Painting of the Day

23 Jan


Belief. by Katherine Bowling (born 1955). Oil and spackle on wood panel, 2007. Belongs to private collection.

Notes  about the artist’s work in general from

Katherine Bowling’s recent paintings focus on the subtle luminosity and evocative power of the everyday landscape. She captures ephemeral moments – rustling foliage, rippling water, shifting shadows, and flickering sunlight – while simultaneously communicating the enduring presence of our natural surroundings. Eschewing the dramatic and exotic, Bowling paints stands of trees, the sky, underbrush, fields, and remote stretches of road. Her work conveys serenity tinged with hints of mystery in the heavy orb of a full moon, low hanging fog, or tangled branches. Speaking about her interest in conveying mood and memory, Bowling reveals, “I realize that I am more interested in depicting a psychological space…fleeting images that you might see when you close your eyes right before you go to sleep. I choose landscape because it is a universal experience.”

Intimately familiar with her subject matter, Bowling paints the landscape surrounding her home in the Catskill Mountains. Referencing her preference for the immediate over the picturesque, she notes, “I can stay in one place and find endless subject matter to paint by taking the time to observe the immediate moment – the time of day, the light, the details.” She elaborates, “I’m not interested in painting the panoramic. It’s about the details you overlook on the path to the grand view.”

This longstanding commitment to subject matter is paralleled in Bowling’s relationship to her process and medium. She has evolved a unique method of working in which she applies oil paint to a ground created by layering spackle on wood panel. This surface treatment lends the work a dense, temporal quality that furthers the suggestion of atmosphere and introspection in her work. In the exhibition catalog, Molly O’Neill writes of Bowling’s process, “Her initial layers generally correspond with the color of the light, pink here, gold there, a neon orange, a still denim blue. Layering and sanding, layering and sanding create a luminous, back-lit affect and on this ground, Bowling brushes, rubs, gouges, scrubs and rolls paint, creating layers and layers of second thoughts and second chances.”

Katherine Bowling lives and works in Manhattan and upstate New York. Her work has been exhibited at the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH; Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, OH; Whitney Museum of American Art at Equitable Center, New York; and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Bowling’s work is included in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL; and Fisher Landau Center, Long Island City, NY. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

My comments:

This artist was one of the artists on the list of artists that we would study in part 1 of my Foundation Drawing class that I’m taking this semester at Swarthmore. I’d never heard of Katherine Bowling before, but when I looked up her work, I was utterly astounded by and enamored with what I saw. I absolutely love her technique. It perfectly captures the haziness in the air that I can feel and see on summer nights as well as the incredibly clear yet opaque inky black sky. In the painting above, I love how Bowling uses various purples and blacks to capture this subtly complex darkness, and I love the striking contrast of the creamy yellow moon with hints of dusty orange that kind of give it shade. Compositionally, it is also perfect that Bowling did not place the moon in the exact center of the painting; I believe if she had, it would have made the whole picture feel completely unnatural and simply strange. I believe I have found a new artist to add to my “Artists that make life worth living” page.

By the way, in case you were wondering what spackle is (because I didn’t know), according to the online dictionary of Merriam Webster it is a compound used for filling in cracks or holes in surfaces. It’s a pretty strange choice for an art medium, but Bowling has apparently mastered the use of it in such a manner. I can tell even from this digital image of the painting that it has quite a unique texture and surface to it, and it would be so interesting to see how it appears in person. According to Katherine Bowling’s website, the painting measures 60 x 24 inches; that’s not exactly monumental like a Rothko painting, but it’s definitely absorbing.

2 Responses to “Painting of the Day”

  1. Karen January 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    I love this painting and more with your very astute comments.

  2. tara January 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Cosmo’s Moon. i love this painting.

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