Fifty years of unique craft and art were on display Friday night as Berkeley artist David Bowman, who first began crafting his jewelry, metal wall sculpture and other work in 1971, welcomed guests at the opening of a retrospective of his work at the city’s ACCI Gallery on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley.
The retrospective show will be up at the gallery through May 29.
Both David Bowman’s art and his son Reed were born in 1971, and what began as silver jewelry and brass belt buckles blossomed over the years into larger metalwork pieces. The Bowman family moved to Berkeley in 1975 and has lived there ever since. David Bowman’s work is in evidence throughout the city both as wearable art and exhibition art.
“We see belt buckles that were sold on Telegraph in the 1970s on people walking around the city. I go up to people and say, ‘Hey, my father made that. It’s guaranteed forever,'” son Reed said in an interview Saturday. Reed joined his father as an artist and co-creator in the 1990s.
The Bowmans’ pieces can be seen at local venues including Riva Cucina restaurant in Berkeley and on the pair’s website, davidmbowman.com. Their work is sold primarily through craft shops and galleries across the country and overseas.
As David’s partner and fellow artist, Reed creates his own tables, vase, candlestick and menorah designs. The two work out of a studio they built themselves behind David Bowman’s Berkeley home. Reed and David make their living from their art, thanks in no small part to the support of the Berkeley community.
“My parents gifted me with a love of learning and of creation, which is further affirmed by living in Berkeley most of my life, with its embrace of the arts and crafts tradition and community,” Reed Bowman said.
“I’ve seen his work in shows all over the East Bay and during Open Studios. Most of it is wall hangings, 3-D sculpture, and very impressive designs of modern primitive and abstract geometrics,” said Adolfo Cabral, a 20-year Berkeley resident. “Really lovely craftsmanship and skill.”
The Bowmans are perhaps best known for their jewelry, vases and wall sculptures, which they produce from brass and copper, forming them into shape with shears, hammers, sanders and grinders and brazing them together using a welding torch. Every step of the process is done by hand.
The artwork is what is known as patinaed brass and copper. A patina is a color that develops through chemical reactions on a metal surface. The duo mix the chemicals that produce the patina from scratch.
Glowing in shades of brown, rust and gold, the pieces combine various sizes and shapes of brass and copper, often in squares and rectangles.
“My sense of form and composition comes from studying all types of ancient and modern art, architecture, and crafts, and from looking intently at all the forms, shapes and compositions to be found in the natural world around us,” David Bowman said in an artist’s statement.