D’Andrea Bowie: Affordance

“In this solo exhibition, we find vestiges of lived experience – traces of flexed intensity and passages of astonishing delicacy.” – Olexander Wlasenko, Curator


For the newest exhibition installment at Station Gallery, we spotlight D’Andrea Bowie’s body of sculptural work, Affordance. In the galleries, the artist invites us into an open space that draws inspiration from her everyday studio practices. Her studio acts as an environment where she practices art, explores certain liminalities, and experiments with new materials.


Working in installation, Bowie uses sculpture and sound to create immersive environments that encourage the viewer to consider ways in which land is inhabited. Currently, her artistic practice explores “the notions of mothering and stewardship, the relationships we nurture with the land and those that inhabit it” (D’Andrea Bowie’s Artist Statement). She works within a porous state that blends methodology and material by employing materials that can retain touch and memory, such as clay.
In this exhibition, Bowie asks her visitors to consider the visual and physical possibilities of her sculptural works through the abstract notion that is the namesake for this exhibition. The term affordance was coined by James J. Gibson who theorized that the world is not solely perceived by humans in terms of object shapes and spatial relationships, but also through the perceived possibilities of an object’s action, meaning their function or specific use.*


In the context of Bowie’s sculptural works, the notion of affordance suggests how individuals may interact with an object in a certain environment, depending on the person’s physical capabilities, goals, and past experiences. Affordance is tested by Bowie as a perceptual notion. She makes an important gesture towards this concept by creating works that can be seemingly molded into the bodies that occupy our everyday environments.


But how does this definition of affordance translate in a typical gallery setting? Normally, the works of art on display are not meant to be picked up or even touched, only looked at. So what type of perceptions do Bowie’s sculptural pieces offer visitors in the gallery? Perhaps these perceptions are rooted in memory or the perceived sensation of touch. We can easily imagine how the forms and curves of the sculptures might mold to our own bodies without actually holding them.


When you first walk into the Coppa Gallery you will be greeted by a table filled with small hand-held objects made of clay. Their unique forms were made by the impressions (or molding) of the artist’s hands. They invite the visitor to contemplate how these objects could fit into their own hands, sensations of touch and memory occurs as a result.


The photographs on the back wall of Coppa Gallery display the different ways these organic forms fit into the artist’s arms and hands, as if they have conformed to the curves and folds of her skin. Curator Olex Wlasenko, describes Bowie’s work as “profoundly figurative, and yet the figure is evacuated from her work.”


During my own self-guided tour of the exhibition, I recognized these organic forms to be a visual representation of how the artist engages with the abstract notion of affordance, or what the environment has to offer, and how she embraces these spaces with open arms.


However, I will let you decide what types of visual sensations arise for yourself when you encounter these sculptures on your next visit to Station Gallery to check out D’Andrea Bowie’s Affordance.
The exhibition runs until October 13th, 2019, in the Coppa Gallery & Heritage Galleries.


*For more information about the Theory of Affordances, this article provides a more in depth summary: https://medium.com/@danewesolko/the-theory-of-affordances-cb51fd138b3e

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