You don't need to be an educated art geek to know the work of successful action-pop artist Shane Bowden. Articulate, engaging and supremely tuned into the zeitgeist, Bowden gives art lovers of all ages electric conversation pieces in the now.
Pop art, sometimes dismissed by hardcore art critics as jet-puffed superficial imagery for the masses, thrives more than ever in today's market. While Bowden's imagery certainly reflects current culture, with its Chanel bottles, football helmets and Star Wars Storm Troopers, Bowden's art intrinsically gets at something much deeper and something quite unexpected: happiness.
Channeling that emotion himself, from a series of hard knocks to a $20 million deal with New York Gallery Group in Tokyo, Bowden serves as an inspirational model of success to artists and creative minds worldwide.
PACIFIC sat down with the prolific artist to find out his inspiration, drive, and direction for the future.
PACIFIC: Have you always been an artist?
SHANE BOWDEN: Being an artist was a pipe dream. I was a musician at the MGM Grand (in Las Vegas), that's what brought me out here (from Australia). Then I had the opportunity to work with and have a mentor in Peter Lik (fine art photographer). I was his CEO for three years, and he taught me about the business.
Were you artistically trained?
I started in art school but dropped out, they were teaching me everything I didn't want to learn - the rules and guidelines - and I think art is the exact opposite of that. The reason I left art school is I didn't want to get told what to do.
Did you start with your own gallery?
I had a gallery in Noosa, Australia, and it didn't do too badly, but I wanted to get bigger. My first American venture was in Hawaii, and I lost everything. But I picked myself back up and dusted myself off, and I built back up from there. It didn't work, but it lead me to what I'm doing now. Then two years ago, with Koutaro Shiozawa (an art gallery owner in Japan) we started our first gallery together in Tokyo, and we grew from there.
Your imagery is everywhere, from past appearances on Sex and the City to the collections of Tony Blair and Vogue. How did it happen?
It just happened. Especially in the last six months to a year a lot of people have been showing interest. We are talking with (TV producer) Mark Burnett about a reality show. I love the idea, I think it will work if we can find a common ground with integrity.
How many galleries do you have now?
La Jolla, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore, and galleries that represent me in Florida, L.A., New York, England, Switzerland and Canada, and upcoming is the New York gallery Shane Bowden Art School.
Shane Bowden The Gallery
Where: 7655 Girard Ave., Suite B, La Jolla
Phone: (858) 729-9880
What piece are you most known for?
The Chanel bottle was how it all started. My auntie in Australia gets credit for it. She asked, "Can you do a piece for my bathroom?" I started with one silkscreen, and it started selling out one by one. I still hand do every one, my record is 137 in one day.
How many do you estimate you've sold?
In the thousands.
Was that the wellspring?
Pretty much, it started an outpouring of what I wanted to express. I love the factory process of it, as (Andy) Warhol described, "Business is the greatest art of all." It is the greatest dream, it gives you money to create the projects you love.
Is there a power to pop art versus other movements?
People like buying happy, and things they can relate to. Silkscreen creates that instant happiness, they can choose to like it or dislike it instantly. They might say, "I like the branding, the color, they resonate with me." And the great thing is it's affordable. I don't put big huge price tags on things. The message is affordable art for everyone.
Is pop art here to stay?
Pop will never go away. People are using pop imagery everywhere on TV and it's part of who they are. It's a reflection of peoples' personalities. There is enough negativity out there, and I'm glad to be a part of the happiness; I feel it's a positive thing.
You undoubtedly will inspire a generation of artists. What artists inspired you?
Warhol, Rauschenberg Damien Hirst.
What's next in the pipeline?
Licensing, merchandise label, and clothing line called Peace til Death. It will be everything from t-shirts to hats to homewares, towels, skateboard decks, coffee cups, and a print range. It's like Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Laurie Delk is an avid art historian, holding a master's degree in Art History, with concentrations in the Modern and Postmodern movements. She has taught classes at Tulane University, and has been published with several art publications including Sculpture Magazine and New Orleans Art Review. Send ideas for art stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.