EMAiL Bill Bowers


A QAR EXCLUSIVE by Lionel A. Biron

If you require an introduction to Bill Bowers art you must not have been paying much attention to the underground gay art scene during the past 30 years. I first met Billy in 1978 when he had a joint show with Douglas Farmer at Robert Opel's San Francisco Fey Way Studios where he exhibited a soft sculpture mummy pillow reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg's works in the '60s, and assemblages constructed from 'modified found objects' to use the language of Marcel Duchamp.

His work has never stopped to amaze and challenge, whether it's his photographic images, art-wear, wall hangings or assemblages. Whatever the art form, Bill Bowers' expression -- like his own personality -- is never pretentious and usually operates below the radar of so-called serious art that all too often reflects more angst than talent. Bowers' creations are fundamentally joyful and playful and always rigorously artful.

To have clothing accepted as an art form is no easy task, but Bill Bowers succeeded in doing just that with the help of Mark Phillips who has collaborated with Billy since the early '70s converting the flat pieces into wearable clothing that could survive the grueling stage performances of the likes of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. A fashion designer for the leading rock stars like Alice Cooper, Led Zepplin, and the Rolling Stones, Bowers' Art-Wear creations have received due recognition by their inclusion in the permanent costume collections of the Smithsonian in the '70s and the Oakland Museum of California in 2006.

His Art-Wear, documented in articles that originally appeared in L'Uomo Vogue and City magazine, are reproduced here. A selection of photos of Bill Bowers by Wendy Mukluk also is included. Wendy documented the Mukluk family, of which Billy is a member, in a recent QAR Gallery where a few more photos of Billy are available. Incidentally, Wendy Mukluk is a trained photographer who exhibited at Harvey Milk's Castro Street camera store in August 1974.

After 20 years of focusing on his photography, Bill Bowers returned to his Art-Wear in 2002 and once again began creating jackets which the well-known photographer Daniel Nicoletta documented in a 2006 photo shoot featured here. Coincidently, Daniel Nicoletta was also associated with Harvey Milk and his camera store. In recent years, Dan has led successful drives for Milk's Castro St. Memorial and City Hall bust.

As an active member of the Cockettes, the Angels of Light and the Mukluk family commune, Bill Bowers was at the center of the energy that created the magic of that time and which continues to live through Billy and his art. What we have here transcends the vision of an individual artist and embodies nothing less than the free wheeling hippie spirit of San Francisco in the 1970s.

What is more amazing is that Bill Bowers has maintained untarnished this vision as few have done. I visited him in early June 2007 at his home which he shares with his longtime friend Bruce Norman, aka Snappy, whom you can find in the 70s photos wearing Billy's creations. On the art-filled walls of their apartment, Billy pointed out two magnificent large hangings he had recently completed: 'Tahara in China' and 'Anna Nicole's Life.' On that day, he was busy at work on a new Cockettes wall hanging for Rumi Missabu of Cockettes fame for a scheduled show this fall in Norway. Then there was the book jacket collage he had just completed for the autobiography of Adrian Brooks of the Angels of Light to be published in October 2007 and included here. I think you get the picture.

To provide a more comprehensive view of this artistic dynamo, two small galleries featuring his wall hangings and photography and a selected list of his exhibitions including his most recent show curated by Eric Schum (a model for Daniel Nicoletta's Art-Wear photos) and Rumi Missabu are also included.

To all of you who helped with the preparation of this gallery and who will remain nameless, lest I forget one of you, my sincere thanks.

ENTER                                                                                  June 20, 2007  

NOTE: Bill Bowwers art-wear jackets are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian in Washington and in the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) where three of his jackets are catalogued online at: