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Stacy Bowie’s Pure Inspiration

October 26th, 2010

Vibrant, energetic, colorful – these are just a few of the adjectives that describe the work of Oak Park-based painter Stacy Bowie, though they could just as easily be applied to the artist herself. Since 2006, she has been working on several series of paintings inspired by music and song, aptly named Music set 2 Art. The works represent visualizations of the music’s depth and emotional impact, rendered in Bowie’s colorful, ethereal style. Though the work is based on her personal interpretations, it invokes a sense of universal appeal, for who among us hasn’t been inspired or deeply moved by music at one point in our lives?

Bowie has recently taken this body of work to a new level, by beginning a series of collaborative performances, painting to live music. An act of pure inspiration and discovery, Bowie captures the essence of the music in her painting, which she creates during the course of the performance. The finished piece acts as a visual record of the event.

This past Thursday, Bowie collaborated with violinist Edith Yokley in an intimate performance at the Third Friday Gallery in Oak Park. It was fascinating to watch the painting slowly build up over time – Bowie worked from the bottom up, starting with large swaths of color, then adding in details like dancing figures, hands, and eyes. Yokley played a variety of instrumental pieces, such as tango, classical, and Hebrew melodies.  The different types of music manifested in unique ways – mournful, slow pieces found expression in tearful eyes, while a favorite piece of Yokley’s mother took shape in a dancing figure, rendered in coral pink (both Bowie’s and Yokley’s families were in attendance, and their mothers happen to be close friends).

During the event, It was hard to know where to look. Between Yokley’s energetic violin performance and Bowie’s quiet contemplation of the work as it evolved, the two women provided a visual and aural feast. Once the painting was complete, Bowie took the time to explain the various elements, both to Yokley and the audience’s delight. In hearing her thought processes, it became clear that being there to listen to the music and see the elements come together gives an intimate knowledge of the painting. As audience member, Bowie opens up her creative process to you, allowing you to form a powerful, personal connection to the work.

Even without the personal component of being at one of these performances, Bowie’s work remains strikingly beautiful. Bowie talked me through some of her other live performance pieces – work such as Sweet Daddy’s Grove, a painting created during a performance by DJ Cordell “Sweet Daddy” Johnson at Cuatro Restaurant. She explained how the strobe lights and pumping beats inspired her to include three dancing figures with bright red dots for their hearts, because she could see their hearts beat in time to the music. The energy of the performance is captured in the bright colors and swirling, frentic brush strokes – looking at the painting you can imagine what it was like to be there. In Six Twenty Four, so named for the date of the performance during which Oak Park lost power, Bowie described how each song by performer Kenya transformed into another layer of the painting, building up into a prismatic landscape.

This is the power of Bowie’s work – to transform the powerful emotional impact of music into a lasting work of beauty.  When I asked her why she chose music as her inspiration, she told me that she had a desire to paint, but couldn’t settle on a subject matter. While listening to a Seal album during a road trip, she realized there was such depth to his work, depth that she sought to capture visually. Thus the idea of music to art was born, for as long as there is music, there is inspiration.

The next time Stacy Bowie plans a live painting performance, make it a priority to attend. Whether it is held in an intimate gallery or a booming club, you will find yourself transported – even inspired – by the experience.

Follow Stacy Bowie on Facebook or Twitter, check out the calendar on her website to learn about future events, or see Stacy’s work for yourself at Dancing Krow Studio in Oak Park.

-Nicole Nelson


Nicole Nelson is a second-year graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, going for her Masters in New Arts Journalism. She is currently the marketing intern at Fear No Art Chicago. When she’s not writing or studying, she enjoys taking pictures, reading historical fiction, and finding art in unexpected places.