Natasha Bowdoin’s intricate artworks, which include large, complex installations and individual smaller creations, begin as graphite on paper of patterns or text. Pigments are applied and the drawings are cut out by hand using an x-acto or scissors. Layers are created as she adds more and more cutouts—one upon the other. Works “cross pollinate” as parts from other pieces she simultaneously works on become aspects of others. The works slowly materialize as this meticulous process continues. In order not to follow any strict parameters or preconceived idea of what finished work “should” look like when complete, Bowdoin utilizes chance and intuitive decisions during the creation process. These devises cause the works appearances to continuously alter as new elements are applied.
Upon close examination a viewer can decipher source material and imagery that “affect and infiltrate” Bowdoin’s works such as lines of text, words, fabric and textile patterns, and schematic drawings. Appropriated text and image that are weaved into the works can be read in a narrative manner, but Bowdoin states she is “interested in pursuing the possibility of language as a wild, untamable abstraction, and less as a communicative device, searching for the point where a word, or even just a letter, maintains a ghost of its former identity but is on the brink of becoming something else.”
The context of the jail structure and the fact her father was a stonemason are acknowledged by Bowdoin. The title of her installation HEX∆M derives from the initials carved into the limestone blocks that form the OJAC’s 1877 jail. Originally carved into the stones by Scottish masons that built the structure, Bowdoin uses the individual letters and symbol H-E-X-∆-M as an inspiration for the work created for the Cell Series exhibit.
The Cell Series presents to audiences living artists and their work. For many viewers, this may be the only exposure to art being created at this moment in history. It presents a rare opportunity to encounter work that is attempting to interpret and translate the world we universally experience in unique and surprising ways. The founders of the Old Jail Art Center were passionate about supporting and showing living artists and their work—the museum continues this important mission with the Cell Series.