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Jack Dowd Looks at Diversity and Individualism


"I try not to do anything normal. My sculpture is all the people I've ever met who are offbeat."

Jack Dowd


From New York City to Vermont to California to Florida -- Jack Dowd worked his way from a woodcarver to a folk artist to a fine artist. This long and happy journey put him face-to-face with the best of real life eccentrics. His insight into the human psyche has given him the ability to create a depth of character in his sculpture so profound that he is now considered one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. (left: Fountain of Youth, 1994, basswood with props, 71 x 96 x 38 inches)

Over the years, Jack Dowd has created an eclectic mix of ultra-realistic sculptures depicting the uniqueness of individuals. Often times, Dowd's focus on individualism is to such an extreme level that many of his characters could be considered oddballs by mainstream society. By replicating the nature of these characters and carefully selecting the pose, clothing and props, Dowd helps viewers take a close-up look at life, society and individualism.

Jack Dowd finds beauty down the back road of America in the unique, colorful individuals who reside just across the tracks from mainstream culture. Although Dowd admits humor is essential to his work, his creations convey a compassionate message touting the resiliency of the human spirit. Dowd has a big heart, and it is that quality of his work, a compassion for the underdog coupled with a certain faith in the humanity that mesmerizes the viewer.

Dowd's sculptures draw obvious connections to the Post World War II figurative sculptors George Segal, Duane Hanson and Ed Keinholz, artists who employed real-life props to enhance the reality and mood of their work. Dowd says, "[Hanson's] body molds were exceptional. And the idiosyncratic George Segal, who gave plaster sculpts real-life quality, although they were drab. I like to think of myself as being in the middle. Call me an idiosyncratic Hanson and a colorful Segal!" (left: Lucky, 1998, hydrocal, 24 x 16 x 16 inches)

While each of Dowd's sculptures reflects his distinctive style, his followers have learned to expect the extraordinary when attempting to anticipate his next subject matter. When asked about the inspiration for one of his motorcycle sculptures Dowd said, "No one does bikers" Dowd and his wife spent a week in Daytona Beach looking for the face of Mr. Any-biker. After finding the right face and taking plenty of photographs, Dowd returned to home to begin work.

Of his working process Dowd states, "First, an armature (metal skeleton) is made, then clay applied over that; a mold is made, and it's finished in resin." The studio is where the sculptures come to life from the first photographs to the final sculptures made of materials such as plastilene or basswood.

Often labeled as a caricature sculptor, Dowd sees his work in a much broader light. "I like to illuminate the human condition in my work, to glorify or celebrate the individual uniqueness of each subject. I'm very honest about what I see and what I'm portraying." Jack Dowd's work reflects the comedy, tragedy, truth, excitement and banality that make up the soul of diversity in America.

Quotes from Jack Dowd excerpted from Black Tie: Sarasota & Manatee's Good Life Magazine, 1997.


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