Bonnie Sklarski is one of my favorite people. Born in New York state, Bonnie studied at Yale, Pratt, School of Visual Arts, and Brooklyn College. She was closely involved in the beginnings of the New York Academy, and was my painting and anatomy professor at Indiana University in Bloomington. She joined the faculty 40 years ago in 1970 and now serves as professor emeritus. Bonnie considers Martha Erlebacher her mentor, and they remain close friends.
Bonnie has recently moved a little away from the figure toward still-life and landscape paintings, which are all wonderfully rich with meaning. As a figure person myself, however, am am most impacted by her allegorical work.
Bonnie is part scientist, part philosopher, and part painter, and considers Da Vinci a hero. Her painting possesses an almost medieval attention to the specific nature of the objects represented in them. Rocks, clouds, and streams of water are studied as characters in themselves rather than as merely a backdrop for the figures. She studies every aspect of picture-making as a concrete science. She keeps volumes of binders full of mixed colors, and diagrams and dissects compositions of the great masters, and categorizes them into types. She does the same with light effects and color combinations. She is the only person I've ever known to keep sketchbooks dedicated to understanding the way water moves and rocks cleave.
"Study for Dionysius"
Bonnie is an outstanding drawing anatomy instructor, and teaches in the manner of Robert Beverly Hale, who I believe she studied with. She collects human and animal bones as well as roadkill, and is an amateur taxidermist. Once, upon entering the classroom, I found something with a furry tail stuffed in a plastic bag that was hanging from the doorknob.
I found this early self-portrait of Bonnie somewhere online, and I think it is very touching. I also love the red curtain.