Orchids on paper
Bonnie Steinsnyder is from Miami, Florida. She moved to Massachusetts to go to Smith College, then came to Queens College in New York for an MFA. The wonders of New York City and the active art scene appealed to her, so she stayed. Her luminous oil still lifes were selling out of a gallery in Great Neck. Her artwork began to move in the direction of social commentary where the still life objects represented aspects of the painting’s narrative.
Bonnie went to the Art Students’ League for a few years to improve the technical handling of the people in her paintings. The paintings were getting bigger, with multiple panels representing different parts of an urban narrative. Actual objects from the scene were incorporated into the frame of the piece. Bonnie’s works became like secular altarpieces, with different characters and “relics” from the narrative offered up for viewer contemplation.
Then the toxicity of solvents for oil paints became a problem (Bonnie got pregnant). Watercolors, which had previously been used for studies for the larger oils, became the artist’s primary method of expression. There was also a move away from social commentary and narrative towards focusing on the sheer joy of watercolor’s luminosity and of playing with the pigment in water. The transition painting was “The New York Orchid Show”, where the individual panels for the different types of orchids were abstractly intriguing and fascinated the artist without the need for a narrative. The orchids offer shape, pattern and space in endless variety; perfect subject matter to throw paint at.
Bonnie’s love of tropical plants goes back to her Miami roots: she loves the lush, saturated, density of color and foliage. She still sees narratives in the gestures and arrangements of the flowers, and gets out her desire to tell stories with titles for the paintings like “Family Portrait with Unruly Kids”, “Cheerleader Orchids”, and “Gotterdammerung Orchids”.
Bonnie Steinsnyder’s solo exhibitions include the Lasdon Park and Arboretum, Loring Gallery, MA, the Arsenal Gallery, NY and Rittenhouse Fine Art, PA. Collections include the Museum of the City of NY, Marsh and McLennan Securites, the Brooklyn Marriot, and many private collections. She currently teaches at the 92nd St Y and the West Side YMCA. She now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. Her studio is in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn.
I want to create beauty. My subjects are orchids; intrinsically lovely natural objects. I translate their beauty through watercolor on paper.
Manipulated paint creates intricate textures using salt, plastic wrap, razor blades and watercolor mediums. The illusion of form and atmosphere comes through flow and stroke of the brush and the handling of values from dilute or dense pigment. And while gravity is my enemy in most things, I can use it to sheet watercolor across an area of paper to paint without a brushstroke. All this fun paint manipulation creates a beautiful surface, yet while the paint handling is abstract, the painted orchids are read as naturalistic.
Orchids have an aggressive beauty. They can have wild color, pattern and shape, “pose” in gestures that stand in for social narratives. Or they can be a smooth edged, solitary, elegant form, perfect as a focus of meditation.
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