You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.
Alexandra Bowers stands on the back balcony of the north Scottsdale house she grew up in, a house that she moved back into after graduating from Arizona State University with an art degree in 2012. The house now serves as her studio and command station for her clothing and art brand Iron Root. She points out to the neighboring housing development behind the yard's fence.
"This all used to be expansive desert land when I was growing up and it's been paved over," she says. "It's kind of sad."
Walking into Eye Lounge last summer, you'd probably never guess that Bowers' intricate works of wood burning were driven by her family and childhood. Drawing inspiration from hiking, that empty desert behind her childhood home, and a coyote skull her boyfriend found in the desert, Bowers' work is an exploration of the bits of desert beauty that disappear with every new subdivision.
Back in her studio space, which she says her mother graciously lets her use, it's clear that family has a lot to do with her work. She started wood burning with a soldering iron bought on a trip with her dad to Home Depot (one of her favorite places), and the professional wood-burning kit that she now uses was a present jointly gifted to her from her mother and father.
Since then, Bowers has grown and experimented with wood burning. Now she works primarily with birch wood boxes assembled by local artist Tony Zeh. Her early pieces are beautiful, but it's obvious that she's progressed immensely in the six years she's been working with wood. With commissioned works from friends, art lovers, and boutique Frances, Bowers enjoys tailoring pieces to reflect people's passion in nature -- be it a sparrow or a sunflower, always in stunning detail.
While Bowers reluctantly has done her fair share of dog portraits, it's clear she's more interested in creating works that showcase the raw and sometimes macabre beauty of the Sonoran desert. She also makes plenty of small pieces for $50 and less because she loves the idea of art being affordable enough for anyone to own a piece that makes them happy.
Video by Evie Carpenter.
With just three tools, which achieve finer or thicker lines like different brushes for a painter, Bowers has taught herself techniques that employ use of negative space and texture. She says pieces typically take "hours and hours and hours and days and days," and she usually loses track of time in podcasts and audiobooks like her most recent listen, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.
She left her spot as an Eye Lounge member recently. Now Bowers is looking to challenge herself and step out of her comfort zone. She says she would like to show her work at Modified, Willo North, or the new Step Gallery in downtown Phoenix. Fans of her work can expect experimentation with geometric patterns and color to accompany her new pieces.
While Phoenix's art scene isn't as established as other large cities, Bowers says the Valley holds unparalleled opportunity for emerging artists in many other ways. She says that artists here have the chance to do something new, create communities, and even stumble without it ruining their careers.
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"There's so much potential for growth in Arizona," she says. "You really have the opportunity to do new things and stand out."
Artopia will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, April 25, at Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. See more at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.