Ariel Bowman, Flower Mound, Texas
Scientific research and study of the fossil record have revealed the many seemingly strange or fantastical adaptations of animals that lived millions of years ago. Ariel Bowman’s sculptures mine the overlap between a fascination with these extinct animals and her interest in the aesthetics, philosophy, and cultural view of the wild that predominated during the Age of Reason.
Bowman elicits feelings of wonder, humor, and reflective nostalgia through representational sculptures that include incongruous pairings of high-culture furnishings from Enlightenment-era Europe with extinct, prehistoric animals. The animals are rendered realistically, as are the ornate porcelain tables that support them—as pedestals and props in a tableau—cavorting through refined interiors clearly meant to be very separate from the wild. An elephant-like creature walks across a black-and-white tiled floor while rubbing its back on a stately grandfather clock. A horned bison- or ibex-like creature roots through ladies’ clothing stored behind a decorative screen with panels depicting idyllic images of manicured landscapes. Something is afoot and amiss; reality has been turned upside down.
These scenes communicate the wide gulf between the realities of the 18th century and those of cultures today. Western culture’s connection to wildness diminished during the Enlightenment at the same time that the era’s emphasis on reason, scientific methods, and skepticism led to an explosion of knowledge about the world that replaced spiritual explanations for natural phenomena. Curiously, that human-wildness disconnect has only grown greater in the intervening centuries, even as our knowledge base has expanded exponentially.