Originally from Brooklyn New York, Dianne Bowen is a painter by nature. Her pieces’ are conversations with the surface rooted in American Abstract Expressionism. The tactile surfaces speak their own language, which reflect the Human condition.
Dianne was included in the June/July issue of Art in America. The title of the article was called 'Feminist Art Girls, Girls, Girls, Feminists art's phases and philosophies? Let me count the ways...'by Carey Lovelace.
You can learn more about Dianne and her art by visiting her website: www.diannebowen.com
Brian Sherwin: Dianne, you are originally from Brooklyn, NY. You were born into a family of artists. Since the age of 6 you have been determined to be an artist. How did the early influences of your family shape your direction as an artist?
Dianne Bowen: My family was part of a group of artists who initially made the move to Brooklyn in search of studio space and a place to raise a family in the mid 60s. They were very politically active which led to many parties, and get togethers discussing the artworld, current events or simply who's doing what work and showing where..... always a strange and interesting cast of characters .
From painters, printers, graphic designers and poets, their influence helped me to develop a critical eye by a very young age. Becoming an artist seemed a natural choice. After being selected for a gifted and talented art program in elementary school, my fate was sealed.
Family visits always included a studio critique especially by my aunt Carol Mulhern (my biggest influence) who is also an artist. She was harsh but constructive. She said, "Your art is like your child, you need to nurture it, respect it, and give it the attention it deserves or don't do it. I'm not here to tell you how nice your work is, anyone can say that, it means nothing. I want you to own it, defend it, tell me why it works." My mother would simply say, "Do it or don't, just don't waste my time with mediocracy."
Most recently, I had a studio visit with my uncle Micheal Mulhern, a painter to discuss the new drawing sculpture series.
So you think being from a family of artists makes it easier? Think again.....
So you think being from a family of artists makes it easier? Think again.....
BS: Based on your family experiences, I assume that you have a 'tough skin' as far as critiques are concerned. That seems to be something that many younger artists have trouble with. Do you have any suggestions for current art students who have a 'soft skin'?
DB: Don't take it personally. You have to remove yourself from your work so you can see it clearly with an unbiased eye. I find it's easier if you approach it in a third person. Try to look at it from the point of view of a stranger seeing it for the first time or a writer, begin to ask your self questions what works in this piece, what doesn't and why.
This is not an easy task but imperative in order to gain perspective about what your doing. Sort through the criticism to find the constructive and don't worry about the other stuff it doesn't mean anything anyway.
BS: Since those early years you have had a lot of success. Your work can be found in a recent issue of Art in America. Can you tell our readers about the article?
DB: The issue is an overview of the current tide of Feminist Art events and shows taking place in the art world and the issues that surround such an undertaking. From the long awaited "Wack" exhibition at the L.A. MOCA, the opening of The Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art to non- profits such as A.I.R.'s "7th Biennial" and commercial galleries such as Galerie Lelong's "Role Play: Feminist Art Revisited 1960-1980)" the article examines the history of womens work to the present.
As the subtitle states Feminist's phases and philosophies Let me count the ways... The reviews of work range from women in contemporary art history to mid-career and emerging artists. I am particularly honored to be included in this very important issue.
BS: When did you find out that your work would be in the publication?
DB: I had a heads up from the the gallery that they were going to do a review on the show and requested an image of my work but I didn't know it was published until a fellow artist emailed me "You must be really happy, your work was published in Art in America with a great review." At that point I ran down to the store and joked with clerk, I only have $40 bucks! I'll take 8 now!
BS: It is about time that women artists gain the respect and equality that they deserve in the world of art. However, assume that the struggle is not over yet. Do you feel there is still a gap in how male artists are treated compared to female artists? Do you have any personal examples of this?
DB: Still miles to go on this subject. There is still a lack of opportunities for women to be shown, if you look through the gallery guide you'll notice it easy enough.
The National Gallery for Womens Art just put up a data base which is fantastic. Their doing some great work documenting the history of women artists.
One day it will just be "art history", at least that's what I'd like to see. purely about the work first.
BS: Dianne, do you have any advice for young women who are entering the art world? How can they get involved with Feminist Art events and exhibits? Do you have any sources of information that you would like to share... perhaps a link to a website or the title of a text besides the one you've mentioned?
DB: Research, get involved, talk to other artists. The Cue Foundation has great free seminars with prominent figures in the artworld on everything from how to write an artist statement, filing taxes to how to approach a galleryist. Residency programs provide a great way to concentrate on your work or get some good critiques from other artists. A.I.R. Gallery only shows womens art, founded in 1972 it's a non-profit gallery which also offers fellowships.
"The Exhibitionists" is a womens art salon I belong to which meets once a month to discuss pretty much everything related to art. Juried exhibitions are good to get your resume started but be careful with these, sometimes the shows offer "exhibition opportunities" with high fee memberships. You need to really read the fine print.
Registries like Nurture art, the Adam Sandler file at the Artist Space, the Painting Center open art program, New York State department of cultural affairs percent for art program are all good. Also the Saachi Gallery on line and if you live in Brooklyn or are from Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Arts Council and BWAC have a registry.
NYFA, artists deadline list are both good for opportunities. I'd start with these. The point is you should know all this information as it is relevant to what you do. The more you know the better off you are.
BS: You studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Who was your mentor during that time?
DB: Lucio Pozzi and May Stevens. Biggest influences, I had a very hard time in school as I was going full time, working part time, getting married and having kids and to top it off commuting from Long Island. Not to mention I was really broke. If it wasn't for the conversations and direction I found with both Pozzi and Stevens I may not have survived it honestly. Sometimes people save your life without even realizing it...
BS: Dianne, you tend to work in series, currently a drawing sculpture series on paper and a light panel series on plexi. Would you say that it is important for an artist to work in series?
DB: Not at all, it's important an artist is allowed room to grow and explore without being stuck in a box. For some, like myself, working in series is necessary to their process. I think you have to really listen to your work to find your way.
BS: You often explore the following themes in your art: depth of humanity, what connects us, the core of existence, marks left by life. Why do you focus on these themes? Are you interested in the psychology of the human condition?
DB: It's both a personal and shared experience. I've always been interested in how human beings relate to each other, how we affect each other consciously or subconsciously. How we are connected within the universe down to the particles or sub particles, this is where I find the questions I seek.
Absolutely the psychology of the human condition comes into play, as I reflect on the materials I choose for each work. In a sense I'm whispering in your ear, gently taking your hand, "I have something for you, something you need, I've kept it here in the scar on my hand, the bits of glass, the seeds and fragile layers of paint and paper. I wanted to give you these lines dancing and flying around the surface like transient lines in space in an uncontrollable freedom and joy. I wanted to leave a mark- like a memory to keep with you for when you need it."
BS: So... in a sense you observe your work as a guide for those who view it? A guide for action, change, and self-reflection through the experiences you share visually? Would you say that the goal of art should be to build those kinds of connections between the artist and the viewer?
DB: Art works on so many levels, it's really an opinion after all. What art should be is the decision of the artist making it.
BS: In your statement you say the following: "Winding within the layers of skin, to the marrow of the bones into the heart, and deeper to the texture of the molecules Bowen digs into the internal depths of man. She turns the work inside out revealing their "guts" for you to reach in and dig about. "It’s Alive!" (Frankenstein). Her works are beautiful, contemplative spaces with subtle disturbing twists demanding time. Pushing the limits with materials and approach, bits and piece’s become "whole" within themselves ultimately reflecting the human condition. This is the intimate language of life, grotesque, harsh, fragile and beautiful". Can you go into further detail about how you peel back the skin of humanity, so to speak?
DB: The obsessive process of layering paint, dripped and pooled on the surface, embedded materials in each layer reveal themselves over time. The work is just that way, subtle, quiet, speaking when you least expect it, loring you in with surface texture and color. Combining disparate materials without loosing site of their original properties brings forth a transcendental life.
In the light works series, I specifically reference microscopic slides, and heart tissue, small pieces of something larger, organic in nature to explore and examine. The light creates an eerie feeling, as if the work may breath or pulse at any moment.
Like a strange x ray the silhouettes of minute seeds, bits of glass, mica flakes, eggskins and wire come through the layers of translucent papers. Fragile by nature the varied sizes and shapes appear as layers of skin.
The drawing sculptures are a hybrid of both drawing and sculpture. They address another side. My sheer joy in the process is evident in the movement of lines. For this work I needed to go low - tech. Back to the beginning if you will, to the first marks left in a cave, Using sienna pencil and charcoal pencil I draw concentric swirls, which reference life cycles and folding skin, muscle tissue or rings of trees.
Drawing on the inside and outside of egg shells and tiny coriander and mustard seeds sealed in acrylic medium they float on the surface, rest precariously on the ends of guitar strings, referencing "birth" the beginning and the end.
The black charcoal pieces swing out of control across the paper, in a playful, catch me if you can. Guitar Strings spin out from the paper into the environment, traces of mica, graphite pigment and recycled tire treads come together and dissolve into the work.
Here and not...... The lines in my work are turning inside out and upside down within contemplative spaces of rotation and anarchy challenging your perceptions.
BS: Can you describe your average studio routine? What is a day in your studio like?
DB: I work on my art 7 days a week all day every day. Usually I do the business part on the computer late at night like searching for show possibilities, grants, writing reviews, research and dealing with applications.
During the day I'm usually focused on producing the actual work. The process really takes place for months in my head before I actually begin to collect the materials I'm interested in using. I find once I'm in the moment of a work, there can be no interruption. Of course this had led to my being awake for 3 days straight.
The process of layering and dripping the paint is extremely particular so once I started that was that! Alot of coffee and a few interesting hallucinations... sleep deprivation does some really crazy things.
BS: Dianne, are you working on any special projects at this time... or do you plan to do so in the future?
DB: A few projects in the works. I was part of a large collaboration project "the seed", by artist and founder of Artworld Digest, David Cohen. He's absolutely brilliant, interesting guy. We've finished a short video collaboration which was inspired by the seed project. We are in the process of figuring out where we'll show it and how.
I'm really excited about it. I'm working on my current "drawing sculpture series", for which I'm seeking a solo show at the moment. More collaborations with other artists coming up but these projects are still in the raw state.. and I have a community mural in the Bronx with kids this month.
BS: What artists have influence you? Also, have certain genres of music influence you as well?
DB: Eva Hesse, May Stevens, Elizabeth Murray, most recently Franklin Evans and Phyllis Ewen and poets, Medh McGoukian, Aundre Lorde, Marge Piercy, Joyce and Bukowski. As for music, The Blues, David Bowie.
BS: I understand that you have some exhibits in the near future. Can you give our readers more information about those exhibits? Links?
DB: Currently, A.I.R. Gallery 511 W. 25th Street NY NY, Gallery III, June 26 - July 21 I have 7 small egg shell postcard pieces with my artist group "the exhibitionists" in the Wish You Were Here 6 show. www.airnyc.org. Theater for the New City Gallery 155 First ave. at 10th St. (lobby) extended through Aug 15th. Large drawing sculpture "Lines of Communication (white)" on grey paper. www.theaterforthenewcity.net Apexart, 291 church st. btn. white and walker. "the most curatorial biennial" 2 small drawing sculpture pieces, opening this sat. July 10th 6-8pm www.apexart.org/index.htm I am currently seeking a gallery for a solo show of my drawing sculpture series.
BS: Finally, what do you hope viewers obtain from your work?
DB: A different perspective, encourage thought, I hope it affects them. and in the end, I simply hope they enjoy it.
I'd like to thank Dianne for sharing some of her most recent work within the context of this interview. Again, you can learn more about Dianne by visiting her site: www.diannebowen.com
Take care, Stay true,