Public Media Arts Hub

Republican who opposed 2020 election lies finds time for art after political career ends


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Amna Nawaz: Arizona Republican Rusty Bowers stepped into the national spotlight when he testified before Congress about refusing President Trump's requests to help overturn the 2020 election.

That stance cost Bowers his political career, but he has since found a silver lining. Now he has time to pursue his long love of art full-time.

Shana Fischer of Arizona PBS reports for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Shana Fischer: At 70 years old, Rusty Bowers is not looking to start a new chapter in his life, but rather continue an old one.

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers (R-AZ): I loved to doodle and draw in class in grade school.

Shana Fischer: Six months after losing the Republican primary to his Trump-backed opponent...

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers: And I'm thinking of this in the terms of politics.

Shana Fischer: ... the outspoken conservative is letting his art speak for him now.

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers: In the legislature, the contrast in time demand made it where I could rarely paint.

Shana Fischer: Growing up in Chino Valley, his mother sparked the creative fire inside of him when he was just 5. But, at the time, he says, she was just trying to keep him quiet in church.

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers: She would draw the girls like they're on Breck shampoo, and these beautifully coiffed. She'd draw and just out of her head, and then hand it to me and say, copy that. And I would sit and copy it. And wasn't much of a bother.


Shana Fischer: After winning a statewide art competition in high school, he enrolled in art school at Brigham Young University and graduated with a degree in watercolor.

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers: I'm not a modernist. I want a message. Just to do something and make it a design doesn't hold strength for me.

Shana Fischer: The walls of his studio are lined with watercolors and oils of places special to him, the view from his family ranch, a field in Utah, haystacks in Romania.

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers: I think it's kind of a combination of manmade geometry with God's geometry and how those juxtapose. The -- there is an organic symmetry in geometry and nature that I love to combine with buildings, barns, old homes, and also the geometry of trees.

I love that inspiration. And then, when the monsoons come to Arizona, with those gorgeous clouds, that's always a subject that I enjoy painting.

Shana Fischer: Along with painting, Bowers is an accomplished sculptor. His pieces can be seen all over Arizona.

He has several works in progress, including this privately commissioned bust of the late Democratic Senator Carl Hayden. It'll replace one that was stolen from the capitol grounds.

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers: Carl Hayden's dad saved my grandma's life.

Shana Fischer: His family has a deep connection to Hayden. It was the senator's father who saved Bowers' grandmother from drowning in the Salt River in Tempe after her horse buggy fell off Hayden's ferry.

Bowers says he will remain politically active, but is fairly adamant he won't run for office again, noting his paintbrush is just as powerful as the speaker's gavel.

Fmr. State Rep. Rusty Bowers: The values in art are what makes art good or bad. And it's the same with government.

If you know the values, and you know when to employ them and how to employ them, you will be able to make an impression.

Support Canvas

Sustain our coverage of culture, arts and literature.

Send Us Your Ideas
Let us know what you'd like to see on ArtsCanvas. Your thoughts and opinions matter.