The first encounter with paintings by Mark Bowles can be a bit like walking into a room that is a little too dark. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust before you can really take in what you are seeing. While they can be enjoyed at a glance, these are not paintings intended for casual viewing. Taking the time to look closely brings its rewards.

When I see Mark’s images, I am struck initially by his bold use of color. It is understood that he is a skilled colorist. Indicating multiple application techniques, the works feature layers of pigments and varying textures. The colors play off each other, often contrasting and complimenting one another within a single painting. As I take in the different color relations, this is when the compositional structure begins to assert itself. Colors, joyful as they are, are not haphazard, but are evidently guided by an underlying construction.

Recent paintings suggest vaguely familiar land masses and agrarian fields of central California, but they are clearly imaginative responses not intended to be read as literal. They balance the familiar with the highly personal. These are not landscapes in a classical sense that ask us to pinpoint a precise location. Instead, we are seeing landscapes of the mind. We are seeing Mark’s responses to his lived experience and his shifting reactions brought on by various sites over time. Looking closely at the combination of colors and forms, we are rewarded not by trying to find the specificity of place, but by connecting with the artist’s emotions and personal feelings about nature.

Jerry N. Smith, PhD – Curator of The Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ

Through his art, Mark Bowles proves it is possible to be both bold and subtle at the same time.  At first  glance, the bold colors and minimal obvious detail catch your attention, but closer inspection reveals subtle variations and much additional information.  Built up on an underlying abstract framework, contrasting colors resonate to convey the essence of the scene he is depicting.

Bay View, recently acquired by the Booth Western Art Museum for its permanent collection, is an excellent example of his recent work.  Providing just enough information to support the title, the setting reminds me of trips to the ocean when you anxiously scan the road ahead yearning to see the sea.  This could be nearly anywhere on any coast, yet it at the same time seems vaguely familiar.  Herein lies the key to his work, the ability to engage the viewer and elicit an emotional response.

Seth Hopkins – Execturive Director, Booth Western Art Museum

Bowles’ landscapes are individual statements that have emerged with individuality from a rich tradition of California landscape painting. Unlike his friend, Gregory Kondos, Mark Bowles is not a plein-air painter although he finds time in the field crucial to his artistic sensibility. Mark prefers the solitude of the studio to address painting infrastructure and color interplay which eventually find placement in a finished work. Whereas many practicing Northern California landscape painters find richness with riparian settings or city-scapes, Bowles primarily features the broad plains of the Central Valley as his favored subject matter. Often, distinctive landmarks are visible in a setting that is on the verge of abstraction.

Scott Shields, Ph. D – Chief Curator, Crocker Art Museum

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