Monday, March 03, 2008

The Art of Gary Bowling

"History of West Virginia" By Gary Bowling
(Image from Tamarack)

Growing up in Bluefield, there was always one local artist who I was delighted to come across - I remember him speaking at my elementary school to a rapt audience and staring for hours at a t-shirt featuring one of his works on it. His name is Gary Bowling, and I found myself thinking about him the other day.

The reason I found myself thinking of Mr. Bowling lay is a little complicated. I was sitting in my favorite chair, a pile of art history books on my lap, looking for inspiration for my own work. Well, eventually I come to my two volumes on the work on the late, great Keith Haring. I flip through the images, always with my mouth a little agape, and the phone rings - it is a buddy of mine from Bluefield, asking what I'm doing. I tell him I'm looking at a collection of Keith Haring paintings - he doesn't know who that is, so I start trying to describe his work.

"Um, it is like pop art versions of hieroglyphics or cave art - you know, very symbolist and imagistic, bold lines, like cartoony religious icons."

"I'll take your word."

He didn't get it, and I paused, thought, and then (essentially yelling in the phone), "DUDE, you remember Garyglyphics, right? Like that, sorta'." My buddy understood what I was talking about then, by cracky.

Okay, Gary Bowling does not = Keith Haring. His work is very different, very unique, but it has that same drama of figure and icon - his work both makes fun of and delights in the hyper-stylized. I can't tell you the hours I spent as a kid emulating him, and though it has been years since I've seen his work in person I still can see elements of his influence in my own work, unconsciously trickling out of my pen and ink. Ah, but you aren't interested in all that. So on to the links and with them, the images. Enjoy - I know you will.

First - YouTube. That is correct - there are two Bowling-related links - first, one of his Garyglyphic lectures (this one on the rise of the monotheistic religions, entitled "So It Was Written" - absolutely true, as you can tell from the part about Protestants and BBQ), and second a collection of images from Mr. Bowling's home during a Christmas party - you'll see a lot of his work therein, and you really get a sense of the fun he has with his art.

Also, as for samples of work, check out the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts website - he designed their 2000 poster, as well as his page on the get sm'ART (I think that is the right way to write it) page - there are only a few works, but they're worth a look, especially (in my opinion) the "Paper Doll" series. Oh yeah - and if you're interested in one of his tees (I'm thinking of getting one myself, actually), check him out at the Tamarack site ($15 ain't bad for a nice shirt, these days).

And Gary, if you post some more art online, let us know - I'd love to post some more links. Support local art.


Tennessee Jed said...

Hillbilly Kokopelli, you must find some space in the header or side bar for some of these!

Pete Sternloff said...

If you have the opportunity to come into downtown Bluefield there is a new art gallery that has been started by Gary Bowling Nd myself. It is in the old Hawley Building (Stateside Building) next to the Federal Courthouse on Bland Street.

The name of the gallery is Gary Bowling's House of Art. It is a 17,000 square foot building with 2 floors of art and a third floor with classroom space and studios for artists.

A lot of Gary's work and handiwork can be seen along with the work of 10 - 12 other artists from southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia. We have filed to be a non-profit and with inspiration from Gary will hopefully restore a new sense of identity to Bluefield. Please come see us if you are in the area... and meet Gary Bowling.

Randy Gilpin said...

I've been in the Art Gallery a few times now, and it's simply awesome.
I've met Gary, his wife, and a few artists such as Patch Whiskey, and another one (whose name escapes me at the moment). Everyone there is extremely nice, and the artwork is wonderful. There's something for everybody. I believe they even serve lunch, and are planning on having bands from time to time. The atmosphere is welcoming, and makes you want to return soon. While you're there, be sure to sign-up for their email list, so you'll be notified of upcoming events.

douglas said...

Check out this multimedia audio slideshow tour of Gary's House of Art: