Just in time for Halloween, Chase Bowmanâ€™s delightfully creepy â€śLadiesâ€™ Auxiliaryâ€ť drawings are hung up for viewing and purchase at Given in the Castro through Nov. 22. â€śI think I was chosen because my work is kind of in the spirit of Halloween,â€ť Bowman told me. They are all pictures of disturbing, hair-raising ladies from the late Victorian/early Edwardian period. I use the term â€śhair-raisingâ€ť because the hairdos are â€śscare-dosâ€ť â€“ completely taking over each scene with their evil, gnarly growth and serpent-like entwining. Bowman said he was inspired by old fashioned cabinet cards, daguerreotypes, and tintypes. His bizarre portraits express his weird fictionalized fantasy world of kooky, oddball women in Lawrence, Kansas (Bowmanâ€™s birthplace) during the late 19th/early 20th century. â€śThey are essentially little ghost stories,â€ť he said. When people see Bowman, they do not think of him as gothic â€“ especially when wearing his floral print cowboy shirts. But when he does his work, he goes to the dark humor side.
His technique is basically pen and ink, but he adds other elements depending on the drawing - ranging from watercolor to acrylics, from collage to stamps, and from spilled coffee to typed up, torn up sheets of paper.
The first piece on the left was his first piece made in the series. â€śPretty Sarahâ€ť happens to have three eyes and two noses, one of which is bleeding. Next is â€śImagine Vacations Never Undertaken,â€ť with stamps indicating the two-headed woman has received postcards from others possibly saying â€śWish you were here,â€ť but she never gets there, because sheâ€™s stuck in Kansas. â€śGeorgia Thoms, Suffragetteâ€ť is ready to fight for womenâ€™s right to vote. â€śMiss Emily Spencer, Piano Teacherâ€ť is sadly without arms or legs, so it might be difficult for her to play the piano. â€śItâ€™s kind of a visual joke,â€ť Bowman told me. The lines in the background represent musical scales.
His centerpiece, â€śWomenâ€™s Basketball Team in Lawrence, Kansas 1904,â€ť stretches several panels. â€śI didnâ€™t know that women had basketball teams back then,â€ť he said. He found a picture of a team and then went from there with his eerie reinterpretation. For instance, one of the ladiesâ€™ heads is just a skull; another is a pair of ladies attached at the head; one of them might actually be a man; another wears a gasmask; and one has obvious tumors and might slightly resemble elderly Sen. John McCain (at least in my demented mind). Next is â€śEdith Swensdottir, Spinsterâ€ť with what Bowman calls â€śman-feelersâ€ť coming out of her head, on the prowl for a mate. â€śLouise Cooper, Librarianâ€ť has stamps on her eyes, cruelly taking away her vision, which would be necessary for a librarian. â€śIâ€™m a little sadistic,â€ť Bowman confessed.
â€śEroticismâ€ť is about the one woman in town who has no shame â€“ a harem girl chasing the dragon (smoking opium). â€śShe has a big giant hairdo and a big giant bush,â€ť Bowman noted. â€śDorothy Galeâ€ť is the favorite girl in Kansas from The Wizard of Oz, except she had to die and just be a skull on a body.
Bowman told me a bit about himself. He is 28 years old. He went to the Cleveland Institute of Art and the San Francisco Art Institute and also studied abroad. His father is a coalminer (does that make him a Coalminerâ€™s Daughter?!) and his mother is a housewife. He comes from a town of 200 people, so he easily relates to his â€śLadies Auxiliary.â€ť He moved to SF from Cleveland in 2003. â€śI love San Francisco and all it has to offer, but Iâ€™ll never NOT be a West Virginian,â€ť he said. His day job is working with special ed children. His philosophy on life: â€śDonâ€™t die â€“ until youâ€™ve done something.â€ť He said, â€śThe more you laugh at the bad stuff, the better off you will be; because the worst stuff that could possibly happen to you is usually the funniest stuff, if you look hard enough.â€ť
Go get your creep on, and be scared to death at â€śLadiesâ€™ Auxiliaryâ€ť at Given, 575 Castro Street. Boo!