Surrounded by the paintings of Pennsylvania Impressionists Fern Coppedge, Edward Redfield and Daniel Garber, contemporary artist Astrid Bowlby has created an installation that invites viewers to rethink the landscape. The installation, “SNAG,” was created for Art Speaks: Contemporary Art Connections, and is on view at the James A. Michener Art Museum through January 10.
Bowlby’s meditation on the landscape, half a year in the making, began with burlap dyed in blues and greens to suggest grasslands and rivers, carved and painted wood to suggest a stone wall. Branches are made of chicken wire, papier mache and acrylic, and details include a violet-colored braided rug, apples and a pair of rustic sandals that suggest a person walked here long ago.
Bowlby, who received her training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Parsons School of Design and has done her share of traditional landscape painting, is hoping to bridge the gap between representational and contemporary art and encourage dialogue about styles of contemporary art. She compares the building she’s doing in three dimensions with the building Fern Coppedge did with paint. Bowlby has included colorful buttons, beads and glass bottles to stand in for paint, echoing how, for example, Garber would show a stone in many colors.
Bowlby grew up on a 240-year-old farm on 10 acres in Maine. Surrounded by a lake, old stone walls and bridle paths, she and her sisters and brother played in the woods.
“I always enjoyed making things,” Bowlby says. Creativity ran in the family – both parents performed in musical theater. Her father was a weatherman and her mother sang in grange halls. “But I preferred to be quiet and work on paintings and drawings.”
The artist likens “SNAG” to a stage set, except one from which the people have walked away. “This domestic landscape is a hybrid of the inside and outside,” she says. “Like when it’s a snow day and your mom lets you turn the living room into a fort.” Except unlike most kid-made forts, this installation is having a conversation with the works of art on the walls surrounding it.
Art Speaks: Contemporary Connections with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit Collection also includes the work of Selma Bortner, Emmet Gowin, David Graham, Vincent Ceglia and Paul Keene, as well as more than 50 student artists from preschool through high school in response to the contemporary artwork of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22 Collection.
Ordinary to Extraordinary: An “Art Speaks” Installation curated by artist Patricia Goodrich, turns the Children’s Gallery into a multimedia installation featuring selected works by members of the community.