Bowen’s multimedia creation is an alchemical premix of the sensuous and arcane, and it is much than a small witchy.
VALHALLA, New York — Among the caller works successful a 30-year survey of sculptures and collages by Nancy Bowen astatine Westchester Community College Art Gallery is simply a radical of 20 tombstones (2020). Made of gray-toned insubstantial pulp encrusted with tiny shells and pebbles, and veined with achromatic pigment, each bears a ceramic plaque with the sanction of a pistillate oregon antheral killed during the Salem witch trials, an lawsuit presided implicit by 1 of the artist’s ancestors, Samuel Sewall, who yet repented and atoned. Bowen took attraction to individuate each tombstone, surmounted by a acceptable of ceramic wings and a skull facing successful 1 direction, and grounded by ceramic shoes that task from the bottom. The head-and-wings motif is from aboriginal American funerary art, and symbolizes some mortality and resurrection; the shoes convey a feeling that these whimsical small characters — for that is what they are — mightiness transcend their horrible destiny by simply picking up and walking away.
In immoderate ways the installation is an anomaly: it does not look overmuch similar different works successful the show. Yet it embodies 2 strains agelong explored by this under-the-radar artist: connected the 1 hand, experimenting with trade mediums specified arsenic ceramic and solid to correspond a haptic acquisition of the (mostly female) assemblage successful vessel-like shapes; and connected the other, asserting her ties to a idiosyncratic New England past via collaged materials. Her precocious begetter near down a trove of antique almanacs, maps, and charts that she scans and cuts up, interspersing the pieces (as she does passim her galore collages) with gouache, charcoal, ink and/or metallic foil. These are elegant images that vault done clip and place, from chakras and littorals to astrological signs and defunct alphabets.
Sometimes a Body Is Not Just a Body includes sculptures successful which materials beryllium uneasily successful narration to each other: curvaceous blown solid forms atop oregon alongside ceramic and recovered objects similar elephantine conch shells, hair, and successful 1 case, a tortoise ammunition (retrieved, erstwhile again, from her father’s effects). “Teraton Necklace” (2003), referring to a grotesque tumor that grows hair, is simply a long, ungainly concatenation of visceral pinkish and reddish blown glass; achromatic ceramic balls with undulating surfaces, recalling a molecule oregon a oversea creature; and swatches of grey hair. The entirety is connected with alloy links and rests loosely connected a debased plinth. Other pieces are much contained, forming vertical constructions from which agelong braids look to grow. In the archetypal decennary of the 2000s, Bowen produced unfastened structures that look arsenic though they could beryllium recovered successful a fantastical garden. Especially beauteous is “Exalt” (2007), a Gaudi-like pedestal studded with mirrors that sprouts a vine blooming resin ruffs. Bowen demonstrates a penchant for agleam colors, with a peculiar emotion of pink, evoking some humor and feminine adornment.
Bowen is presently collaborating with the writer Elizabeth Willis connected a bookwork. Willis is, improbably, the descendant of 1 of the witches Sewall prosecuted, and her agelong poem “The Witch” describes each the fanciful things a witch mightiness do. The mock-up of the book, featuring illustrations by Bowen, is included successful her survey. With lines like, “The happiness of an full location whitethorn beryllium ruined by witch hairsbreadth touching a metallic cross,” the poem suggests much than a striking coincidence of heritage. Bowen’s is an alchemical premix of the sensuous and arcane, and it is much than a small witchy.
Nancy Bowen: Sometimes a Body Is Not Just a Body continues astatine the Westchester Community College Art Gallery (Hankin Academic Arts Building, 3rd Floor, 75 Grasslands Road, Valhalla, New York) done April 12. The accumulation was curated by Joe Morris.
Faye Hirsch is an creation historiographer and professional who chairs the MFA programme successful Art+Design, Purchase College SUNY. She is co-writing a publication astir Skowhegan with Ingrid Schaffner, to beryllium published by Dancing Foxes... More by Faye Hirsch