Sandra Bowden’s legacy lies in the intersection of faith and fine art. Her work has been shown throughout North America, Italy, and Jerusalem, Israel. International universities and institutions – The Vatican among them – hold Bowden’s work in their collections. Bowden’s artistry was recognized during her teen years, building a reputation that would lead to her first exhibition. Driven by her own curiosity and spiritual walk, the artist is known for exploring scripture theologically and archeologically in various modes of mixed media.
While Bowden does not come from a family of artists, craftsmanship is in her blood. “Everyone took great pride in their handwork,” she says. Growing up in New Hampshire, when women finished their work in the home and on the farm, they often created quilts, rugs, and knitted. Her own father was a carpenter. Bowden inherited this desire to manipulate form and texture. As an artist, she has elevated skilled craftsmanship to fine art. Creative expression, working with her hands, is a part of her search for Biblical understanding. Her practice includes painting, printmaking and more recently encaustic methods that allow textiles and organic materials to become richly textured images.
Looking back, Bowden says her work has “always been a conversation with time,” evidenced by her various modes of study – language, archaeology, geology, and art history among them. Her scholarship of both ancient and modern Hebrew greatly informed her early works in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to multiple exhibitions in Jerusalem. In the late 1990s Bowden was immersed in the history of the church itself. Her most recent series, Reflecting the Glory, features various forms of gold panels, comprised of poured wax and twenty-two carat gold. These works encompass the major themes that have spanned her artistic career, “the glory of art history, the glory of the past, and the glory of the Lord.” Each panel has an immense presence, evidenced by bold shapes that are reminiscent of ancient altars and cruciform symbols. These works invite the imagination into the territory of ancient, everlasting beauty.
In addition to being an acclaimed artist, Bowden is also a collector. “I am committed to collecting art about scripture and the Bible,” she says. As Bowden’s own art history knowledge-base grew, she was inspired by fellow collectors and friends to acquire works related to her passion for exploring faith and art. Her collection grew and now stands alone as Bowden Collections, a growing selection of curated exhibitions. These exhibitions explore philosophy, cultural movements, and how they intersect with faith. She notes that the inclusion of art history with faith-related topics is paramount to their importance. Colleges, churches, and other entities that are not faith-based rent and show these exhibitions worldwide. Bowden is preserving the legacy of faith explored through the arts, a step taken naturally from her reverence for engaging the past and its relation to the present.
Bowden found creative and spiritual community in Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) in 1979. After attending the first conference and joining the non-profit organization she says, “my life took a tremendously different trajectory from that point on.” Bowden has thrived on the connections that she made in the artistic community and her intellect was fed by the introduction of scholarship into the practice of making art. Over the past forty years, she has served as a board member for thirty-two year, and was the president for twelve years, and has served as an exhibition curator. At the biannual CIVA conference, Bowden has exhibited work and delivered papers on topics of faith and art history. She was also a founding member and vice-chair of the Museum of Biblical art. As far as engaging the wider Christian community Bowden is most interested in the church embracing Biblically-inspired fine art, “looking at the church’s treasure of beautiful imagery, evidence that faith was alive in the church’s history.” The artist also feels that visual literacy, as a main component of modern life, should not exclude the intersections of art and faith that are visible in the Contemporary Art world.
Bowden is currently curating new exhibitions to travel through Bowden Collections and is preparing for two upcoming exhibitions of her own this fall. Reflecting the Glory will be on view at the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality. Bowden’s work will also be included in The Sign of the Sacred – The Traces of Realityon view at the Vatican, an exhibition of 20thcentury prints from their collection. Learn more about Bowden and her work at sandrabowden.com.
Reflecting the Glory
Opening September 28th
Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art & Spirituality
Villa Via Sacra, Via Delle Mura 12
55051, Barga (LU)
The Signs of the Sacred – The Traces of Reality
Graphic works of the twentieth century of the Contemporary Art Collection of the Vatican Museums
Opening November 28th
00165 Roma RM, Italy