“I learned early on, that I was happiest when I was making stuff.”
Overcoming Struggles: How Christina Bothwell Found Her Way in the Art World
Christina Bothwell was born in New York City and spent her formative years just outside of Philadelphia. For over two and a half decades, she has resided in the picturesque rural landscapes of Pennsylvania. As the daughter of an artist, Bothwell’s childhood was steeped in creativity. Her mother, an art instructor, conducted drawing classes in their home, often featuring nude models. With limited access to toys, the young artist was encouraged to fashion her own playthings using materials found around the house.
The absence of a television in their home led Bothwell to immerse herself in the world of literature, constantly reading from a young age. This early love for storytelling allowed her to escape into the pages of books, while also fueling her passion for writing her own stories. Family outings often included long drives to discover used bookstores, while her father’s fascination with antique stores and ancient musical instruments filled their home with an eclectic collection of pianos, organs, recorders, and string instruments. This fusion of music and art played a crucial role in shaping Bothwell’s future career as an artist.
Bothwell’s artistic style can be characterized as surreal, figurative, ethereal, and dreamlike, often evoking a sense of unease. She primarily works with cast glass and ceramic materials. Her art delves into the belief that human beings are far more than just their physical forms, and explores the notion of a soul that connects everyone on a fundamental, yet indescribable level. By attempting to portray the essence of the soul and the concept of timeless existence, her work captures the ethereal nature of human experience.
From an early age, Bothwell discovered that her happiness was intrinsically linked to the process of creation. As a child, she would spend hours drawing on the floor, losing herself in the joy of artistic expression. As she entered her teenage years, art became a refuge, offering solace from the challenges that life presented. At the tender age of four, Bothwell confidently declared to her parents her ambition to become an artist, along with the whimsical desire to be a peacock. Today, she continues to channel her passion for creation into her striking and thought-provoking art.
Inspiration and Influences: Christina Bothwell’s Journey as an Artist
Upon completing high school, Christina Bothwell attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to study painting. After four years, she relocated to New York City with the intention of advancing her artistic career. However, her time in Manhattan did little to further her ambitions. Bothwell attended gallery openings in hopes of networking and connecting with fellow artists, yet found herself primarily encountering older male curators with inappropriate intentions.
Despite six years of struggling to make headway in securing gallery representation, Bothwell eventually found support through the Philadelphia-based organization, Creative Artist Network (now known as the Center for Emerging Visual Artists or CEVA). Founded by the visionary Felicity Benoliel, this organization aimed to uplift and promote emerging artists like Bothwell, providing them with opportunities for growth.
Through her affiliation with this group, Bothwell’s confidence blossomed. She began sending her work to various galleries in New York City and ultimately secured representation by a Soho gallery, which offered her a solo exhibition. On the eve of her show’s opening, actress Demi Moore happened to be scouting for film locations in the area and, upon seeing Bothwell’s artwork through the gallery window, purchased the majority of her pieces. This serendipitous encounter marked a turning point in Bothwell’s career.
Currently, the artist is in the process of completing a body of work for an upcoming exhibition. She eagerly anticipates finishing this collection, as she plans to create a series of figures that embody their dream lives, with dioramas visible within their abdomens through hinged doors. Bothwell has been inspired by her mother’s struggle with dementia, which has led her to become the “memory holder” for her mother, recounting stories of people and events that have been forgotten. The artist finds the concept of memory, both remembered and forgotten, fascinating and aims to explore this theme through a series of “Memory Holders.”
Creating Art in Spacious Studios: A Look into Christina Bothwell’s Creative Process
Throughout her artistic journey, Christina Bothwell has drawn inspiration from numerous sources. Her mother played a pivotal role in fostering her love for art by teaching her how to draw and providing her with unlimited access to art materials. Instead of traditional bedtime stories, they would peruse art books, inventing narratives about the paintings they discovered.
Will Barnet, a renowned painter, not only served as Bothwell’s mentor during her time at art school but also remained a dear friend for thirty years until his passing at the age of 101. His guidance encompassed various aspects of her career, from work and composition to managing relationships with galleries. Barnet’s unwavering belief in Bothwell’s talent had a profound impact on her development as an artist.
In addition to Barnet, jazz singer Bob Dorough influenced Bothwell significantly through his music. His idiosyncratic and unique style taught her the importance of embracing one’s individuality as an artist, providing her with the courage to wholeheartedly pursue her artistic vision.
Lastly, the ceramic sculptures of Daisy Youngblood served as a catalyst for Bothwell’s transition from painting to sculpture. The powerful emotions evoked by Youngblood’s work inspired Bothwell to create pieces that could elicit similar feelings in others.
One of Bothwell’s most cherished series depicts a person’s soul rising from their sleeping body. This concept resonates deeply with her, as it was inspired by her own out-of-body experiences during the sleep-deprived early days of motherhood. In this unique state, she would often find herself in different realms, encountering deceased loved ones and spiritual guides. These profound experiences cemented her belief in the continuity of consciousness beyond the physical body.
In one such experience, Bothwell encountered a man who predicted that she would give birth within a year. This prophecy came true when, at the age of 44, she discovered that she was pregnant. Prior to learning about her pregnancy, she experienced another lucid, out-of-body dream where she met an elderly couple who claimed they would be reborn as her twins. Intriguingly, after the birth of her twins, their personalities aligned with the couple she had encountered in her dream.
Exploring the Ethereal: Christina Bothwell’s Unique Medium of Glass and Ceramics
Easily prone to distraction, Christina Bothwell finds it challenging to work in the small sunroom of her house when her children are present. Their squabbles, requests for food, and conversations inadvertently disrupt her focus. To overcome this, Bothwell has established a spacious studio up the hill, which houses a designated room for sculpting ceramics, painting surfaces with oil paints, and assembling various sections of her artworks.
Additionally, the studio features a separate wet room, where Bothwell employs air-powered tools to grind and polish the glass pieces after they emerge from the kiln. The main area of the studio accommodates plaster/silica mold creation around her wax sculptures, the wax-steaming process, and the careful removal of molds from fired pieces. This expansive workspace also contains her glass and ceramic kilns, raw glass materials, air compressors, and essential worktables and tools. During the summer, Bothwell enjoys working outdoors, grinding and polishing glass on a picnic table set up near a water hose.
Initially trained as a classical figurative painter, Bothwell’s journey as an artist took a different turn a decade after completing art school. Upon discovering a ceramic kiln at an auction, she spent several years working with pit-fired raku clay, and still incorporates ceramics into her creations. Her foray into glass artistry happened by chance when she enrolled in a week-long workshop at the Corning Museum of Glass for a change of pace. Captivated by the unique potential and light-transmitting properties of glass, Bothwell found it to be the ideal medium to articulate non-physical realms, ultimately committing to it as her primary artistic medium.