Chuck Bowdish is a prolific Brooklyn artist who has thrived for nearly two decades as a nostalgically classical, yet contemporarily inspired painter. He now works across several mediums including collage (see his American Flag collage to the left)
His paintings of illumined figures juxtaposed with fields of muted color have classical elements from Greek and Roman architecture. His poignant and ephemeral works build upon a diverse history of figurative masters: the corporeality of Massacio, the luminosity of Rembrandt, and the immediacy of Bellows. Bowdish’s own imagery develops from what he describes as the, “logic of dreams.” He is painting the personal as universal; he creates timeless metaphors by exploring themes of innocence, melancholy and sexuality. Bowdish invites us to consider emotive portraits of people who are solely the creation of the artist’s imagination. This visionary painter invokes extraordinarily believable and self-reflective women and children.
When viewing a Bowdish portrait, one pleasantly hovers between the lush reality of the painted surface and the fascinating illusion of bodily solidity—every now and then Bowdish creates a fully realized arm or an entire torso with one confident, intuitive stroke. Sometimes the cheeks and noses of his figures’ softly wrought faces are accentuated with reds, and their semi-translucent bodies are encircled by glowing, protective halos. Overall, the paintings’ subtle tones produce a gentle light. Emanating from within and around each figure, this light warms the abstract fields of color that are central to Bowdish’s compositions. These enigmatic environments are substantive, rather than empty. Whether signifying landscapes, human structures, or the psychic interior, these skillfully worked grounds make Bowdish’s paintings appear consistently grand in scale and sensuous in texture. Painterly abstractions and figurative narratives are generally at odds with one another, but in Bowdish’s work these seemingly divergent artistic practices are successfully unified.
Chuck Bowdish was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1959. His father’s service in the military and Vietnam resulted in a nomadic childhood for Bowdish and his siblings. His mother was a painter and his earliest teacher. While at the Ringling School of Art and Design (Sarasota, Florida) he studied anatomy with one of the Pennsylvania Academy’s most traditional sculptors, Leslie Posey. Bowdish moved to New York City in 1979, and lived in Mexico from 1986 to 1991. He has studied at the Art Students League, the New York Studio School, and most recently at the Graduate School of Figurative Art. In the past, Bowdish supported his enthusiasm for painting by providing illustrations for the New York Times, Fortune Magazine, and by the usual assortment of odd jobs. Now an emerging artist, his most recent solo shows occurred at the Farrell/Pollack Fine Art in Brooklyn, and also the AAA Gallery in New York. Atlanta’s Galerie Timothy Tew has been showing his paintings since 1998. Bowdish’s art is the subject of a recent Peter Wareing documentary film.