Pins, balls, alleys, strikes … and art?

A strange combination of art and bowling actually works

“Meat Pins” by Bart McCoy.

“Meat Pins” by Bart McCoy.

When bowlers survey that configuration of pins at the end of the lane, they see challenge and opportunity and feel, perhaps, a bit of a thrill. At least, I guess they do. I’m no bowler. When I see bowling pins, I see a bunch of funky, long-necked, big-hipped objects that I cannot possibly knock down in one fell swoop.

But when some people see bowling pins, they see art waiting to happen.

Welcome to The Art of Bowling, an art exhibit and auction that celebrates the 2001 American Bowling Congress Championships. The exhibit is headquartered at, and it’s here that the bidding takes place, but select pieces of the exhibit can be found around town at locations such as The River Gallery, Internet Café and The National Bowling Stadium.

Visit the Web site, and you’ll be able to browse 24 pages of bowling art. If you think your dining room is missing, say, a bowling pin lamp or a Dolly Parton pin, you can place your bid. By clicking on the thumbnail photo of each piece of art, you can view the photo at a larger size, read the artist’s statement about his or her work and find out the minimum bid (most are $25-$75).

The Art of Bowling, which is presented by Internet Café and hosted by the American Bowling Congress and VSA arts of Nevada, is for a good cause, too; proceeds benefit VSA arts programs for disadvantaged, disabled and at-risk children and adults.

But what does bowling art look like?

Surf the site, and you’ll see that the artworks, almost all of which are made from bowling pins, are surprisingly diverse. Some of the artists use the pins as canvasses and paint scenes on the pins; others use the pins to create works that look a bit more like sculpture. Much of it is funny, and some of it is pure kitsch, but there are some traditionally elegant pieces as well.

Kathleen Schopper-Cranmer’s bowling pin pairs are more on the traditionally lovely side, especially a two-pin set titled “Free Spirit.” Each of these two pins displays a shadowy female figure dancing in the night. Had Van Gogh been into bowling, I’ve no doubt that he would have made pins like these.

While I would probably rather purchase one of these more “serious” pieces of art, some of the satirical, kitschy pieces are really quite charming. For instance, Bart McCoy’s “Meat Pins” bear an unsettling resemblance to hammocks. Just the gift for that special vegetarian in your life.

I also chuckled heartily over Dennis Rexrode and M. Christina Schlosser’s “Pin-Ultimate Pun” series. There’s the “Pin Cushion,” the “Pin Wheel” and my favorite, the “Safety Pin,” a pin decorated in yellow caution tape and other devices of warning.

There are “celebrity pins,” too: Gloria Rosenbaum and Tina Tyrrell have created a wildly glamorous Dolly Parton and Marilyn Monroe, as well as a charming Laurel and Hardy. None of these pins look especially like their namesakes, but I suppose there’s only so much one can do with a bowling pin head. And, for those who prefer the scrawl of their favorite celeb to the artsy stuff, there are also pins signed by celebrities such as Bob Newhart, Jay Leno, Don Johnson, Rosie O’Donnell and Kenny Rogers.

So maybe you love to bowl. Or maybe, like me, you can throw a really mean gutter ball. Either way, check out The Art of Bowling. You don’t have to put on those smelly bowling shoes to appreciate this art—you just have to have to have a sense of humor, a penchant for the unique and a hankering to help out a good cause.