Jodi Bonassi’s Solo Exhibition Soars at MOAH Cedar
MOAH Cedar, Lancaster
THrough March 13, 2022
Written by Genie Davis
What gives art wings – a dazzling use of palette, motion filled forms, a captivating emotional pull? Jodi Bonassi’s splendid Bird by Bird offers all these things, along with intricate and precise depictions of real wings – those of many different, multi-colored birds.
As literal as it is magical, Bird by Bird offers a phenomenal, winged splash of color flying across the art landscape. Perfectly rendered and exquisitely layered images of birds, some impressively large, feature a vivid color palette and a delicate technique that makes each individual feather an exercise in perfection. Painted on canvas, paper, and even playing cards – as well as on shopping bags, some of which are available for sale in MOAH’s main gallery gift shop – the birds are a tribute to freedom, nature, love, and meditative, patient reflection.
As impressively crafted as they are beautiful, the artist’s mixed media works, such as the dazzling “Seraphine,” massive on a 60 x 48 canvas, feel highly spiritual. Bonassi describes this specific image as a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, “a celestial being… an angel of the highest order.” Smaller but equally perfect works such as “Reflections of The Prairie Warbler,” mixed media on archival paper (11 x 15.5), are no less stunning in their careful depiction.
Some images range on the mystical, as is the case with “Golden Pheasant in The Garden of Wishes,” in which the pheasant is placed with a dragonfly-like spoonwing, or “Whistling Duck and the Gatekeeper’s Dance,” with the gatekeeper – presumably to another, higher realm – being a butterfly. Birds and other winged beings as beautiful as these should make your heart sing, and they do.
“Noble Heart’s Passion and Redemption” is equally beautiful, with 2 goldfinch “kissing” in a poplar tree, but Bonassi explains that the work has a deeper narrative message that “combines love [with] the dark racial history in the south.” The poplar was once considered a “blood tree,” used for brutal lynching. The redemption comes from the birds, and a power superseding man’s racism and cruelty.
And then there is humble chicken, “Miss Molly Chicken,” to be exact. Lovingly, meticulously created, Miss Molly is elegant here, a proud and spirited personality.
Bonassi has, to a large extent, created a body of work with the detail, charm, and realism of any master painter from past eras, such as 16th century artist Albrecht Dürer with his adorable “Little Owl,” or more well known, James Audubon in the 19th with his “Birds of the Americas.” But Bonassi’s work is also a true original, using her signature strokes of heightened color and often including lush backgrounds that border on magical realism.
Her work vibrates with both her own personal strength and resilience and that of these wonderful avian beings – as well as with her and their vulnerability and even fragility in the face of man. Reflective, respectful, and resonant, her descriptive prowess shimmers. These are birds whose very perfect feathers each tell a story, of flight, of nature’s delicate wonder, of full lives, joy, and grief, all in the patterns of birdsong.
There is a transformative quality to the work, one that both represents and transcends the natural loveliness of these birds. Mesmerizing in their beauty, these birds are no fly-by-night creations, and Bonassi’s graceful art and wise eye wait for viewers to come and experience an enfolding in her birds’ commodious wings.
Fly on out to MOAH Cedar through March 13th and take wing yourself. The museum is located at 44857 Cedar Ave. in Lancaster; it is open Thursday-Sunday, 2 to 8 p.m.