GAZA BOWEN


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(1) "Piece for Miss Pence", mixed media, 14 x 18 x 3", 1995.
(2) "Het Achterhuis", mixed media, 14 x 16 x 12", 1995.
(3) "Remembrance of Rebe Washington", mixed media, 52 x 16 x 10", 1995.

by Judith A. Hoffberg

(Couturier Gallery, West Hollywood) Gaza Bowen's life growing up at the end of World War II as a Southern child who was Jewish, second generation American, and female is portrayed in eleven evocative works of art that combine sculpture, found objects and family photographs. Reflections is an autobiographical exhibition, a summary of the artist's experience which has influenced what she has become.

There are game-like installations made up of playing cards, often sewn together to make a carnival-like interactive wheel of fortune. Numbers give you your own fortune, as in Pick a Memory, Any Memory. Family photographs scratched on the back of mirrors reflect the light and lives of those who affected the artist.

Three works are set in sound suitcases, symbols of travel and memory. The remarkable Remembrance of Rebe Washington recollects the maid in the family who probably had the greatest influence on the artist as a child, she with bandanna and broom, a member of the family sculpted in wood, housed in a valise. An endless mirrored box recollects the symbols of a religion which was politely "denied" in order to continue in the Southern environment with torahs, mezuzahs, and Jewish symbols.

A visit to Anne Frank's house generates another impact on the artist's life, feeling kinship with the secrecy of presence, religious and personal, for fear of retribution. Each work of art in this exhibition reflects light through mirrors, but also opens doors of perception into the known and unknown, the half-glimpsed, to phrases vaguely understood, the mystery and power of the ordinary. No viewer can deny the truth of the shared experiences of private and public worlds which shape and are shaped by our experiences.

Bowen's grounded shoe sculptures of recent years have now developed autobiographical wings of universal understanding. Textures of mirrored surfaces, some rough, others smooth, have become objects of memory. Her universe has expanded to allow you to recall your own memories in the course of interacting with hers. This demonstrates the true power of art.