Bonnie Zimmer

Learning to knit and sew as a child, Bonnie has been creating “baskets that hold ideas” since her early textile classes in undergraduate school where she majored in art with a fiber concentration. After her initial mastery of the loom, she was introduced to basketry as an art form by a new young professor who had just completed an MFA under Ed Rossbach, the father of contemporary basketry. And, having discovered her strong three-dimensional artistic inclinations, Bonnie knew she had found her ideal art form. Art basketry became her lifelong love and focus.

With a BFA in Textiles and BS in Art Education from Indiana University, Bonnie graduated with an extensive foundation in many textile processes, a love of natural forms and materials, and a deep appreciation for the legacy of indigenous makers. Bonnie made the decision to pursue a career as an art educator while making art whenever she could. She taught art in a wide range of art media at all levels for over 40 years, all the while “stealing” time to create and exhibit. Her initial focus on art baskets evolved to include fiber sculpture, and more recently installation art.

Over the years, she has received four Indiana Arts Commission Master Fellowships, and numerous awards for her art and her teaching. Bonnie recently retired as chair of a small college art department and now revels in the luxury of creating full time. She still attributes an assignment she received in honor of the first Earth Day: “Make a basket from materials someone threw away…” to instilling in her a love for including found objects and materials in her creations. Her work has always been informed and inspired by nature but has incorporated found objects as integral components for over three decades. The inspiration and direction of her work often grows directly from the objects and materials she harvests from her property, or “gifts” from family and friends. She loves this spontaneous approach to creating and is eager to see where her materials will next lead her– formally, technically, and conceptually.

 Artist Statement:

My work explores the bounty of my life, utilizing the materials I find in my immediate rural surroundings and the creative possibilities they hold for me. I love mining the sheds and fields of our rural property and my family’s nearby farm in northwest Indiana. Willow, corn husks, milkweed and sweet gum pods, various barks, wild turkey feathers, and much more are ample, sustainable, and beloved materials for me. Also, collecting discarded and random objects that cross my path provides serendipitous opportunities for conceptual and creative play, the initial stage of nearly all my work. Sketching, if any, usually follows my initial “sketch” directly with selected materials. I continue to develop each piece, following where the materials and my personal aesthetic lead me until it is fully developed.

The natural world has always been my primary muse and source of materials and forms to explore. I love to juxtapose natural materials with carefully selected found objects. Recently, I came across the term “reciprocity” and the idea that humans and nature can work together to mutually benefit each other. An epiphany, it seemed the perfect word to title my most recent works, and in hindsight, “reciprocity” describes my body of work combining natural and found materials. I see my work with fresh eyes as a unique collaboration between nature and humans (represented by found objects) with my creativity as the facilitator of “reciprocity”.

Technically, my work is firmly grounded in fiber and textile traditions. Stitching, lashing, coiling, twining, netting, weaving and more are incorporated as needed in my constructions. My work is continually informed by textile traditions and the history of basketry. It is also inspired by the art/objects and ideas of indigenous cultures such as Native Americans and the historic traditions of Sub-Saharan Africans, who revere nature and lived with-respect-for and in-harmony-with nature.

Conceptually, my pieces vary but a favorite theme is to honor “Gaia” or Mother Earth. Examples include a life-sized sculpture with a coiled, sweet corn husk bustier, with a major installation of natural materials surrounding her called “My Gaia”; “Totem for Gaia” sculpture, and “Crown for Gaia” wall piece.

Broadly, I like to think of my work as a visual metaphor for the possibility that all humans can live in harmony with nature, in a state of “reciprocity”.

Bonnie lives in an old farmhouse on 20 acres of woods and natural habitat in rural northwest Indiana with her husband, Bill. They have three grown children and six grandchildren. For more of her work, visit her website: Bonnie Zimmer Artist

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