I remember that day in the early 70s. I had come to visit our good friends the Leinbachs who owned and operated Camp Innisfree near Pyramid Point, said Tom Bowker. I immediately called Carole and said: You wouldnt believe the beauty up here. We took baby steps towards creating a living environment here that would house not only us, but our studio and gallery.
The Bowkers will play host this Saturday, August 2 at 6 p.m. to an Unveiling Party at their By The Bight Art Gallery and Studio near Northport.
By The Bight Studio opened five years ago, though the Bowkers originally owned a gallery in Northport for eight years. They currently rent the gallery to another artist, who is taking a similar path as the Bowkers.
Both Tom and Carole are artists. They see themselves as explorers, travelers and communicators with their works. The Bowkers both work in multiple mediums. Toms primary focus, however, has been sculpting, and this weekends Unveiling Party will showcase his talent.
SCULPTING AT THREE
I was blessed at an very early age to have people encourage me artistically, said Bowker. I started sculpting when I was three or four, as my mother gave me bars of soap and scrap materials. Then I had strong encouragement from art teachers throughout my schooling.
One of those instructors was his high school art teacher who was also a successful sculptor.
He definitely pointed me in the direction of sculpting and served as an inspiration, said Bowker. I became fascinated with three dimensional images.
While Bowker has an appreciation for all forms of art, he is drawn to the complexities of creating three-dimensional artworks, especially the craft of carving stone.
What is interesting about stone carving is that while with other types of art you add to them to create the piece, this form requires you to take away from it to create the final outcome, said Bowker. A painting, for example, has the artist creating a two-dimensional illusion. When you are carving, you have to constantly revolve around the work to view it from all perspectives.
Bowker takes a couple of approaches when carving stone. He uses maquets (tiny models of the final work) and often takes an inspiration and lets his mind and hands lead.
A lot of art is created by accident. This sculpture I am unveiling is part of a series themed around peace, said Bowker. The conflicts we (United States) are currently in have really resonated with me. So with that inspiration within me I was playing with other concepts but kept getting pulled towards the theme of peace.
For Bowker, he finds peace in actually working and creating in front of his visitors at his studio.
I think this is so important. As artists, we are typically hidden from public view when we create. Often artists are great at creating their work and not so great at talking about their work, said Bowker. I think it is important to connect with the audience. I love explaining the vision of my work both while creating it and after it is completed.
His desire to educate the public is a result of his longtime work as an art educator.
I was the chair of the art department at Ann Arbor Huron High School, said Bowker. I very much enjoyed working with students.
One of his students, David Goyer, enjoys a successful career in Hollywood and as a comic book writer. Goyer penned the screenplay Batman Begins and is currently writing the screenplay for the Hollywood version of The Flash that he will direct in 2010, among numerous other projects.
The Bowkers keep their gallery open Wednesday through Sunday during the summer months and keep extended weekend hours in the fall. They love their secluded location and it has not hurt business at all.
Before, when we were in town, we had a lot of casual foot traffic, said Bowker. Now we have a lot less traffic, but we are a destination for the traveler. Sales have been just as good because the customer seeking us out is looking for art, not just looking.
This destination traveler is something the Bowkers would like to see marketed to more visitors. They feel the Leelanau Peninsula is perfect to be marketed as a cultural destination.
It is obvious that the dynamics of the traveling public has changed and there is a real market for cultural destinations, said Bowker. Leelanau Peninsula is the perfect mix of cultural offerings and outdoor activities. What is great about this is that these types of attractions are available year round. I also like the fact that the Peninsula has no chain restaurants and stores and that all the shops and restaurants are locally owned. This is very appealing to many travelers.
Bowker hopes that area tourism leaders will take a more active role in marketing the cultural aspects of the region. This weekend he and his wife will play their part with their Unveiling Party.
To view works from the Bowkers go to www.bythebight.com where information and directions to the gallery also exist. But to truly appreciate the sculptures of Tom Bowker and the work of Carole Bowker visit the gallery in person. On Saturday night they will host an Unveiling Party for Tom Bowkers most recent stone sculpture. For details phone them at 231.218.9976.