After meeting with Lewis deSoto in Napa earlier in the day, I drove out to the countryside to meet with John Bonick, an abstract painter. Bonick’s studio was a 350-square-feet, one-story structure (above). When he bought the property in 2002, the acreage was overgrown with six-feet-high grasses and blackberry bramble overran the trees.
“After we cleaned up the orchard, we moved a 100-year-old large shed out to the edge of the orchard mainly to give me a work space that was removed from the house and the cars. I measured out true north with a compass, so I could have the wide doors with a northern exposure. We actually lifted the shed bit by bit with a huge forklift and put it on a flatbed truck, wrapped a couple of truck straps around it so it wouldn’t break apart, and drove it out to the spot where we had poured a concrete pad to fit,” he explained.
He remodeled it with sliding doors along one side and windows in the corners to save wall space for the paintings. He showed me a photo of the ‘before’ shot and a few of the carefully orchestrated move (at right).
Objects hung on the studio walls, including a set of hawk talons found in his field. “It was the second pair I discovered, which I found disturbing, so I called the Department of Fish and Game, but they didn’t have an explanation.” He felt uncomfortable about photographing them out of respect for the creature, and that people might misunderstand how he had come by them.
Similar to the beautiful grips of the hawk were other hand-related objects and printed matter. “Hands represent energy for me,” said Bonick. He spoke about how as one paints, the hand is a stylus, in a sense, of energy and thought stemming from the mind.
One of the more unusual hand objects he had was a doll’s fist blackened as if with soot (below). “I found it in the 70’s and I had just graduated and things were like they are now. No jobs. Bad economy. So, I got a job as a delivery truck driver for my friend’s dad’s company in Chicago. I found this on the street in a low-income, African-American neighborhood, and it was right during the time that you would often see a fist icon representing the Civil Rights movement. I thought it was symbolic.”
Outside were several beehives belonging to the artist, Rob Keller, whose practice I also photographed. “I don’t know why, but the bees make some of their best honey from John’s fields,” said Keller.
Images of the studio move are courtesy Kopol Bonick Studio.