia books by “Jeopardy” champion Ken Jennings. He also sells work on Scoutmob and illustrates greeting cards. (Outside: a boat with a halo above it. Inside: “Holy ship, it’s your birthday.”)
The two created the work at Kai Lin over a period of several months and, though most of it is light-hearted, Lowery points to the somewhat more melancholy work “Somewhere in Northern Europe,” an adorably isolated Nordic castle which symbolically illustrates the period of time before Wiehle got her green card when the two were often separated for months at a time.
Wiehle’s illustrations depict forest animals in a stylized version of the landscape where she grew up. Most of the work currently at Kai Lin was created by the artists independently, but the pair did collaborate on the show’s title piece, consisting of a series of individual thrift store frames filled with their busy and blissful illustrations.
In the end, their ease in working together may finally put to rest the myth of the artist who’s too tormented and obsessed to ever live successfully with another artist. “It’s just easy for me to show something to Mike and say, ‘How do you feel about this? Do you like this?’ and get an opinion I trust,” says Wiehle. “We feel lucky. We help each other with what we do and genuinely feel proud of the other person.”
Lowery agrees that there’s seldom a sense of competition between them. “I kind of want her to get super-famous because I’m tired,” he says. “I could kick back and maybe take some trips with dudes while she stays home and works.”