Asheville – Bill Bowers is a self-taught artist, working and showing his works at Blue Dharma Fine Art Gallery in the Grove Arcade of Downtown Asheville. He combines many styles and applications into his practice; his studio is a serene and flowing landscape of paintings of all different subjects and scenes. From Zen Expressionism to Surrealism to Impressionist landscapes and back again, Bill shows no shortage of inspiration or talent.
The Persona of an Artist
Bill’s paintings are an extension of him; one can readily see the strong connection between art and artist. His admiration of popular artists began young, and his creative practice bloomed in his twenties. He describes “[noticing] as a young kid patterns on fabrics. I would look at this navy couch with Japanese figures and get lost in all the scenes. Back in the fifties, everything was really gaudy—wallpaper, big flowers, and such—so I’d look at that. But art really came through for me as I started looking at artists. I remember having a puzzle of Salvador Dali’s painting with the bust of Voltaire, and I was listening to Paul McCartney’s “Another Day.” Surrealism was really something. Life Magazine would have cameos on, say, Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, and Georgia O’Keefe—the magazine had a little black-and-white picture of Georgia O’Keefe in black, up against a cactus in the desert. [The caption] said, ‘Georgia Okeefe ponders her life as an artist.’ I was just drawn to the personas—who are these people? So that kind of started it; I knew I wanted to do something that was creative.”
He tells the story of his career beginning to unfold in the early seventies. Bill describes working at Reed’s Department Store in Bridgeport, Connecticut; the store had five floors and sixteen windows on the street. He worked under his boss, Kirsten, as a window display designer. He recalls, “We would go into New York City to the display market and buy new mannequins and new props for the next season, and it was like staging. I had a ball. It didn’t pay much, but it didn’t have to. It was fun to go into every department in the store and pick things that I wanted to put in the window. That was the beginning of it. Kirsten taught me so much about composition, design, and color.” “From there,” he says, “I freelanced displays, and it was a lot of fun. My first mural was so exciting, I got hooked. That was when I was 28. When we moved to Cape Cod, that’s where the art career really started. It was really an exploration. I felt that I [had] the persona of an artist.”
An artistic and spiritual evolution
Flipping through a portfolio of his early work in Cape Cod, Bill looks back on the depth and breadth of his creative practice. Astonishing trompe l’oeil-style paintings, imitation marble and mother of pearl for private homes, opalized finishes on full apartment walls, murals on the sides of businesses, and more. He adds, “I have been able to fuse fine art, interior design, accessories, decorative stenciling, hand-painted couches… everything was acrylic paint. I learned on the job. Miles of pigment behind me, and not without some real lean gaps where there was no work.”
Bill experienced a major turning point in his life and work in 2000. He recounts, “My family was in a very fundamentalist religion. But i was yearning for the creativity. To me, when fundamentalists talk about the holy spirit, they’re talking about prayer…but when you’re an artist, you are feeling that zen. It is so transcendent, it’s beyond doctrine. So i was having a conflict. I eventually moved down to Florida, and on Siesta Key Beach, I met my mentor. Everything opened up. For the first two years, I was voracious, going to any psychic medium to see if there was continuity in [readings]. My mentor said, “You are meant to do this too.” Within a year I had a column in a magazine, and I worked with police to help them with missing people and violent crimes. When people would pass, they’d come through [to me], even before passing, in transition. People sought me out, and because my mentor was so famous, we would have group circles. It was amazing. I’ve been doing that since 2000. My work has drastically changed because of what I’m doing, and it’s going to change even more this year because of what’s happening now.”
As Bill’s journey with spirituality unfolded, so did his art: “As I opened up to mysticism, I started wanting to do more stuff that, when you look at it, your third eye is being opened. All art is mystic, all art is spiritual. It’s spiritual at the level you want it to be. There’s no way I’m going to do one style—I’m not baking the same cookie. Dali, in his older period, would take religious scenes and add sacred geometry to it. My own version of surrealism is happening. Art should provoke, inspire, and give people a sense of awe. Most people in the arts didn’t know that I do mystical work. And most people here who knew me for my readings had no idea I was an artist until I opened this place up. I used to keep them separate, but now, no. Your senses are heightened when you’re an artist.”
Bill’s studio practice begins in rumination, often alongside ambient music, jazz guitar or the songs of his teens. “My abstracts are painted to music. So I’ll meditate for an hour or so and listen to music, and the colors are incidental. And I’ll just start painting. Temple is painted to a song called ‘Temple’ from an album called ‘Sky of Mind (By Ray Lynch).’ So I like to learn traditional things and twist them so it has a surreal feel to it. And people are responding to that.”
Near the end of our interview, Bill opened up the book he wrote, entitled The Book of Guidance. One can ask a question while holding the book, and the asker’s intuition will guide the book to provide the answer on a given page. Bill holds the book, flips to a page, and reads aloud, “‘In a state of quiet meditation, an awareness of the prime source of life is profoundly intense. Let it in.’” He states, “That’s basically what I had planned on a quiet day like today. I can paint, I can do a totem. And music gets me going.”
Bill states, “My life purpose now is to let people be inspired by the art, encourage everybody to do art, and know that your spiritual side also wants to come through. Art provides portals [for] emotional communication… We need the arts, music, and writing; we need them to uplift our spirits.” Bill Bowers’ work is visually and emotionally engaging and is sure to evolve in new and exciting ways this year. Visit him in the Grove Arcade in the heart of downtown Asheville at 1 Page Avenue, Unit 137. His work is also available to view or purchase at bluedharmafineart.com.