tions of friendship and civic duties before, finally, as does everything
in his life, circling back to art.
Step into the adjacent library and scan the volumes cramming the
shelves, titles that reflect Dowd’s wide range of interests and include
fiction, both contemporary and the classics, architecture, drama, biog-raphies, and poetry. Books about Emily Dickinson fill the larger part
of one shelf abutting a dozen books about Oscar Wilde. Two framed
photos of Dowd’s parents are prominently displayed. “Everything
goes back to my parents,” he says. He grew up in a home where education and art were valued, trips to museums ordinary occurrences that
impacted him deeply.
Move into the music room. The most prominent object is the
Steinway player piano, an instrument that when new cost more than
a house of the time. Dowd plays a Joplin rag from one of the scores
of music rolls that line the shelves above. The artist plays the piano
and “plays at” the violin and saxophone, but there is an assortment
of other instruments in the room, some as simple and inviting as cas-
tanets. “When there is a gathering and we start playing, I don’t want
anyone to feel excluded,” he says.
Other rooms on the main floor include a parlor and guest bedroom. Art fills the walls; furnishings are vintage and comfortable. A
narrow flight of stairs leads to the second story, where in addition to
a room for his housemate there is a master bedroom with a wide bed
curtained off and shouldered against the wall, suggesting a berth on
board a ship.
Finally, enter the artist’s studio, the laboratory of his life’s work.
It verges on austere: White walls, awash in the brilliant daylight
streaming through two windows, are bare except for a row of detailed
sketches pinned to one. There is a single easel. Propped against
another wall are a half-dozen canvases, a nocturnal series destined
for a summer show. Built on an intense layering of colors and a mastery
of light and its transformative power, these are the objects that draw