Len Cowgill doesn’t say much about himself. On his website you will find this biography - “In my life I’ve had many jobs, but I’ve always been an artist.” His artwork, however speaks volumes. Cowgill is a storyteller who makes words part of every piece – and every surface. He meticulously draws people capturing the facial and physical gestures with small dots and lines and then surrounds the figure with handwritten text. He places the drawings in various containers that are an important element of his art. This combination gives the work an emotional impact that belie their size or monochromatic nature.
As Cowgill says: “My work is about containment. I explore some facet of the human condition and box it or put it in a bottle. I create a stage for the drawing and invite the audience to get close, look at and touch it. Sometimes the drawings are in the form of puppets and the viewer may tug the strings and make them jump. I put music boxes that the viewer can crank on some pieces, or I'll mount the drawing on a turntable so it will spin. The important part is that the experience is shared, that a story has been told...perhaps not the story I had in mind.”
There is a sensitivity in each of his Bottled Drawings of the children that tugs at us. We love them immediately. Exquisitely rendered and emotionally full, we recognize these kids … We’ve been there. Recently, Cowgill has added adults to his cadre of subjects. These pieces are larger, more about doing, more weighted, as is clearly portrayed in “Alice.” Another addition is “67 Disguises” with its push-pull of size, placement and people, we are transfixed as to how Cowgill can evoke so many emotions with dots and dashes.
The work in this exhibit provides us with a look into an artist compelled to create.
To conclude Cowgill’s biographical statement: “I live and work at the Tamarack Gallery in Omena, Michigan; you are welcome to come visit.” In the meantime we can spend time with those who people his world. Recently, Cowgill has had several exhibits of his work in Chicago and Michigan, getting well-deserved recognition.