What you will find here

… are galleries of my paintings and installation work, posts about work I made or am making, and also (a lot of) blogs about other artists’ work that I find interesting and inspiring- mostly abstract practitioners like myself.

While I am primarily a painter, I also create installation work. You can also use the menu to find images of paintings in progress, as well as some perspective on being an Artist with a big “A” after the historical narrative of painting’s progression has been shed. There’s a subscription feature for this blog and thanks if you decide to follow along.

If you’re looking for one of 900+ artists, scroll down, use the menu (options to search by hashtag or thumbnail gallery) or the search bar below.

Back at the studio…

Hi neighbors, or whoever you are who reads this (Mom?). Anyway, life has been just peachy here and so I’ve directed some of that energy into my studio. Yes I’m still making cubes. I’ve been painting, too.

Some of you may have seen the blog I wrote when I started the piece above. I’ve also commented that these forms seem to want to be contained but not by a rectangle. Recently an attempt to determine if a shaped canvas stretcher was the one’s destiny, by using blue painters tape, I had the happy accident of realizing maybe the polygon containers could (should?) be painted. Also really thrilled with the way the color wraps the edge of this one now that it’s stretched. Will no doubt tinker some more but getting close!

I thought the piece above was done back in 2020 but a couple months ago decided- with this one and several others- to revisit the cartoon line (original doesn’t have one actually- I tried so many times to make these work with no line but…). Sketched this one on my tablet first. Line was painted in two layers- one with a lighter, iridescent color and then the top one with a thin, darker crimson. Didn’t get the brilliant purple of the digital drawing but that’s probably impossible*. Brushing the top line repeatedly let the first line show through and pushed the crimson into a secondary, darker outline of the bottom one. *Yes, there are studies underway for what it might mean to really push line into the foreground…

Painting rules

It does of course but here I am referring to the rules I associate with my own painting. Or at least guidelines which, when followed, lead a certain direction. Who doesn’t like rules (probably lots of people, and good for them- rebel on)? Maybe a better question would be “Are rules useful?” For generating some types of painting, I would say “Yes.”

If you’ve been kind enough to read the words on this blog from time to time you’ll know I center the word formalism a lot. Formalists can have a lot of rules, I guess, or perhaps just a few. I think the general one we share is making our primary concern an attention to what our work gains from a focus on line, shape, and color. Surface should also probably should be on the list.

“But Sterling” you may say (or perhaps above was too boring to merit reading a third paragraph) “formalism sounds so empty.”

First of all- consider the viewpoint from which this argument is made (that a painting is an empty container that one must fill with something “else”). To this painter, that sound like devaluing the intuitive, the creative, the spontaneous, the impulse that is outside of words. In short- it assumes painting is more like a book than a song. I disagree, at least in the case of abstraction.

Perhaps consider this article by John Yau writing for Hyperallergic, one of the better Art e-rags around today, about the oustanding colorist Harriet Korman. Yau contends her work aspires to the state of music.

I also recently enjoyed this article by Laurie Fendrich of Two Coats of Paint (another outstanding source of art writing) where she discusses pleasure and beauty, with many references to the late David Hickey, in the context of the most recent Whitney Biennale. For the tldr crowd- there is a view of art (that I think applies broadly to abstraction) that our relationship to it is more immediate than words. The strange magic of knowing something this deeply is awe inspiring.

Maybe read this interview with Andrea Marie Breiling as well.

What does all this have to do with rules? Nothing more or less than noting that attention to and focus on the physical qualities of painting a) is a rule, b) is sort of outside language and c) isn’t “empty.”

Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay was a key figure in the Parisian avant-garde of the interwar years. Born to a Jewish Ukrainian family and raised in Saint Petersburg, at the age of eighteen Delaunay enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany. In 1905 she relocated to Paris, where Post-Impressionism and Cubism were dominant in the city’s galleries. In this highly experimental climate, Delaunay and her husband Robert pioneered Simultanism, a style of abstract painting that emphasises the transcendental effects of the interaction between colours. Although like Carla she is no longer with us she is represented at Bienniale.


Experiments in Form

Yesterday, I packed up some recent work for a group show install that has me pumped up- what an amazing group in which to be included!

Curated by Charlotte Russell and on view at Hartwell in Raleigh, Experiments in Form features artworks by five Triangle-based artists, Sterling Bowen, Abie Harris, Mar Hester, Pete Sack, and Natalia Torres del Valle. Through their own unique process and materials, each artist experiments with spontaneity vs. control, interconnectedness, and the process of making. Below is a pic Charlotte caught of me installing an original composition made just for this show.

The show will be up through August so plenty of time to check it out. Follow Charlotte on IG to get the latest on this and other shows she’s curated, including a reception (TBD).