What comes to mind when I mention “recycled art?” If you had asked me that question a few months ago, I would have said, “Giant pieces of rusty metal.” But then I met Deane Valentine Bowers. She transforms trash into colorful symbols of coastal Carolina charm. Her environmental folk art is a vibrant mix of materials that come together in an intricate feast for the eyes. If you have a piece of her work in your home, you’ll notice something new about it every time you look.
Deane walks the Charleston streets and lowcountry beaches, collecting items to be reused. Her art incorporates metal, wood, paper, and cardboard. Her process often starts with a collage made from magazines, catalogs, or other paper. The collage is adhered to cardboard or wood, then metal scraps and other embellishments are added and painted. Each finished piece is like a scavenger hunt where you can find bottle caps, soda tabs, nuts & bolts, or part of a soup can. This could be the reason children are especially fond of her work! When Deane talks about the source of her materials, she draws attention to the littering that happens along our precious coastline. Her work is a reminder to preserve and protect the beauty of the lowcountry.
While she was a stay-at-home mom, Deane discovered her talent for eco-friendly art entirely by accident. Nearly fifteen years ago, she took a trip to the Outer Banks with a friend and their kids. A rainy day led to an impromptu trip to the fabric store. They bought fabric for the kids to play with, thinking a fashion show would entertain everyone. While the kids designed their homemade fashions, Deane began to create with whatever bric-a-brac she could find. As she worked, her friend remarked on how Deane was overflowing with joy and laughter. They knew she had stumbled upon something that brought her great pleasure. “It happened so organically,” says Deane, who discovered a new passion that day. Now that she has raised her children, her art is helping her turn the page to a new chapter in her life.
If you ask Deane to tell the story behind each piece of her work, you’ll recognize a theme. “Every piece has its imperfections…like me,” says Deane. She takes the broken, dirty, and discarded, and gives it new beauty, life, and purpose. Her art is about second chances and hope for the future. She incorporates American flags and features churches to remind us of the strength of our communities following both 9/11 and the Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooting. She has donated several pieces to hospitals because her greatest desire is for her art to lift people up and give them a smile. Deane’s creations also reflect the the history of Charleston and the beautiful surroundings of her home in nearby Seabrook Island, SC.
Folk art brings us back to a simpler time, and Deane feels right at home there. She isn’t simply selling art, but aims to find each piece a new home, and values relationships with her customers. You can find Deane and her work at art shows in places like Charlottesville, Richmond, Nashville, Charleston, and Savannah. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Visit her website here. Her designs are always sure to brighten your day!