Andy Lowry’s been an 80s-era DIY punk. A creator of zines. She’s been a feminist, an activist, a student and a teacher.
An artistic creator for decades, just last year she added full-time artist to her collection of experiences, selling decoupage plates and trays under the moniker Why Girls Go Astray. Her work is unique and nostalgic, with images ranging from the 1850s to the 1890s. The phrenological breakdown of a man’s brain; lightening striking the Eiffel Tower; circus-performing twins. Her work teems with vintage appeal.
“The line work, color palate really appeals to me,” she says of using images from a bygone era.
As Lowry describes on her website, decoupage is the art of decorating surfaces permanently with paper cutouts that originated in 18th century Europe. It began as an imitation of hand-painted eastern laquerware – cheaper than Chinese and Japanese art but still only accessible to wealthy Europeans at the time. Decoupage is not something you see often, so Lowry’s work is so distinctive you can hardly help but stop to look.
Born and bred in the suburbs of Chicago, Lowry, 42, said it was easy to feel like the only “weirdo” with eccentric taste. It was her love of a particular music genre that changed her world. “I have to say that punk rock saved my life. Said it then, I’ll say it now … It changed my life forever.”
Lowry discovered the punk scene as a 13-year-old high school freshman and fell in love with the Ramones and the Dead Kennedys. She grew up making art and putting together zines in true DIY fashion, while forging the kinds of creative and political connections that still matter to her.
“I realized my circle of friends – how artistic we were. … It’s face-to-face connections with other artistic and political likeminded folks. Huge. That made a very deep impression on me,” she said, adding that she appreciates the anti-capitalist, ethical stance of the do-it-yourself culture. “I really love DIY today. I prefer to do it myself, if I can, from scratch.”
It’s that love of DIY and a sense of political and artistic community that continue to influence her work today.
Before her jump into the full-time art world, Lowry taught at Sacramento City College and previously at colleges in the southeast. The name Why Girls Go Astray came from her time as a Women’s Studies student at Emery University, when she was studying women’s exclusion from education in the early 20th century. She came across an article arguing that if women gained access to education, “the girls would go astray.”
“I thought to myself – one, that’s wrong, and two, I wanted to co-opt that phrase and use it to further my feminist endeavors. Take it and use it to destabilize the platform that it was originally advocating,” she said with a laugh.
Her passion for accessibility reflects her artistic philosophy, and her pieces typically range from $15 to $60.
“I really like the idea of being able to make something that looks gorgeous but is available to people who have a more moderate income.”
“The arts really helped me find my own path in life,” she said. “I want art to be … democratic. … Art for the people; open and for everybody.”
Lowry’s work is currently on display at Exhibit S in Downtown Plaza. Check out her work online at whygirlsgoastray.com or on Facebook.