Karen Bowden earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Education at Ohio Wesleyan University and continued with post-baccalaureate work at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, the University of California at San Francisco, and Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.
In more than forty years as a professional artist, she has studied with such recognized artists as Carole Barnes, Christopher Schink, Alex Powers, Gerald Brommer, David Lussier, Don Andrews and Glen Bradshaw. She has taught in the public schools, adult education programs and, since becoming a resident of Lynchburg, at the Lynchburg Art Club and the Academy Center of the Arts.
Karen is an award-winning artist whose work has appeared in shows across the country. She continues to exhibit regionally and locally. Her work is regularly on view at the Artist’s Co-op Gallery, Riverviews Artspace, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Point of View
My mother was an artist and a teacher just as her mother, too, was an artist and teacher. I continue in that tradition. I have found that nothing is more authentic and satisfying than giving expression to what I see by doing art and enabling others to do so as well. Just as creative eyes seldom see the same things in the same ways, different mediums yield a diversity of styles and possibilities for expression. So by painting with watercolor, oil, acrylic, or in mixed media I enjoy the freedom to explore, express, and experience an exciting variety of views and visions.
Being an artist for me is not about living in the box of one single signature style. It is living in the joy that comes with exploring the range of whole, artful, diverse ways of seeing that the variety of mediums makes possible. You have to be a little adventurous if you want to create, and that means being willing, sometimes, to risk making a mess! But to create, to be an artist rather than a technician, you have to have the courage to take that chance–especially when it means getting free of one’s own predictable, comfortable, style. Variety is the spice of life because it is the catalyst for growth.
Lawrence Bowden is an emeritus Professor of Religion & Culture and the husband of Lynchburg artist, Karen Bowden. He began painting in 1997 following an academic sabbatical in which he studied with internationally recognized Zen painter, calligrapher, and scholar Kazuaki Tanahashi. For a decade he concentrated entirely on practicing Zen brush painting. After retiring in 2007 he began to work with color on canvas eventually discovering Flashe, a vinyl water medium. The work employs the directness and simplicity of a contemporary Zen aesthetic in conversation with the style of a Japanese block print. Ukiyo-e.
His work has been juried into both national and regional shows including those curated by jurors such as Carter Foster of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Margot Norton of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and Doug McClemont, writer for The SAATCHI Gallery & regular contributor to ARTnews
He opened his studio, ART daisetsu, at Riverviews Artspace in 2008.
Point of View
My work is simple. Disarmingly so I hope. To me it is a product of my experience with Zen, not in an illustrative or pictorial sense but in the way in which I construct my paintings. However what matters most is not hiding behind some secret ‘Zen meaning’…rather, it’s in what someone sees there–maybe something, maybe nothing. Either is OK. Everything you need to know is entirely there.. My aim is to make something that is sharp, clean, and pleasant to look at, that’s all. I want my paintings to be quiet but not dull.
Yes, you can make ideas and concepts out of them if you want to. Of course they could suggest things. But as the saying goes, “if you want to see the moon don’t focus on the finger pointing at it.” If they do suggest something, I hope it’s more poetry than prose, more felt than thought. I want you to enjoy just looking at them even if you don’t see anything familiar. So then…
What is “ART daisetsu”?
Art daisetsu is the orientation of my art in mind & brush. Concisely, it means, “don’t think art.” Let me explain….
Art daisetsu is not what you think. It’s about being rather than meaning, seeing rather than saying. “Art” truly is the heart/mind of the beholder—the heart & the mind when they are whole, one. In Zen this is kokoro. Ralph Waldo Emerson called it “the eye the mind.”
The term,“daisetsu,” is an adaptation from the Japanese, “daisetz,” meaning “great simplicity.” It is a nod toward the foremost interpreter of Zen Buddhism to America, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki. Suzuki was given his second name, Daisetz, by his teacher Soen Roshi to mean “great humility.” As if to illustrate the point, Suzuki himself always claimed that “daisetz” actually meant “the great stupid.”
Art daisetsu is an expression of my practice. It is deeply personal but not private. I believe it touches upon something universal if one has the patience & the courage to explore deeply.
My own teacher, Zen painter and Dogen scholar/translator, Kazuaki Tanahashi, says: We usually evaluate art in terms of how much feeling or thinking was behind the work or how well the work was done. Isn’t there any other way of appreciating what’s there? What if the standard of excellence was how fully present the painting is?
Don’t trick yourself into assuming that your mind is at its best, your eye its keenest, when you think you recognize the familiar and know what to say. I often hear folks say, “I know what I like.” What they really mean is, “I like what I know.”