This Board Game Art Exhibition Isn’t “SORRY”: A Review

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Micah Sanders, Staff Reporter/Writer

Milton “510” Bowens’ “Gaming The Vote” opened at the Warren-Brit Art Gallery in the Tullibody Fine Arts Center at Alabama State University on Monday, Oct. 12, and runs through Tuesday, Dec. 1. This exhibit displays 10 visually attractive art pieces with another eight pieces that are attached to the Arthur Britt Gallery at ASU. His mixed media paintings explore the world of politics, the voting rights act, and the systemic racism in America.

Bowen’s mixed media paintings are grouped on three adjacent walls with each painting’s dimensions differing in height but containing the same width of 40 inches. The canvases are arranged on the wall in a line within a well-lit environment. Visitors can socially distance themselves from each other while walking alongside the artwork for the full experience even amongst the pandemic.

Throughout every art piece, Bowen tried to connect the visuals together so that the overall message could be seen as a collective thought. The implementation of different board game names such as “SCRABBLE” & “MONOPOLY” really worked well with the messages depicted in the artwork and tied with the name of the exhibition very finely. “Actually, the 10 pieces make up one collective piece, divided into 10 parts that are all connected by the train tracks that run along the bottom of each one of the individual paintings,” Bowens said.

The nature of the project ranges from brightly colored and bold print to a more serious tone near the end of the exhibition. Each project comes with the thought-provoking message and contains different collages of images and figures that will immediately spark the viewer’s interests.

“My hope is that the content in the works, both the “Gaming The Vote” and the additional eight paintings on display, all address an issue that appears in the voting collection will spark contemplation, conversation and action for students to become more politically engaged and anyone who attends the exhibition for that matter,” Bowens said.

Stand Out Pieces

The painting titled “WE THE PEOPLE, LADY LIBERTY” depicts the origins of slavery in America. The transatlantic slave trade gathered millions of Africans from their homelands and forcibly made them work for free while enduring harsh brutality, rape and assimilation. The horrible atmosphere within the figure of the slave boat allows the viewers to focus more on the mistreatment of African Americans and the origin story from which they came to the Americas. With the inclusion of the brand Cotton and an image depicting a very skinny and frail African American man, this portrait expounds upon the contradiction of “liberty for all.”

The art piece named “LIFE” can be digested in different ways. Some viewers may think of the “Life” of African Americans and the struggles they face, while others may think of the many lives taken in order for blacks to vote. The writing within the canvas speaks upon the “real freedom” that comes from our true courage. With the many patterns, asymmetrical lines and contrasting colors, this piece stands out in its own rightful way.

Artist Background

Known as Milton Bowens in the eyes of the public, his artwork is signed as Milton 510. He is referred to as a Working Studio artist, Teaching Artists and Arts Activist. He studied at California College of the Arts, Fayetteville State, Austin Peay State University and Laney College. He has an associate degree in commercial art from the United States Army’s College Education Assistance program (A.C.E.). He is also a veteran for the United States Army, fifth special forces group, airborne Sergeant 3-5.

His inspiration for the “Gaming The Vote” exhibition comes from “the heroes of the civil rights movement who fought to secure the rights to vote for people of color.” He finds the artists of the pop art movement to be the most aspiring. Artists like Andy Warhol Jean and Michelle Basquiat are “hugely influential in his approach.”

When it comes to the completion of his pieces, his process is unusual. He usually works on multiple pieces at once. He worked the entire “Gaming The Vote” collection at the same time and it took approximately four months to actually paint them, but two months of targeted research to make sure the content he chose connected.

The art styles that he identifies with are mixed media and collage, although he has been classically trained as a studio fine artist and illustrator.

Bowens believes that artistry should be displayed more in colleges and universities, especially in HBCUs.

“Art since the beginning of time, since the cave drawing during prehistoric times, through the hieroglyphs of Egypt and during the great dynasties worldwide have sparked drastic changes in those time periods. Art has always been informative, once we understand art in its original intention, to communicate, it would seem to be obvious that it can be a very powerful tool to assist in the educational process,” the artist said.

With numerous accolades underneath his belt, Bowens continues to provide academically stimulating pieces through his unique perspective of the south and gives back to the community surrounding him. Once viewing this art exhibit, the viewer will be intrigued to do further research on the deeper messages attached to the paintings.