Community Bio — Lawrence Bowden

Meet Lawrence Bowden


Q. Tell us a bit about your background.

I began painting in 1996 while studying Zen with Kazuaki Tanahashi, an internationally recognized scholar of Zen Buddhism and master painter. He helped me to understand that the Way of Zen is a Way of Art, and so I began my art by doing Zen brush painting — ink on rice paper.  I did this exclusively for about a decade and then decided to extend my art by exploring with the medium of acrylic and canvas.

Q. Describe the art that you make.

My art is rooted in the Zen aesthetic of directness and simplicity. The images are simply what they are as they meet the eye — satisfying, peaceful, expansive or just not. Yes ... I hope they offer meaning and depth beyond what meets the eye (they, in fact, all have a certain Buddhist frame from which they peer), but that's less significant than their presence as an object worthy of contemplation.

They're no more to everybody's taste than any other form of meditation, contemplation, or spiritual exploration. The point of what I do is to offer a visual moment that is pleasing, a bit intriguing, and — if you want to expend the effort — a bit informative.

Q. What is your creative process?

I don't understand "the creative process" so I don't know how to answer this question. Creativity is the Daemon and it works its way uniquely in every individual. The "artist" gets more credit than deserved for "being creative."

Far be it from me to explain it.

Q. What/who inspires you?

What I know about color theory and the spiritual qualities of the abstract I learned from Mondrian. What informs my composition is an Asian aesthetic rooted in Zen Buddhism. And what inspires me most are artists who are unafraid of being a bit unconventional, still care about craft, see beauty in simplicity, and who need not be profound to speak.

Q: What brought you to Riverviews Artspace? What keeps you here?

The search for a Studio space I could afford outside the home. There's something very nice about having a place to go, a kind of sanctuary, where I can do my art. RVAS made that opportunity available by being affordable for someone who does not make his living exclusively by selling art!

I "stay," frankly, because I believe that RVAS is devoted to making artspace affordable to artists, primarily. And because I believe that RVAS realizes that "art" is protean — it takes many forms of expression.

Q: What has your experience been like at Riverviews?

It's been a wonderful place to work. I've met a wide variety of thoughtful and creative people who are a pleasure to know, talk with, and create alongside.

Q: What are your thoughts about working and/or living within an artistic community?

I'm old fashioned. I still believe that original art is largely a solitary experience. BUT it is one that absolutely requires exposure to art other than one's own and to others who endeavor to be self-consciously, deliberatively creative. So it's great to have a space where you can go into your studio and shut the door to work ... but also open your door and find another artist doing their thing right there with you.

Q: What sort of people would you like to see involved at Riverviews?

I enjoy the people who are already there. But it would be great to have more people who have a large and less conventional orientation to art.

For example, I've always been confounded by those who want to distinguish "craft" from "art"? Or those who think "if it's not in a gallery or a museum it isn't art."


Q. Anything else you'd like to share?

Yeah ... why not be a little adventuresome and take in, maybe even purchase, some art that stretches you out of the ordinary? And, if you believe in "living local," why not visit RVAS and discover the Riverviews Artist's Co-op Gallery?

Support your local artists!

Community Bio — Michael Mewborn

Meet Michael Mewborn

Michael Mewborn was born in Elberton, Georgia, in 1942, grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, and spend several years in Syracuse, New York, before moving to Central Virginia in 1973.

After two excruciating years studying chemical engineering at the University of South Carolina, Michael listened to his true calling and undertook a variety of jobs as a draftsman, illustrator, typographer, layout artist and graphic designer (and truck driver in the Army and National Guard) in South Carolina, New York and Virginia. In his art, the most easily observed influence of these early experiences is in the draftsman-like precision of this carefully designed paintings. Michael's art reflects is profound fascination with both geometric design as a pure art form and with random selection and perception of pattern.

During the 1970s, Michael exhibited his work at shows and competitions all over the East Coast and was represented by galleries in Washington, D.C.; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and in Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia. He designed wall graphics for IBM Corporate Headquarters #2 in White Plains, New York, and for a variety of central Virginia companies, and his art became part of numerous private collections. By the mid-70s he was creating commissioned pieces for organizations such as IBM and Westvaco. His art has been executed in a variety of mediums including acrylic paints, serigraphs, hooked rugs, needlepoint tapestries and Giclee prints. Many of his creations are constructed on large canvases with bold, deeply saturated colors, reflecting a connection between art and the nature of modern American culture.

In 1976 Michael found that his largest creation to date — a graphic arts company called The Design Group — would require his undivided attention if it were to survive. He put aside his painting and personal design projects temporarily to focus on running the business — and "temporarily" turned into nearly 30 years.

Following the sale of his company in 2004, Michael returned to his true calling and found a multitude of new contexts for his creative vision. Modern graphics tools, new printing technology, 21st century exploration of the nature of randomness and chaos, and even modern advances in evolutionary theory all serve to inform Michael's new outlook.

As in his earlier pieces, he offers the viewer a paradox in the mating of precise geometrics with random pattern selection, forcing the spectator to search for content or impose personal meaning on the work. Michael also focuses on a pre-set "universe" of colors and visual elements for each piece, which simultaneously imposes limits on the possible results and, by creating limits, emphasizes the difference between artistic vision and the basic craft — the nuts and bolts of brushwork, technique and color selection — of painting.

Recently, his work has been featured on the cover of two issues of the prestigious publication, The New England Review of Literature. His painting, Java Jing-A-Ling, was selected to be a full-page representative of abstract art in Complete Guide to Painting in Acrylics, an internationally published book by Belgian artist Lorena Kloosterboer. Central Virginia Federal Credit Union commissioned a painting for the president's office in Forest, Virginia, in 2011.

Thoughts on RVAS:

Michael was attracted to renting a space in Riverviews Artspace by the opportunity to interact with other artists. He quickly learned to appreciate the open studios on First Fridays each month. After 10 years of occupancy, he has come to relish the undisturbed days for work, as well as the activity of First Fridays. He would definitely like to see more artists discover this great working environment and establish studios here.

Regarding First Friday, Michael says he appreciates the people who are seeing his work for the first time and don't quite know what to make of it. He loves hearing their comments — positive or negative. He also appreciates the frequent visitors, those who pop in regularly to see his latest creation — or just to talk. There is one family in particular who comes to see him annually from Oregon! No, they don't come all that way just to see his studio; they are in town visiting other family members. But they make a point of making their trip to coincide with First Friday, so they can visit his studio.

Since his return to studio art in 2004, he has one-person shows in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Richmond and Durham, North Carolina, as well as two-person shows in Lynchburg and in the Soho district of New York City. His work has also been included in numerous invitational and juried shows.

Michael's creations are included in public collections of art by United Virginia Bankshares (now Suntrust), First Colony Life Insurance Company (now Genworth), IBM Corp., Westvaco Corp., Columbus (Georgia) Museum of Art, Pearson Regional Cancer Center and Central Virginia Federal Credit Union. His work is also included in hundreds of private collections throughout the USA and Canada.

Michael is married and has two sons, four granddaughters and a great-grandson who live in North Carolina and South Carolina.

His work can be seen in galleries in Richmond, Roanoke, Lynchburg, New York and Watkinsville, Georgia, as well as in his studio at #202 Riverviews Artspace, (by appointment).

NOTE: A version of this bio also appears on Michael's website.