In the museum world’s concept of the “resonance of things,” touchstone objects—Lincoln’s top hat, a deck chair from the Titanic, a centuries-old cooking pot or chalice—retain the energy of their making and use. Barrel staves and hoops washed ashore on Cape Cod carry within them the cooper’s hand and the ocean’s weathering. A chair back retains the craft of wood turning and embodies the style of its period; its worn surface alludes to the family who once sat around the kitchen table.
Paul Bowen fashions found wood and metal into dynamic works of art. Neither representational nor figurative, his work is formal, additive, and abstract—but not without meaning. Each sculpture is rich with associations because the materials emanate their history and purpose. The works have a talismanic energy beyond their formal beauty.
— Mara Williams, Chief Curator
As a student at Chester School of Art in England, I learned basic skills such as casting plaster and soldering. My first forays into scavenging began with building tree houses, carts, and dens from scrap wood, and making spheres from the clay of a dam wall behind our house in North Wales. Sixty years later, I continue to scavenge and beachcomb for materials along the rivers in Vermont and the shorelines of Cape Cod.
Each spring when the Connecticut River dams are opened, trees and all kinds of debris flow downstream. In this detritus I often find wood stained with iron that has leached out of the rocks. I collected much of the wood in these sculptures near Wilder Dam. Other sculptures in the exhibit are made from boards and driftwood I gleaned from Cape Cod’s beaches. Some are rusted by metals, such as old anchors and chains, long buried under the sea’s mud and sand.
I choose elements—a chair back, an oar, a barrel or vat stave, a small notch-shaped piece of oak or bloodwood—from my extensive stockpile of wood. Balance, proportion, and the dimensions of the materials I select determine the form of each piece.
— Paul Bowen
Exhibition overview from museum website