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Brian Dowdall


Brian Dowdall

Brian Dowdall was born Bernard "Bernie" Joseph Dowdall on February 12, 1948 in Anaconda, Montana. He was the oldest of seven children born into a large, first generation Irish-American, Catholic family. He attended Catholic schools K-12. His father, Joseph, was the city's only electrician, an active hobbyist, and Irish Limerick singer. Brian's mother Alice played semi-pro tennis and loved children, always wishing she had had more. As a young child growing up in the beautiful mountains of Montana, Brian formed a deep connection with nature and animals. But at age nine, he suffered a nervous breakdown, "Trying to fit all the sins into the rosary, I would lose count or track of types of sins and was frantic about everyone going to hell due to the strict nuns and priests."

After graduation, Dowdall left home. "I knew I was searching and hitchhiked to Haight-Asbury in 1966, ending up at Golden Gate Park and then traveling all over the country, gaining life's lessons all the way to NYC." Some experiences along his way were: commune living and farming; travel on a meditation yogi bus visiting spiritual ashrams; living in a village of Indians in a goat shed in Cerillos, New Mexico; learning to garden organically; working on a worm farm; tarring roofs; filling jelly doughnuts; becoming a maker of porcelain teeth; cherry picker; spending time in a gypsy commune and in an optional nudist community. Dowdall also lived in Mexico with his "all-time best friend" and fellow artist, Mark Perrin. He then settled down with his cats, and rented "the cave" in Florida's Cocoa Beach for 33 years. During that time Brian painted alongside many of the Southeast's folk masters including Mose Tolliver, Jimmy Lee Sudduth and traveled with the late artist, Purvis Young. Brian is best known for his cardboard and sand paintings of animal spirits, including: alligators, armadillos, possums, dogs, cats, and snakes. He sets each animal in a luminous field, or celebratory "aura" of color; his palette comes from "the sun, moon, fire, earth, trees, and water." Dowdall amassed over 2000 books on poetry, art, mythology, and Irish literature. Collectors of Brian's work include Van Morrison, Johnny and June Cash, Dave Brubeck, and actor John Glover. Brian Dowdall moved to Baltimore, MD in 2011 and lived in Charm City until his passing with his partner, artist Alison Spiesman.

"When I paint I use colors and animals and goddess images that are more loving than this world. These ancient energies of creation in animal spirits and the earlier ritual belief systems of the goddess or pagan belief systems are where I find inspiration. Very often I place animals and imaginary mermaids, goddesses, mythological characters or guardian angels together in my work that would not be true of the natural world. I want to show harmony. People tell me my work makes them happy." –Brian Dowdall

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