Duncan Gowdy carves out time from his studio to talk about his image inspired work.
I grew up in Needham, Massachusetts, in an area of town that is walking distance to the Charles River, farming fields, and woodland. The environment set the stage for the work that I have created for the past ten years. It also instilled in me a sense of place that has influenced where I feel most comfortable, pastoral places where I have lived and worked.
My camera has been the main tool for collecting images that connect these places to my work. Photography has always been part of everyday life in my family. My grandfather was an avid photographer of people, places, and, as a surgeon, many of his operations. My mother was never far from her camera, mainly taking photographs of family and friends. So it was natural for me to continue the tradition. Most of my photographs are of outdoor scenes, like tree silhouettes in winter and water formations that catch my eye. The photographs are from familiar places, mostly in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I need to have a personal connection to the photographs and places. Although the images may be simple, my inspiration for taking the photograph may be complex, including memories of the place or even what was going on in my life at the time of the photograph.
Several techniques and influences converge in my work: woodworking, photography, and illustration come together with influences as varied as Asian pottery and prints, scrimshaw, Early American and mid-century modern furniture. It is the graphic quality of each inspiration that I am drawn to. Japanese prints and decorative surfaces on pottery are rendered in such a way that they are poetic, often by using the least possible amount of brush strokes. The carving-and-staining technique is my interpretation of scrimshaw, where the images were incised in ivory and in-filled with ink.
The photograph for Platter with Crab Apples was taken at a field in Harrisville, New Hampshire. I was inspired by the craggly quality of crab apple trees, with nubs on branches, accented with crab apples and leaves. The platter form allows me to focus on image composition and the carving and staining process.
See Duncan Gowdy’s work at the upcoming exhibition, Massachusetts Cultural Council Awardees in Crafts, Sculpture, Installation & New Genres, September 18 – October 17, 2015. Opening Reception: September 18, 7-9 PM. New Art Center, 61 Washington Park, Newtonville, MA, 02460
All images courtesy of Duncan Gowdy.