Bonita Helmer Interview
by Peter de Kuster
What is the best thing I love about my work?
The best thing about my work is the necessity to keep researching and questioning in order to create a meaningful piece of art.
It can be a personal exploration, or as in my case, a study of physics and space in order to capture the connection between the two. I love the combination of spirituality and science.
I am sincerely involved in the importance of physics, subatomic research, black holes, the birth of stars, supernovas, Einstein’s “God Theory”, gravity, energy, as well as studies in Buddhism, Kabbalah and the connection. I thoroughly enjoy the artistic experience of hands on work in favor of technology.
What is my idea of perfect happiness?
Good health in order to keep on working. Happiness is to have the ability to communicate and be heard through my paintings. Sharing with others who are striving for the same goals whether in art or other fields of pursuit. Happiness is to be surrounded by loving, understanding family and friends who support me for what I am. It also includes making time to care for those who I love.
My greatest fear?
My greatest fear is to not achieve the goals that I set out for myself. Since it is an unending pursuit to create art, there is never a clear-cut answer as to what lies ahead. I am fearful to lose the desire to explore and create.
What trait do I deplore within myself?
The trait that I deplore within myself is an anxiety about not being good enough.
I also dislike the emotion of impatience which I experience often.
Which living person in my profession do I admire?
I don’t have admiration for any one person, but I have great admiration for
the many artists out there trying to make sense of this world. I admire the collective.
What is my greatest extravagance?
Traveling whether I can afford it or not especially to faraway places.
On what occasion would I lie?
I rarely lie. I don’t like the consequences of a lifelong memory of a lie.
The only time I could even consider a lie would be to protect someone else
What is the thing that I dislike in my work?
Compared to other fields, so much of my work depends on the approval of others, a gallery, a critic, an author. It is not always clear cut as to how well my job is done. Too much of contemporary art is based on a current trend. One has to really rely on oneself to make the decision and believe in oneself and therefore the work. And then, of course, until very recently, there have been obstacles such as limited exposure and sales for women.
When and where was I the happiest in my work?
I was very happy when I stayed in Paris for several months preparing for my show at the Bateau Lavoir. I lived in Montmartre and I loved being a part of the history of artists who lived and worked there. I was the only American who showed work at the Bateau Lavoir, a place that was home to Picasso, Max Jacob, Braque. The list goes on and on. Of course, in current times there are many artists men and women who has shown there through L’cole des Artes Docoratif. I loved the magic of working and living in Paris for a while.
If I could, what would I change about myself?
Not much. I have reached a point in my life where I acknowledge that this is who I am. I find it a waste of time to think about changing. I have individual faults that could improve but, fortunately, some things just change with time and naturally go away.
What is my greatest achievement in my work?
Having had several museum exhibitions here and in Europe and Asia.
Where would I most like to live?
I would be happy to stay in Los Angeles as my primary home and studio. Although I have lived other places, this is where I am from and my family lives here. I would, however, like to have a studio somewhere else for part of the year. Perhaps in Mexico. I would like to travel a lot but keep Los Angeles as my primary base.
What is my most treasured possession?
I treasure the jewelry that was given to me by my mother, grandmother and aunt. They have all passed and so looking at their bracelets, earrings, necklaces , watches etc. reminds of them and also the fragility of life.
What is my most marked characteristic?
I have an ability to see below the surface. It can be in my art (the unseen structures) or in an uncanny ability to understand others and their needs. I have an ability to see the world in abstraction. I am an empath.
What is my most inspirational location in my city?
Without a doubt – the ocean.
What is my favorite place to eat and drink in Los Angeles?
I like so many places. It depends on my mood at the moment. I like the Culver Hotel. Hal’s in Venice. Just about any of the restaurants and bars that are walking distance.
What books influenced my life and how?
Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light by Dr. Leonard Schlain; given the fact that I have always thought in abstraction, this book really “brought it home”. It caused me to become aware of the fact that what we think of as abstraction is really there in physics and other disciplines. I read it many years after he wrote the book, but it definitely affected my work since the early 2000s.
Who are my favorite writers?
In my early college years, I was fascinated with Lawrence Durrell. I also read Collette which added to my fondness of Paris. Soon after that I read Suzuki and Introduction to Buddhism. I have read Carl Jung and various writers on the Kabbalah. I also love the Latin artists that write about magic realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Carlos Fuentes.
You only live once. What music?
Bach and Leonard Cohen
Heroes and Heroines in real life?
Albert Einstein, Francoise Gilot, Jonas Salk
Favorite Movie? Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders.
What role does art play in my life?
Art is my life. And art is my work. That is all that I do or think about except for my children, my family and partner and close friends.
Who is my greatest fan?
My partner, Bruce, my family, my collectors and collaborators in my gallery and various exhibitions and many of my students, that I have taught at Otis College of Art and Design.
Who would I like to work with in 2019?
I would like to further explore art and science. I was part of a group called Exploration Institute where I got to share ideas with various science researchers. I would like to continue in that direction and continue working with Lauren Kasmer on paintings and video, and combining the two. Various museums who could understand the seriousness of my work. Continue a relationship with my gallery.
Where can you see my work in 2019…
I am having a solo exhibition at George Bills Gallery, Los Angeles. It begins in December 2018 and continues into Jan 2019.
Which people would I like to meet in 2019?
Frankly I like to just let the magic happen. You never know who is going to cross your path if you are open to it.
What do the words Passion Never Retires, mean to me?
Artists never retire. Whether it is a passion or a need to survive I am not sure.