Welcome to Bonnie’s World
Saluda’s artist and writer sees changes ahead
Saludian Bonnie Joy Bardos is an artist.
It shows in her canvases, her house, her writing and every other aspect of her life.
But she has a feeling that something is about change.
“At this point in my life, in middle-age, I’ve come to understand and appreciate that I have evolved into my art,” she says. “There’s no longer a separation — it’s my driving force, my life.
“Currently, my house is on the market. I thought for so long I’d die here. The house and I just belong together, but it’s getting harder, to be cold in winter, to survive, and it needs someone with money in their pockets to bring it back to life. It’s one of Saluda’s original homes, around 125 years old.
“To me, it’s magical, but I’ve had to realize not everybody sees the magic when they walk through, ‘tire-kicking,’ as I call it, as they size up what it’ll need. I guess we’re both fixer-uppers, my house and I! Truly, I think it’s a treasure, like me — a jewel in the rough!
“Every 10 years or so, I go through a metamorphosis — divorce, changes and upheaval. Perhaps letting go of what I love most is that next transition. I don’t yet know where this change will take me, but my old saying is ‘wherever you go, there you are.’
“I might rent a little place around Saluda, if I can find one that takes a good dog and a cat, or we’ll just wait and see. Warmer climes call my name, too. As long as I have a good dog, paints and a place to garden, I might just be okay!”
At 59 years old, Bonnie is a woman with flair enough to share.
Keep in mind her 10-year-old-plus website/blog is headlined “Bohemian Artist: Painting & Thought.” It is pretty much an ongoing and detailed cyber reflection of the artist. Pictures of and words about her home, travels, art, life.
In real life, she is always nicely put together and not afraid to color her hair purple, put on bright lipstick and wear clothes and accessories that are organic, colorful and matched to her own sense of style. She might be right when she says, “I’m a hippie at heart.”
Although she likes living alone, she has a welcoming and open personality that invites everyone to be a friend. She calls herself a “social introvert.”
About 25 years ago, Bonnie moved to Saluda, “not knowing a soul.” She moved into one Saluda’s oldest and most historic homes on Greenville Street. It’s the two-story house across the street from the fire department, the one with a yard overflowing with interesting plants gone slightly wild, a fish pond, mixed-media art scattered about, a beheaded statue of Jesus, bottle trees with inverted cobalt blue bottles and a front porch that serves as her studio on nice days.
To some it might be a bit much, but that’s Bonnie — a bit much, more than what is needed, but certainly intriguing.
Inside the home is more — much more — of the same eclectic decor and artsy lifestyle. Walking through crowded and colorful rooms with strings of twinkling lights and paper Chinese lanterns, Bonnie readily admits, “I like stuff, and it gets me trouble.”
There are many works of art of her own and by other artists throughout the house. Some are finished, some in process.
Stained glass in the windows. An assortment of house plants. Statues. Art supplies. Antiques. Family heirlooms.
A little of this, a little of that. Christmas trees that look nice no matter the time of the year. Whatever suits Bonnie’s fancy.
Books. She’s suspicious of people who don’t have art and books in their homes.
Most people will identify Bonnie through her art or her writing or both.
For years, she has written the weekly column “Saluda Notes” for The Tryon Daily Bulletin. She often starts off with a mindful quote by someone important and then gives her personal take on a topic of her interest. She is poetic, funny, and insightful to the world around her.
Her personal take is the bonus to a column that otherwise just lists what’s currently happening in Saluda.
Bonnie’s art is usually recognized by two on-going phases of her paintings. Her landscapes — “Esto Perpetua” — are surreal, but not in a harsh Salvador Dali-way; more in a softer, peaceful, impressionistic, Claude Monet-kind-of-way.
Her favorite landscape is a view of a field and forest, set back far enough for the sky to play a vital role in the painting’s composition. Sometimes a single color will dominate. Most often the trees create a sort of barrier, almost like sentinels guarding what’s unseen beyond. But they blend into the sky and the field to create an inviting lushness that only nature can supply.
Nearly always, there is light. It might be the sun, but more likely it is a source of light from the unknown. But it’s always there, always illuminating a world of her imagination.
“My heart breaks daily over the affronts done to this planet, and think often of Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Inhumanity To Man,’ she says. “Around 15 years ago, one evening when I was standing outside painting on the back deck, a pink sunset and golden light suffusing the world. I knew then I’d make a series of these paintings that depict nature, no trace of mankind in them.”
“They have something to say; and my belief is Nature is sacred. She will carry on with or without humanity. There’s always a sense of deep peace, a soul to these paintings.
“I am troubled that we are going back to the Dark Ages, continuing to pillage and rape the earth’s bounty, taking-taking-taking without giving back. Greed, deceit, destruction of environment, disregard for human rights and hate are at a full boil these days. My only hope is this chaos brings change and opens minds.
Humanity must lose the entitlement so many feel is their right. None of us need all the things we have. Things do not make us happy is the truth of it. When do we wake up and use what the earth has already given us — solar power, good earth, and a more gentle existence? Daily, I add to my compost bucket and haul it out to the compost bin. It thrills me to do that little thing, all my life. Even if I won the lottery — ha! — I’d still have my compost bin, still drive a beater, and still be making art. And probably still have paint on my clothes and hands.”
And, then there’s the whimsical paintings, collections of paintings that are layered and layered with leaves, flowers, birds, butterflies, ferns, three circles, bunnies, and words that are so obscure they are easily missed. These canvases are often crowded and dense with symbols and images of nature, and rightfully so, there’s often a lot of green. These are pretty and happy paintings, and the light tends to saturate the composition, rather than come from a source. Sometimes the painting’s focus is obvious — a bird or bunnie. Other times, the chaotic vastness of nature can be vibrantly overwhelming.
“I’ve said I’d make the Esto Perpetua landscapes the rest of my life. Since then, I’ve added in ‘Songs of the Earth’ and other series that all connect,” Bonnie says. “Over the years, I’ve shown painting and sculpture in the Carolinas, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and elsewhere.
“Around here, I show at the Purple Onion, Whimsical World Gallery in Landrum, Tryon Arts & Crafts. I often have open studio at my art house for those who want to see where I live and work. My paintings live in England, France, the U.S., and Mexico. Perhaps other countries too, I don’t always know where work ends up, but I love finding out.
“Now and then, I win awards. The last one was first place for ‘Gaia: Earth Mother’ a large sculpture I did. The best award I get are when people truly connect to the work — and feel it, sometimes with tears in their eyes. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Her friends say Bonnie lives in “Bonnie World… a metaphysical world floating between here and there,” she confides.
“As soon as I saw a photo of Bonnie Bardos I knew we were destined to be friends,” says her good friend, David Cedrone, owner of Whimsical World Gallery. “We were formally introduced by our mutual artist friend, Toby Wolter, owner and operator of Details USA of Landrum. Toby had coordinated a studio tour at Bonnie’s home with the intent of curating a group show which was held at the Whimsical World Gallery April 2018.
“Bonnie’s home was filled with vibrant color, paintings, sculptures, plants, lights and a vast collection of art be fellow artists. One of my most treasured visits. After two successful shows with Bonnie, I continue to display some of her works at the Whimsical World Gallery.”
“Saluda has been the best place I ever lived: the sense of community here, the caring for one another like a large sprawling family,” Bonnie says. “The amount of craftspeople and artists of all genres. The old-timers, the feel of a small town with a big heart, as I have written about so many times in my Tryon Daily Bulletin column over the years.
“Just balm to the heart, especially someone that came here 25 years ago not knowing a soul, and created/found her ‘family’ among many friends. Good people have helped me so often to keep on this road of art. Just when I’m about to fall down, there someone is — believing in me and pulling me up once again, and again! Couldn’t have made it this far without others.”
As an artist of many talents and with depth of soul, Bonnie has the words that best describe her life.
“I love art; I need art; I breathe art,” she recently wrote. “Influences are eclectic, from prehistoric goddess forms to modern-day Chagall. Nature is a lifelong influence as well: observing the lift of a bird wing, the songs and notes I see among branches, water flowing, trees, rocks, shapes, how clouds float overhead, the blue of a robin’s egg, the grace of all things. I don’t aim for realism or any kind of perfection in my own work, preferring to keep the delicious wabi sabi of imperfection. I’ve come to value my own imperfection, as well along this journey we call life.
“Poetry, art, writing for me have become who I am,” she continues. “Art is me, I am art. Now years ago, that wasn’t necessarily true. Years ago I asked ‘Why me?’ Now I say, ‘Thank You. Thank You. Why not me?’ I’m just grateful for everything good and bad now. I live in the now. “My dogs and cats taught me that wisdom.”