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Clare Rojas
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Columbus, Ohio
Painter, printmaker, author and musician Clare Rojas became known for her exploration of the roles of women depicted in a folk-art style derived from the street art of San Francisco’s Mission School, but after 2012 began creating geometric abstract paintings. Born in 1976 in Columbus, Ohio, Rojas graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a B.F.A. in printmaking in 1998. She moved to Philadelphia where she worked as a secretary, painted miniatures and created an alternate identity as “Peggy Honeywell,” a country-music singer. In 1999 she saw Margaret Kilgallen’s (1967-2001) work in an exhibition at Deitch Projects in New York City, and was impressed by Kilgallen’s large works painted on the gallery walls. Rojas started sending tapes of her music to Kilgallen and her husband Barry McGee (b. 1966), who liked her music and began corresponding with Rojas. Their paths crossed in 2001 as Kilgallen and Rojas installed their works in the exhibition “East Meets West” at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, featuring three East Coast and three West Coast artists. Rojas was then in the M.F.A. program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Suffering from cancer, Kilgallen died in June of that year, shortly after giving birth to a daughter. McGee asked Rojas to perform (as Peggy Honeywell) for Kilgallen’s memorial service in Philadelphia. They stayed in touch, and Rojas performed for another Kilgallen memorial service in San Francisco. Rojas participated in a group exhibition at Deitch Projects in New York City that November, and was visited by McGee and his infant daughter. The following spring Rojas helped McGee install an exhibition of his work in Milan. After she graduated from the Art Institute in 2002, she moved live with McGee in San Francisco; they were married in 2005. Rojas soon began exhibiting extensively, with a solo shows at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art in 2002, Deitch Projects in 2004 and Chicago’s Kavi Gupta Gallery in 2005. She participated in numerous group shows around the country, most notably “Beautiful Losers,” a 2004 exhibition of street art organized by the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, that traveled to San Francisco and Newport Beach. Rojas soon won several awards and grants. She was awarded the first Tournesol Award in 2003, which included a $10,000 cash stipend, a one-year residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, (Marin County, Calif.) and a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Art Institute. Rojas also received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant that year, the Artadia Award and a Eureka Fellowship award in 2005 and a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant in 2006. Her first exhibition at San Francisco’s Gallery Paule Anglim was in 2006; the gallery (now Anglim Gilbert Gallery) continues to represent her. Six solo exhibitions of her works were mounted in 2007, at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., and in León, Spain, London, Los Angeles, the Netherlands and San Francisco. In 2009 she was one of fifteen artists commissioned by the dealer Jeffrey Deitch (b. 1952) to create enormous outdoor murals at the Goldman Warehouse during Art Basel Miami. Rojas received a commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission for a work to be installed at the San Francisco International Airport; her large painting “Blue Deer” (2006-2007), based on a children’s book she wrote and illustrated, “Blue Deer and Red Fox,” was installed in the then-new International Terminal in 2010. She returned to printmaking at Berkeley’s Paulson Press in 2009, when she created seven etchings with aquatint. Rojas took a break from painting to focus on writing around 2010, and then resumed painting in 2012. She turned to abstraction, although her 2014 mural “Promise” on a seven-story exterior wall of San Francisco’s Warfield Theater (also issued as a print) included some figurative elements. The huge mural was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund. Rojas has continued to exhibit widely, with regular solo shows in Chicago and San Francisco. And she performed as Peggy Honeywell at the 2016 opening gala for the rebuilt San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. At this writing she is creating a large ceramic mural commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission for installation in 2019 in the Chinatown Station of San Francisco’s Central Subway. Rojas lives and works in San Francisco and Bolinas, Calif. (TNB 7/2017) Selected bibliography: Hoffmann, Jens and David Whyte. Plain Black: Abstract Paintings by Clare Rojas. Chicago: Kavi Gupta Gallery, 2016.