The art of Eric Dowdle: small histories, big stories

 In Art & Gallery News, Artists & Special Collections, Eric Dowdle
One of Park West Gallery's newest artists Eric Dowdle.

One of Park West Gallery’s newest artists Eric Dowdle.

Let’s consider two likely opposites: modernity and folklore. The former is rooted in global industry, the latter in homespun tradition. To Park West Gallery’s newest artist Eric Dowdle, renowned contemporary folk artist and host of the PBS television show “Painting the Town,” modernity and folklore aren’t rivals; they’re more like family.

Dowdle’s contemporary folk art acts as a visual memoir on the interaction between people and place, the whimsy of nostalgia, the customs of local storytelling, and the lineage of modern cities and their rustic roots.

His vibrantly layered compositions assign meaning to a bit of everything: from local history, national news and current affairs, to your next-door neighbor’s oddities and your atypical 6 o’clock dinner conversation. Capturing the biography and soul of a whole town onto canvas is no small task. So how does Dowdle do it?

"Beale Street" (2016), Eric Dowdle

“Beale Street” (2016), Eric Dowdle

Born on a rural Idaho farm to a family of 14 and dozens of tireless traditions, Dowdle understood early on how robust individual histories could be. Beginning his artistic career in his early 20s, Dowdle left the institution of the art world for the world-at-large, setting out to explore the outreaches of Kenya, China, the South Pacific, Europe and the United States, recounting stories through his art along the way.

Arriving at each city with only a tinge of expectation, Dowdle lets the town and its people recount the rest. “I meet average people and they tell me what they love about their town,” describes Dowdle. “You can’t make this stuff up!”

Many years and hundreds of paintings later, the artist’s storytelling technique is still the same, with just one added feature – a camera crew.  Dowdle’s success is boasted about on his own PBS television show “Painting the Town,” where he explores the in’s-and-out’s of a town, talks with locals and historians, and integrates these collective experiences into his boldly-colored, illustrative paintings and three-dimensional works. He also hosts his own radio show, “Traveling with Eric Dowdle.”

Situating himself quietly amidst narratives of yesterday, present memoirs of daily life and the fond promise of stories to come, Dowdle’s gift is apparent – he listens.

When asked what inspires his artwork, Dowdle asserted: “Great stories. Good people with great stories, that’s what folk art is.”

"Chicago River" (2016), Eric Dowdle

“Chicago River” (2016), Eric Dowdle

As a new-age visual archivist and one of the world’s leading folk artists, Dowdle’s genuine knack for storytelling is apparent in his artwork, capturing the whimsy and effervescence of a town in astonishing detail. Dowdle’s artwork captures places as diverse as the people within them: rural landscapes, famous landmarks and bustling cities.

Today, Dowdle’s oeuvre includes more than 200 examples of folk art and is collected throughout the world.

Park West Gallery is excited to offer Eric Dowdle folk art, including digital multiples on aluminum and layered 3-D compositions, called stratascapes. Contact our gallery consultants for more information.

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