Kassandra Kelly      Bonnie Since 1990      September 2011

In 2006, my friend Randal Davis came to visit me in Oregon City. I took him around the property-the creek, tree house, fish ponds-and we ended the tour at Lee's studio. This building, a converted dairy barn, was the reason Bonnie and Lee left Portland in 1963-not the acreage or the house. Lee has maintained a sculpture studio on the lower level all these years, and at the time of her death in 1990, Bonnie had a drawing studio and sheet metal shop.

When I showed Randal around the place sixteen later, most signs of Bonnie's studio activities had been shuffled into storage in another building. Except for one painting, hung high on the wall in her old sheet metal studio.

"Who did that?" he asked.

I looked up at the painting, some eight feet from the floor. It was too high for me to move without help and there it had remained all these years.

"Bonnie. I'm not sure of the date. Middle 1960's, maybe."

Randal looked at the painting for a long time. It was shadowed with metal grit and dust but even so the uncompromising palette was clean and penetrating. I remember feeling sad the painting was so alone up here. Randal said, "That painting is completely different from your father's paintings. It's like she came from an entirely different generation." A long pause. "That's a great painting."

I looked closer at the dominant colors, layers of white and brown over black that always felt jarring to me. Another thought came to mind, this time from a wise friend, Adriene Cruz, who once reminded me that beauty was many things, none of them obvious. There it had been all this time, a work of art that pushed back at me, insisting beauty lived in the uncomfortable moments as well as the easy ones.

So like Bonnie, the woman I knew.

When I thought about writing an essay for this catalogue, I considered starting with the line, "We were often lost together." Bonnie was very dyslexic and through some strange anomaly, I grew up with one dyslexic variant-the inability to tell my left hand from right. My daughter, Lucy, has the same trait. Bonnie's methodology for traveling in the world was one of unshakable faith-we'd get there somehow. The rest of the world was wrong about left and right. All we needed to do was use other words.

I remember being lost with Bonnie in Nepal. We were lost all the time in Kathmandu, on treks, once famously and for hours on the trail to the mountain fortress of Gorkha. I used to ask her how it worked, this getting around thing, when Lee wasn't there with his rock solid certainty about compass points and magnetic north and left and right. Bonnie didn't give it any thought, in fact I think she was often very happy when she was lost-"We'll get there. It's not hard. Don't worry."

Not until my daughter was learning to drive did I understand how it worked. Lucy wouldn't allow anyone to use the words 'left' and 'right' when she was in the car. I watched the road with her while her brother, Carter, groaned in the back seat, repeating for the hundredth time: "I don't understand how you can't see it. One hand is left and the other is your other left." Lucy flew by instinct, sensing the place she wanted to be and somehow, bat-like, she found it. Her confidence in the findability of the world was so like Bonnie's.

Looking up at Bonnie's painting that day, I recognized it. My mother was alone much of the time, probably never more so than when she made art, but she continued on her path without hesitation. It must have hurt sometimes when her work was left stranded at the high tide line but she never talked about it; she simply moved on to the next idea once the old ideas were played out. Maybe that was why so much of her art work never made it into the archive. Once it was done, it was done.

Many people made this retrospective of her work possible: Randal who saw when no one else was looking, Joan Shipley who never forgot, Melody and Mark Teppola who are both here in spirit, Ann and Dave Bronson, Margaret Bronson, Kathy Bronson Dull, Elizabeth Leach, Lee Kelly and Susan Hammer and Bonnie's alma mater, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, who undertook this project with great generosity.

I would like to say it for all of us-Bonnie, we got there.