Jamie Bowers and Mark Bowden observed their surroundings. Every corner of Bowers’ art studio was occupied by colorful artworks. Pieces hung on walls and leaned against tables and some were balancing on top of empty Folgers Coffee canisters. The two artists were thinking of ways to display dozens of pieces before their open house art gallery on Friday and Saturday (Sept. 30 & Oct. 1) in room 240 of the Benson Building.
Bowers and Bowden, both admirers of the other’s work, decided to collaborate in a joint show they’ve dubbed Bow-WOW, A Show of Exceptional Art. Both abstract painters have been friends for years. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle that comes when preparing for an art show, Bowers and Bowden took a moment to speak about each other’s art, the show and trying new things as an artist.
How did the idea for this show come about?
Bowers: I admire his work. What I like about it instantly is it’s an eye trick sort of thing. You tend to look at the painting and follow things around. It’s like he makes a map on his paintings. It’s a wonderful thing how your eye moves around the painting like that. It’s by design; it’s not an accidental thing. This came to be because my wife [Becky] is a promoter and she’s wanted to have Mark have a show with me. We think [our work] would look good together in this space.
Bowden: It’s a contrast between our works. It’s a nice thing because people can see the different contrasts. People know Jamie’s stuff. But what’s unusual about Jamie is he keeps coming up with these different ideas.
Bowers: The whole idea is to focus on Mark’s work. I don’t think enough people get to see it. He’s not an emerging artist. He emerged long ago.
What do you two have in common?
Bowden: We both have the same love for art. It’s that desire to create stuff. You can’t go without doing it. It’s an affliction. You got all these images and ideas going on in your head. I know Jamie is probably like me and has a little notepad he carries around and starts jotting ideas down. They just come to you. I’m just amazed because Jamie has a busy mind.
Bowers: (laughs) People think it’s clogged.
Both of you delve into abstract art. But what is your work process like?
Bowden: I’m a slow worker. The process is part of the art. It’s an age-old question: Where does the art come in? Is it in the idea or in the process or in the finished piece? I think it takes all of them for art to exist. You gotta have the idea, the image and the process. And I love the process. And I think Jamie likes the process, too. His is way more involved than mine.
Bowers: It’s about problem solving, really. With each step in the process, something good or bad can happen. Sometimes something surprisingly good can happen and lead you a certain way.
Bowden: A mistake can be the best thing that ever happened to you. Sometimes mistakes really work well. You know when a piece is done. You know when a piece is working. You just know. It’s something you acquire from Day One.
Mark, you’re going to be displaying surfboards that you’ve made during the show, right?
Bowden: I make wood surfboards and they’re basically cedar paulownia wood. They’re shaped and formed into more of a sculpture piece. I’m still in the learning process. Each board has graduated to a different level, so I figure by the time I’m 80 I can make some really good surfboards.
How did you find out how to make these?
Bowden: They have these kits you can buy. They send you all the stuff you need. It took me about a year to build the first one. I work 50 to 60 hours a week and something like this takes a while. It takes forever to get your frame set up. Then you have to sand it. And you sand, and you sand, and you sand, and you sand… and you sand some more. The only part of the process I have a great deal of difficulty with is the chemical part, the fiberglassing and the epoxies. I’m not looking to mass produce. I just want to get really, really good at it.