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press release

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CTRL gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by Houston based artist Natasha Bowdoin.

This morning I woke up from one of those rare dreams that seem to have a sort of symbolic significance. The dream was about a special firework that, when lit, would tell a story full of vivid and unknown details. I think the story was about a lesser known historical event, but one with fascinating and far-reaching implications. This firework belonged to someone I care about and would hope to never disappoint. When I was momentarily left alone with the story-telling firework, I immediately lit the green, twisted fuse and the story began to be spoken out loud. Eventually the story ended in a thin plume of purple-black smoke and the firework disintegrated, leaving only a few little paper scraps on the ground. When my friend returned, she smelled the smoke and asked if I had lit the firework. I said yes, but told her not to worry and that I definitely plan to replace it right away. I felt terrible and she seemed upset, which made me even more resolute that I would find a replacement. She said that she didn't think I would be able to find one anywhere. She didn't say why, but I knew it was because it was an original, one of a kind and now I was the only one who would ever hear the story. That's when I woke up. And for the life of me, even though I keep getting really close, I can't remember the story from the firework. I only have a sense that it was vital and captivating, but can't remember a single detail.

Last night I went to sleep obsessing about how to approach writing this press release for Natasha's show. After this 'dream within a dream', I think I now know: Natasha's works are like dreams. Not the hopes-and-aspirations kind of dreams, but the sleep-dreams that are a strange, dizzying mix of reality and fantasy. Her cut paper drawings, like dreams, are complex and layered, resisting any one fixed state or meaning. Her forms often reflect patterns found in nature. Words and phrases snake in, out and around these forms, often giving them their very shape. Plant and animal life take on revelatory power as they merge with these literary fragments. And above all, her works exude originality. Not the run of the mill, clever and inventive sort, but the deeply-felt and genuine originality of the sub-conscious.

Equating Natasha's work to dreams makes even more sense, considering most of the work in the show begins with Jorge Borges' poem "Dreamtigers" as a literary source. In this poem, Borges tells of his childhood obsession with tigers and how he memorized their every detail by observing them at the zoo and studying encyclopedic illustrations. He then describes his attempts as an adult to control his own dreams and conjure the majestic creature's form as he once knew it. When the tigers appeared, they were never as he remembered, but always appeared as implausible, corrupted versions of the original. Borges' observations as a child were unaffected by life. They were empirical and innocent visions that took the tiger for what it was. As an adult, Borges could no longer see the mighty beast in such a simple and ideal light. He goes on to describe his dreamtigers as always having "a touch of the dog or the bird" and being, in the end "all too fleeting".

As with the volatility of a dream's content, meaning in Bowdoin's work is in a constant state of motion. Patterns, layers and forms move fluidly in and out of one another. Words break apart and reform, allowing for recognizable images to appear and disappear at will. Much like the inability of Borges to pin down a memory to a specific form, and similar to a dream that owes it's power to it's own evaporation, Bowdoin's transformative works find their own form and tell their own untellable tale.


Natasha Bowdoin was born 1981 in West Kennebunk, Maine. She lives and works in Houston, TX. Bowdoin recently completed a two-year CORE residency at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include "Art on Paper 2010", Weatherspoon Museum of Art, North Carolina; "The Daisy Argument", Visual Art Center, UT Austin; "Girls Just Want to Have Funds" (organized by the Rema Hort Mann Foundation), PPOW Gallery, NYC, "A Torrent of Words: Contemporary Art and Language", Kohler Arts Center, Wisconsin; Pulse Art Fair, solo project with CTRL gallery, Miami, FL; "Toil and Trouble", CTRL gallery, Houston and the "2011 Portland Museum of Art Biennial, Portland, Maine. She was recently awarded a residency at teh Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE. Bowdoin is represented by CTRL gallery, Houston and Extraspazio Gallery, Rome. She studied painting at the Slade School of Art in London (2002), received her BA and Post Baccalaureate degrees from Brandeis University (2003/2005) and her MFA from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia/Rome (2007).