July 12, 2011

Fall 2011 exhibition, Bonnie Bronson Fellows: 20 Years

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Bonnie Bronson Fund, this exhibition debuts new work by the Bonnie Bronson Fellows, some of the Pacific Northwest’s most influential contemporary artists.

The Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College will debut a major collection of new art from some of the Pacific Northwest’s most influential contemporary artists in September 2011. The exhibition will feature the work of 20 past fellows of the Bonnie Bronson Fund, including Christine Bourdette, Marie Watt, MK Guth, and Kristy Edmunds. It is the first such gallery event to bring these artists together in one exhibition.

The Lewis & Clark exhibition is the centerpiece of a multi-part tribute to the legacy of Bonnie Bronson, a powerful force in the regional art community who died in a climbing accident in 1990. Other exhibitions will include a collection of works by 2010 Fellow David Eckard at Marylhurst University, an exhibition of Bonnie Bronson’s work at PNCA, and, at Reed College, a walking tour of the college’s collection of works purchased from each past Bonnie Bronson Fellow.

Hoffman Gallery director Linda Tesner said the exhibition of new and retrospective work will offer art enthusiasts a rare look at the progression of artistry in the Pacific Northwest.

“No art or artist exists in a vacuum; the way art history scholarship evolves is through the examination of work over time,” Tesner said. “Examining regional trends over an extended period, or an artist’s work over decades, is a way of ascertaining how the visual art intersects and overlaps other cultural signifiers—politics, literature, and popular culture.” 

Tesner said art enthusiasts and historians will be particularly interested in the catalog component of the Bonnie Bronson Fellows: 20 Years project because it will create a snapshot of a piece of Oregon art history.

Honoring Bonnie Bronson’s legacy

Bonnie Bronson (1940-1990) was an important sculptor and member of the Pacific Northwest arts community. Bronson’s accomplishments included enamel on steel sculpture, welded and painted steel collages, painting and fabric design, as well as video production, and gardening as an art form.

As a young female sculptor working with heavy metals, Bronson was a pioneer in her field, working with materials and using typically male-dominated industrial processes. Professional colleagues, friends, and family felt her impact on the art world should be measured by how it opened new territory for other artists.

As a result, following Bronson’s passing and in celebration of her life and career, her family and friends established the Bonnie Bronson Fund. Since 1992, the Fund has awarded an annual fellowship to a regional artist.

Lewis & Clark Hoffman Gallery director Linda Tesner said the Fund not only recognizes outstanding artists making significant contributions to the Pacific Northwest cultural scene, but artists who are committed to arts education in the community.

“Each fellow has been selected because of their dedication to their studio practice and some commitment on their part to give back to the community,” Tesner said. “For many fellows, this means that they are teachers. It is virtually a given that the life of a teacher is incompatible with a studio practice—still, these artists make the Herculean accomplishment of being dedicated teachers as well as pursuing their creative impulses with great commitment to their own artistic growth.”

An invaluable asset to the Pacific Northwest art community

The prestige, longevity, and origin of the Bonnie Bronson Fund fellowship program make it a rare and notable asset in the Pacific Northwest artistic community, according to Tesner.

The exhibitions throughout Portland this fall will deepen the community’s awareness of Bronson’s important legacy and the role of the Fellows in shaping contemporary art.

“The program is somewhat unique in the Pacific Northwest,” Tesner said. “It’s not under the auspices of any museum or other arts authority. In a way, it is more of a grassroots initiative, established because Bonnie Bronson was such a beloved artist, and now in its 20th year the momentum generated after her death just keeps gathering.”

“Collectively, the catalog and concurrent exhibitions at these major Portland arts venues will highlight significant contemporary artists of our region and tell the story of how an important regional collection has been built,” said Christine Bourdette, the first Bronson Fellow and current chair of the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship. “This is a compelling chapter in the history of Pacific Northwest visual art.”

Learn more about the Hoffman Gallery exhibition and affiliated exhibitions taking place around Portland in the fall of 2011.