A Video by Alexandra Bowman
“O, for a Muse of Fire!” by Alexandra Bowman. Pen and ink, colored pencil, graphite, and alcohol marker on Bristol board. Interior art for the Canvas Autumn 2018 issue.
Canvas Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Herko's Opening Reflections:
There are so many reasons I feel deeply moved and made alert by “O, for a Muse of Fire!” Starting off for me, I am pulled by the tension of motion "felt" and light "embodied". Writing can be considered an act of reaching—for me I feel this in the orientation of the hand to look like it is going against the stream of how we would literally read language from left to right. We could also say writing is an act of being pulled - by a muse or other secret "sorbet" of psychic forces. In actuality, we cannot be sure which is happening in what percentage. It is astonishing to look at this piece and know we cannot know whom the hand belongs to, yet be alerted to a larger sense of lifespan with the presence of the skull. We could think like many an archaic image (and I love the old world, story-sonic feel of archaic things) the skull is a table decoration prone to those who write in a time of quills BUT we could also read the image of the skull being something unseen to the writer—the end of life that looks over our shoulder, or a literal haunting interloper that lays its "head" at leg level, like a dog wanting our attention.
Either way, it functions to make the viewer feel both discombobulated and tightly stitched to a composite of action and mortality. Although the picture has plenty of light - that reflected off the skull, that yielded by the candles - the most biological vibrant thing—the hand, carries the visceral presence of shadows and its own muscular mechanisms. This plays super well to how it seems to pop from the image, as a frontal layer—much like objects do, when we see them carrying candle flicker. I like this artistic magic trick of summoning the flame's effect. The meatiness of the hand also reminds me of the meatiness of the human heart, and the hand is a heart of the picture.
I also like that I can vicariously feel the wrist's vulnerability as it shuffles over the page - hands and wrists always have to reach to get the most use out of paper and this feels vulnerable. You are basically laying a sheath between your veins and paper - which in its flatbed form, usually doesn't paper cut, but in other forms - does, giving us a feeling of knives. The paper is rippled and the surface below it is too. We don't know what that surface is. It waves organically, much like sacks are organic—this form seems fitting to match the crosshatch lines that build both the solid and ambiguous "air" terrain around the center of the image.
All of this of course, could stir a lot of questions about inspiration, but I would be happy to see what Alexandra would like to share with the Museum of Canvas on her own accord.
I do find myself very curious about the title. The use of O, very much signals a time period tradition for me. “O, for a Muse of Fire!” intrigues me over and over; seeing how fire is so powerful but allowed in the piece to co-exist in a form where it may seem artful and frail. The fire is "kept" in a trajectory for betterment, in the space offered by a candle—fire seeming to offer the ultimate goal of light. When allowed to fume rampant - fire could turn much of the scene into dust. Fire could be read instead, as the "art fire" within the arm that scribbles. OR, for fireside chats future—where every image we have seen while learning the world through our childhood contributes to what we call forward, for an existential ponder and an antique scare.
[Lindsay shared these thoughts with Alexandra and the video below is Alexandra's response.]
Discard your inhibitions, just go for it. Enjoy. Find a subject that you’re especially interested in.
Alexandra Bowman is a freelance artist from Northern Virginia and student at Georgetown University planning on double majoring in History and English and minoring in Studio Art. Alex’s work has been published by the BBC, Brown University, Penguin Random House UK, and Disney XD. She is also a contributor to the News section of The Hoya, Georgetown’s newspaper and record and oldest and largest student newspaper. Alex has played the piano for thirteen years and the cello for eight years. She also enjoys British film and literature, science fiction, creative writing, traveling, and distance running.
Facebook: Alexandra Bowman
Pinterest: Alexandra Bowman