Q&A with Timothy McDowell, Artist and Juror for The Crossing: Virtual Exhibition at Hygienic Art
By Bridney C.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of local businesses including museums and galleries to close temporarily, including the Hygienic Art Gallery in New London, Connecticut. For now, most people are sticking to using their phones and other electronic devices to connect to loved ones, friends, or to stream music and videos for their entertainment.
The quarantine has caused several upcoming community events to be postponed. However, the Hygienic Art Gallery chose to continue working to support the artists who submitted work to their current show, The Crossing: A Juried Exhibition.
The exhibition was set to have its opening reception on March 21st, however, the Hygienic Art Gallery has decided to go digital with a new online store and virtual gallery.
The Crossing: A Juried Exhibition is an open-call exhibition where artists are encouraged to submit up to 3 works by the March 14th deadline. The Crossing is an opportunity for artists from "across other bridges" and other regions of Connecticut to display their art in a community-centered showcase.
Their art works were critiqued by the juror, Timothy McDowell with all accepted artworks being eligible for cash prizes. Timothy McDowell is an artist and professor of printmaking and drawing at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut.
His work has been shown in the United States and Canada with collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art Print and Drawing collection, The New Mexico Museum of Art, Fidelity Investments, J.P. Morgan, The Benziger Family Winery Collection and others.
In an email sent by Bess Gaby, director of the Hygienic Art Gallery, states "Hygienic Art has a new mission–to make Hygienic artworks more accessible to everyone." The virtual art gallery is in the finishing stages of going live for all members of the New London community, and worldwide to view in the comfort of their homes.
In this edition of Q&A, McDowell shared what first inspired him to create art, which art medium he prefers to work with the most, and challenges he faces while jurying shows.
BC: Who or what first inspired you to create art? Do you come from an artistic family background?
TM: I grew up in a family composed of members that were sculptors, painters, architects, and designers. I probably didn't realize there were other occupations until I was in school. I had the good fortune of spending many summers in my uncle's loft in SoHo during the early '60s and '70s. This was juxtaposed to living the rest of the year in oil and cattle country of West Texas. I can't remember the first piece of art that I made, I didn't think of it as art but just making drawings of life as I imagined or observed. I guess my first exposure to the recognition of ability was in the third grade when after the priest delivered his weekly Bible story we were asked to draw a picture.
I drew John the Baptist's head on a plate. It was an early attempt at a Caravaggio style. The elliptical platter was perfectly drawn and the head was pretty good too, so much so, I was called into the office of the Mother Superior. The nun was impressed with the graphic realism but warned me about pursuing further drawings on the subject. Later, as a high school student, I entered a juried exhibition with a photo-realist portrait and was awarded first place and offered a full-tuition scholarship to college. From then on, I knew I could somehow survive making art.
BC: Were there any initial struggles you faced at the beginning of your art career?
TM: Early struggles were mostly financial. As an art student, I worked as a garbage man and building barbed-wire fences to pay rent. I barely had enough money to apply for graduate school. My art-making always came through for me with timely opportunities for some financial income. Things like an assistantship in grad school or my first gallery representation provided enough to survive on.
BC: Is there an element or medium you enjoy working with the most?
TM: I love painting very much but there is a side of me that loves process as well. That is why I studied printmaking in school, it held secrets and interesting ways of image-making that fascinated me and I needed to learn these from established artists who taught lithography and etching. I knew I could always paint because it is an intuitive process that allows for personal adaption to image-making.
BC: How many art shows have you had? Is there a favorite gallery of yours where your art has been displayed?
TM: I'm not sure I could answer that question. I have been represented by over twenty galleries over the last forty years. My full C.V. has about ten pages of exhibitions listed and I am most proud of those that were at museums. One of my favorite exhibitions was being asked to represent the U.S. in the Cuenca Biennale in Ecuador. It was a great opportunity to meet a lot of artists from all over the Americas. My favorite gallerists are those individuals who give their artists free rein to explore and have shown great patience in accommodating that freedom.
BC: Artists submitting work to this show vary from amateur to professional - what will you be looking for in terms of quality when it comes to selecting works to be in the show?
TM: I think good art should engage, entertain and inform. This can be accomplished at any level along the path of making. Artists are makers and skill and handling of a medium should always be acknowledged even if one can't personally relate to the image or object. From here we should consider originality. Influences in art can not be avoided but new interpretations of those influences should expose a new aspect, a new way, a new form of seeing those canons of historical art that are ingrained in us all.
BC: How long have you been jurying shows? What is a challenge you face while jurying shows?
TM: I have been honored to jury or curate a dozen or so exhibitions. This one has been the most challenging due to our pandemic boundaries. I am under quarantine and had to view the work via digital means. I am afraid the exhibition itself will be off-limits to the public except through a video link. These are strange times but we can adjust and do what we can. The selection process is easy. I just react. I am amazed at all sorts of things and the remaining objective is every juror's job.
BC: How would you describe the Hygienic Art Gallery to someone who has never heard of it?
TM: I was in the first Hygienic exhibition when it was operating as a diner. This event was the brainchild of Timmy Jewel in defiance of February, winter's darkest month. It never would have occurred to me that what you see now would someday exist. The Hygienic is proof that the arts can sustain, enrich and provide creativity, dialogue, and community. It should be a role model for other artists in other communities.
BC: What are you most looking forward to for the upcoming The Crossing exhibition?
TM: Well, unfortunately, a public venue with face to face conversation and exchange is out. Accepting that reality, I would hope the exhibition will provide an opportunity for the novice and the professional to share the walls and maybe some awareness of each other even through the remote situation.