Astrid Bowlby (MFA ’96) was attracted to PAFA because of its strong foundation in drawing from observation. “For me, everything begins with drawing,” says Bowlby. “I also like that PAFA emphasizes the private studio experience.” Bowlby’s work has taken shape in a variety of mediums over time- sculpture, painting, installation, printmaking -- all which she explored during her time at PAFA.
“I chose PAFA because it is the longest-running art school in the U.S. and emphasizes the figure and drawing from life,” says Bowlby. “Contemporary art bumps up against this rich tradition in which I was trained and to which I am philosophically connected, but have not adopted as my visual language. This wonderful tension creates the gap where I can make my work and be of my time, while drawing inspiration from a very deep well.”
Bowlby is a visiting critic in both the Certificate/BFA, and MFA programs at PAFA, and has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, as well as a Leeway Award for Excellence, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Since 1999, Bowlby has been represented by Gallery Joe in Philadelphia.
In 2013, Bowlby completed a residency at the University of Southern Maine, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She taught a class, donated a drawing to the institution’s permanent collection, and held an exhibition entitled Everything. The exhibition was a continuation of the room-sized, fantasy paper installations that Bowlby is known for, but with a twist: visitors were invited to make drawing requests. “This messed me up in a really great way. It really challenged me.” says Bowlby. “I was asked to draw many new things. Someone asked me to draw an elephant. I had never drawn an elephant before!”