While some may have difficulty imagining the artistic potential of paper, Natasha Bowdoin uses precision and skill to transform it into hypnotic works of art. “I love it because it’s flexible, doesn’t have a permanent ending place and offers so much possibility,” muses Bowdoin. The Houston-based artist draws inspiration from a childhood spent along the coast of Maine in West Kennebunk, where she worked briefly in lobster fishing for relatives. “Growing up around family working by hand and making things from scratch inspired me to want to create,” she says.
While Bowdoin has focused on large-scale relief installations, her smaller scale works—including both cut-paper collages and drawings done in gouache and ink—are equally compelling. “The cut-paper work is denser, with even more layering in the small-scale pieces,” she says. “And sometimes something I’ve made very small leads to bigger installations, and ends up growing over time.” Using an X-Acto knife or scissors, she intricately creates enchanting floral designs, relying on nominal supplies and an imagination that runs deep. Her nuanced take on references like early-19th-century botanical illustrations, which she appreciates for “their sincere and sometimes inaccurate perceptions of the natural world,” she notes, has helped to define her largely intuitive process. “I may base it on an image of a fabric swatch, but usually I just wing it,” she says. Inspired by early hand-drawn cartoon illustrations and often looking to textile patterns for color palettes, she also incorporates details referencing literary folktales and fables—a nod to her double major in art and classical studies from Brandeis University.
Bowdoin currently works as an associate professor at Rice University, where she recently completed a permanent installation for its public art collection. Represented by Talley Dunn Gallery, she’s also gearing up for an exhibit at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Sculpture Garden. The accomplished artist—who grew up near the ocean and has dedicated her career to creating art depicting florals—also feels an on-going responsibility to encourage others to respect their natural surroundings. “My work is a gateway for people to take a preservationist approach to the way they live,” she says. “I champion nature and communicate its importance through a very playful lens.”