Bonny Leibowitz is a multimedia artist in Dallas, Texas, who identifies herself as a painter to reflect her passion for the media and its unique artistic practices. Though heavily based in textiles, Bonny uses unique fabrics by creating a canvas that adds dimension and form like paint strokes on a canvas. She collects these pieces of fabric online and through friends as each provides a narrative reflective of its purposeful design.
In her recent show with Liliana Bloch Gallery titled New Artifacts, dimensionality and material create a visual concert in capturing new ideas taken from a historical timeline. Using each space from the floor to the wall, materials like fabrics, oil clothes, polyfoam, paint and vinyl are weaved together to create these multimedia forms. Each piece has a unique relationship with the artist as she shapes and sews and molds the materials until their form comes to life. The textiles allude to cultural and social histories, rooted all over the world in its original creation. But the creation of these forms using the textiles are drawn from Bonny’s own memories, adding to their history as the timeline continues.
I like the idea of adding my hand to history, altering these materials to become new artifacts.
When did your relationship with art begin?
Some of my earliest memories are about art making. I believe I always felt that connection. My father designed textile patterns and did silk screening. My mother was a very good drawer and was really encouraging. There was a sense that exploring our skills was a natural part of life.
What artistic influences were you exposed to as a young artist that you would say helped shape or explore your work?
I lived in Philadelphia and then the suburbs and would take every chance possible to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and to New York for the Museums and galleries, as well.
I remember one professor taking us to his studio loft in New York. The experience really helped me envision my art life; it’s a picture I still identify with today.
Early on I was looking at people like Agnes Martin, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning. I still love these artists, along with many others. I was particularly drawn to handling of paint and materials; the directness.
You explore various media such as textiles, paint, and paper. Can you describe to me the importance of using these media in concert, and how you are able to celebrate their material potential in your work using form and color?
I’m fascinated by textiles from around the world and what they say about us, culturally and historically. I’ve been collecting and using some great vintage sarees from India, antique pieces from France, hand embroidered work from various tribal regions of China and boro cloth from Japan, to name a few, along with painted glossy and quilted vinyl, kitschy oil cloth, gingham and seersucker fabrics. I like the unexpected mix; old and new, handmade and manufactured. The materials reference both our reverence for the past, for ritual, for the handmade, the blending of cultures and history and the ever increasing drive for immediacy; like a historical timeline, happening all at once.
Equally, I love painting and paper so I layer the materials and processes. In some cases, I am photographing the textiles, printing the images on beautiful handmade papers, painting on top and sewing the same textiles photographed, onto the painted paper which might then be adhered to vinyl etc., on and on.
For the 3-D pieces, I sometimes use a foam substrate which I shape into a soft sculpture and combine with textiles and paint. In other cases, I stuff my painted oil cloth and collaged vinyl into forms by sewing them. These works either hang on the wall or sit on the floor.
How have your media and creative practices changed over time? Have you ever practiced other media that might have influenced your work?
I have used quite a few different mediums and processes over the years; pastels, oil paint, inks, encaustic, wood, foam, various papers, printmaking and bronze etc. I tend to work in a series so that the concept and mediums like paint, vinyl, vintage textiles and photography are in concert with one another. In the New Artifacts series, for instance, the concept of old and new, handmade and manufactured, elevated and crushed, is the driving force behind the relationships of objects. The two go hand in hand.
In an earlier series, Symbiosis, for instance, I pushed the concept of life as a continuum by collaging and transferring photographic elements; nature, biology and history; milkweed pods, mountains, banyan trees, Da Vinci’s drawing of the heart, Peter Paul Rubens’s “Massacre of the Innocents”, Bouguereau’s “The Birth of Venus”, oceans, fur and more, into my paintings. This series too, was an investigation of historical nature.
Your work explores boundaries on and off the wall. How do you establish those definitions of dimensionality? What challenges do you face in creating dimensionality in your work?
I’m interested in creating a sense of environment with the work, so that when you walk into a space, an exhibition of my work; it becomes a new reality. I want the objects to relate to one another; hanging or sitting around with one another and in conversation with the viewer as well. Hanging Bundle bounces off the wall, Small Monument folds in on itself, several small works dance about on the walls. I’m interested varying the size and shape of each work so they play off one another. I’m fortunate to have a studio space large enough to envision it as a total entity as I move along.
Mixing more traditional materials with ‘plastic’ materials is challenging. I think that’s a big part of what I love to do; problem solving, figuring out how to make materials, seemingly at odds with one another; attach, stand and hang.
What sort of research practices are crucial to you in your creative process?
Some of my work is based on memory, perhaps some of the New Artifacts concept is connected to my Father’s drapery and bedspread business but a very important yet mundane memory, in relation to my Mom, has been a big part of some of the shapes I’ve been using. I always remember the giant pile of clothes on the couch that needed to be folded. It seemed an impossible task to complete. Some of the shapes in my work feel like a pile of laundry. I like mixing that dynamic with the exquisitely cared for hand woven elements.
I’m doing a lot of reading about the history and making of the various textiles. I’m interested in how patterns, ritual and culture play a role in our identity, especially when placed in a new context. My intention is to research further, in libraries, factories and the shops of textile makers and to engage with other artists using textiles in their work, understanding their connection.
How does having a studio space aid in your research, and how would you describe your space as it relates to you and your narrative?
I love my studio space; it’s airy and bright. It’s about 700 square feet; large enough to spread out my materials and see them properly. I work on large tables for the most part and usually have a few pieces going at a time. When I moved into this larger space a few years ago, it had institutional looking blue carpeting. To my delight, when I pulled it up; there were tiles; pink and tan and really worn out underneath. The tones in the floor are very much the colors in my work.
What do you hope viewers take away in their experience of viewing your work?
While there is a cultural and historic depth to the work, I hope viewers will also connect to the joy, humor and visual excitement with titles such as Bundle Service, Spin Cycle, Picnic, Monument Pile, Hanging Bundle, Suburbia and Remnant. I’m hoping the connection to culture; various genres and the love of paint will invite a broader conversation surrounding the beauty of our differences and likenesses. I’d like to keep the dialogue going by creating a piece or pieces incorporating and documenting donated remnants from all over the world.
You have a show coming up at Liliana Bloch Gallery this summer. Can you share with me a little bit about what you will be exhibiting? I read it has an exploration of the attraction to deterioration and the mundane, and sounds very interesting!
I’ll be exhibiting The New Artifacts series at Liliana Bloch Gallery in Dallas, June 25th through July 23rd with an opening on the 25th from 6pm to 9pm. I’m really looking forward to seeing the work installed. Liliana has an amazing eye and always curates with great attention given to each individual work and the exhibition as a whole.
Last modified: July 15, 2016