USM Art Galleries Gorham and Portland

2013 - Variegated Spirals, Astrid Bowlby






Variegated Spirals
Astrid Bowlby
University of Southern Maine

Astrid Bowlby (2013)

 Since childhood, when my books included those by Tasha Tudor, Edward Gorey, Shel Silverstein, and Maurice Sendak, I have been attracted to drawings. The first drawings I remember making were of elaborately decorated dresses festooned with as much lace as I could load on. I didn’t draw bodies in these dresses and I didn’t even think of them as clothing. They were a vehicle for the act of drawing and there was something very satisfying about covering an entire area with rhythmical marks.

The pen and ink drawings I’ve been making for the last eighteen years share this incremental and accumulative mark-making. Geologic and biologic patterns of growth have been influential, as well as such tasks as embroidery, knitting, weaving, and quilting. I feel pattern-making and accrual at an atomic level.  I build a drawing by accumulating. I was made that way, too, so it feels quite natural.

To make my drawings I use a technical pen with a very fine hollow-pointed needle as a tip. Sometimes I use various sizes of pen point on one drawing and Variegated Spirals is a good example of what that looks like. For this drawing I have used pens ranging in nib size from .13 mm to .60 mm. The pens are filled with very black carbon-based ink. I often use a repeating motif such as a spiral, dash, or pebble shape. The lines and marks are very fine. There are no grand gestures. I plod. Using a fine line to build an overall surface allows me to slow down. I am very conscious of the passage of time, of marking time, while drawing this way.

Repetition, with its inherent paradox of never really being the same act twice, interests me. Symmetry does not. I am interested in incremental variation and a close tonal range. If we look at dust under a microscope, it looks like boulders. From far away, it seems an even rime across the furniture. I want my drawings to share this feature of behaving differently at various viewing distances.

 Originally from Maine, Bowlby received her B.F.A. from USM. For over a decade, Bowlby has steadily gained recognition for her room-sized fantasy landscapes and intricately patterned single sheet drawings addressing themes such as expansion, contraction, density, accrual, and scale. Bowlby is represented by Gallery Joe, Philadelphia; Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston; and Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London.