Get to know visiting artist Bonnie Lebesch as she answers our artist questionnaire below. Her solo exhibition, The Love Letters, will be on view February 9 – March 22, 2018 in Artworks’ south gallery.
Please provide a brief biography.
I’ve lived in 4 time zones, 9 states, and as an adult have moved over 28 times. Born in Milwaukee, 4th of 6 kids, I lived in the Midwest until I graduated from the University of Illinois (Graphic Design and Photography), then moved to Boulder because I love the mountains and big sky! From there I lived in New York City while I attended New York University (Video Art Installation). When NYC started wearing thin, I heard the call to move 3,000 miles west to Seattle, where I had a successful career as an artist and designer in the high-tech industry. I also craved more of an art career- so I slowly moved away from the corporate gigs and into teaching technology (Art and Design, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA). My life was turned upside down when I encountered a major illness, so I’ve turned fully towards fine art since 2006. I now live, work, and play in Fort Collins.
Can you explain your work in 200 words or less?
I’ve recently learned two things about my studio practice. I am now giving myself permission to just push paint around because I love the tactile sense of paint and working with color. I’m also a scientist – I love to experiment and play and to be surprised with the results. It means I create a lot of not-so-great work, but I also happen upon things that I could not have imagined had I set out to do it. After a long career of pixel-poking, I’m not inclined to be meticulous or perfect in the studio.
I do, however, strive to find a balance in compositions. In abstract work it can be hard to find the stopping point, but I always know when I’ve reached it.
I’m also very interested in alternative/eastern philosophy/spirituality and that informs my life and work. I don’t follow a prescribed path; I’m more interested in carving out a new one. A friend once said to me, “Bonnie I don’t think you are capable of doing anything orthodox!” The Love Letters series is both a personal journey and a break from traditional technique.
Name three artists who influence your work.
It’s always changing. I’m currently in love with the paintings by Sue McNally. She uses painterly techniques in landscapes that I more often see in abstract work, and it’s more exciting to encounter both paint and landscapes in this way. I love the work of Judy Pfaff. The way she uses found object is both amusing and mid-bogglingly well done from a compositional point of view. I’m also fascinated with the work of Hilma af Klint. Her work and life were so intertwined spiritually, yet none of her contemporaries knew what she was up to. She was so confident that she did the work in secret, producing a huge body of work that predates other abstractionists, and wow, they are gorgeous, mysterious pieces that speak some other-worldly language.
When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?
Want? Always. But when I was younger I didn’t have anything to say. I went into design so I could solve problems with my skills. Eventually I found my voice, and I could no longer put my artwork second.
What is your favorite accomplishment of your career?
I accomplished a lot in my design career that probably outweighs my art career so far – but I’m very proud of the Love Letter paintings. It is a significant body of work both as a personal achievement and that it includes over forty paintings, many very large. This body of work took me by surprise and held my focus until it was complete. Painting is way harder than design.
What other jobs have you had besides art?
I did work for Microsoft from 1992 to 2006 as an interface designer, was an art director at Adobe Systems, designed interactive exhibits for the Personal Computer Exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque, and taught computer art and design technology at Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, and Western Washington University. I’ve also published a children’s interactive musical cd-rom and iPad app.
When you are not creating, what are you spending your time doing?
Walking, reading, seeing, socializing, playing tai chi, eating good healthy food, anything that makes me feel good. My boyfriend and I take road trips throughout CO, NM, UT, WY, and AZ to hike through gorgeous landscapes.
Do you have a dream project? What would you create if money and space were guaranteed?
I’ve always dreamt of having a building with gallery, studio, and event space downstairs and living space upstairs, surrounded by gardens and natural landscape, with a sweeping view of mountains or ocean.
What is your favorite thing about the arts culture in Colorado?
The artist community here has integrity and is supportive of each other, because community is important to them, not just making great art. There’s a lot of the wild west here.
What is on your agenda for the coming year?
I’m taking a studio in a group building and plan to host salons and workshops from there. My newest body of work is called Evolution-Revolution! which involves a lot of play and pushing past my ideas of what art is supposed to be, what skills an artist is supposed to have, what mediums an artist is supposed to use. My tai chi teacher would say “Simple, but not easy.”
Mark your calendars for the following special events associated with Bonnie’s exhibition. All events are free and open to the public.
- Opening Reception: Friday, February 9, 6-9 PM
- Painting Demo: Saturday, February 24, 1-2:30 PM
- Closing Reception: Thursday, March 22, 6-8 PM