Bardos, Fowler turn trash to treasure

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When Bonnie Bardos and Charlotte Fowler met at the Upstairs Artspace years ago, they discovered a mutual love of eclectic, colorful art. Such art is at the heart of their new exhibit “Crossing the Line,” opening this Friday, July 19 at the Upstairs. Bardos describes their work as outside the box with its daring re-use of found objects. Both artists have always delighted in saving things from the trash. “We see most trash as part of the art of life,” says Bardos.

Bonnie Bardos' work

Bonnie Bardos’ work

Some of the found objects that catch Bardos’ eye are vintage jewelry, silver flatware, tape measures, dried plants and feathers. Among Fowler’s favorite finds are desiccated animal bones, throwaway produce crates and melted coins salvaged from a house fire.
Fowler is a Polk County native. After graduating from high school here, she and her husband, the poet Royal Fowler, lived up north for awhile, but eventually built a large farm in rural Polk County where her habit of collecting began. For many years Fowler worked days as a registered nurse, then came home to make art at night.
Now retired, Fowler lives in Tryon where she hammers, drills and paints art by daylight. Wrote a critic about a past exhibit at Wofford College, “There is nothing new, nothing fabricated for [Fowler’s] art. Instead, there is a common element of the discovery of new forms and combinations in old materials: two laurel roots become an eagle in its nest; a pine knot becomes a small blue heron.” Fowler is in art collections in Russia, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland, as well as the United States.
Bardos has lived in Saluda for more than 20 years in an historic Victorian cottage. For “Crossing the Line” she has created a new series of crosses of all shapes and sizes using found objects and wood, much of the latter donated by Packard Woodworks. She also picks up wood from old houses, flooring or along the street.
“Every piece has a story, a history, a patina of having lived many lives,” says Bardos about the wood forming the crosses. “I’m just adding another chapter, giving life to things that might be thrown out – and hopefully, wake people up to the art within us.”
Though inspired by Mexican crosses, Bardos’ crosses are notable for their different personalities invented by the artist. For example, “Josephine Dreamed of Painting” is a weathered wood cross embellished with a vintage paint brush stamped “Josephine,” a tiny compass and Native American beading. “Slingblade Blue Baby” is distinguished by a rusty blade found in a pasture and a tray from a town dump with blue paint still on it. “Blue and rust are beautiful to me,” says Bardos.
Bardos is well known for her landscape painting and, more recently, for fine sculpture. She is represented by Patricia Carlisle Fine Art in Santa Fe, NM and Skyuka Fine Art in Tryon. Her art has been collected by people across the United States, France and Mexico. She is a regularly featured columnist in the Tryon Daily Bulletin.
Bardos and Fowler have exhibited frequently at the Upstairs, but never in a two-person show until now. They will give an informal tour of their art during a regular “Walk & Talk,” scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 just before the opening reception at 5 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information contact 828-859-2828 or
– article submitted by Nancy Holmes

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