By Morgan Madison
Below, Recording Memory, painted found object on wood, by Bonnie Meltzer.
At the outset of our interview Bonnie warns that she has had a few cups of coffee and might be a little scattered, but to be honest it is quite remarkable that she keeps everything together with all she has going on. Self-described “Portland Open Studios yenta,” Bonnie fulfills a nurturing role as board member and the public relations coordinator. She also designs websites, writes and lectures on art and technology and the use of recycled materials in art and keeps a large garden. Somehow, in the midst of all this she has managed to become an accomplished “very mixed media artist” known for her social commentary and distinct use of recycled materials.
Bonnie was born in New Jersey “with a crochet hook in her hand” and her interest in textiles has remained a constant. It certainly reflects in the way she has woven her passions for art, technology and recycling throughout her life. A visit to her studio quickly reveals this. The large well-lit space just outside the garden in her backyard looks at first like a repository for old hardware that has been cast aside by the march of technology. There are rows of jars with nuts and bolts and snips of things, cans of paint and glue and stacks of keyboards and circuit boards. Immediately one can see her zest for recovering artifacts that would be bound for oblivion. But this is only the beginning.
From these disparate materials Bonnie creates colorful and wonderfully textured compositions. An ordinary bundle of computer wire in her hands becomes a dynamic crocheted textile. Found objects and paint give new life to old books. Maps and globes are layered with metal objects and photographs. More than just beautiful to look at though, the juxtaposition of different elements in Bonnie’s work creates a dialog about current social issues. And this is magnified by the rich irony that she uses the outdated detritus of technology to speak so loudly about timely topics.
In Workshirt, for example, she has created the classic form of a blue-collar uniform shirt out of wood and maps and covered it with the digital portraits of North Portland residents. The result is a wonderfully layered exploration of the working class past and changing present nature of her own neighborhood. It is, along with much of Bonnie’s work, a foundation for thinking about and exploring community, relationships and even politics.
With a visit to Bonnie Meltzer’s studio one can see first hand the intersection of art and life. Her dynamic and nurturing personality shines through her work. And the value that she places on social awareness and community involvement is apparent in her passion and the subject matter of her art work.
In addition to participating in Portland Open Studios 2008, Bonnie is showing The Altered Book Project, at Albina Community Bank in St. Johns through October 16th.
You can see more of Bonnie’s work at her website http://www.bonniemeltzer.com/.
To learn more about Portland Open Studios, please see http://www.portlandopenstudios.com/.