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Arts and Culture of Long Beach Island

LBI has long been a playground and home for artists. There is a concentration of galleries and artist who call Surf City home and the town has quietly become the epicenter of the visual arts scene on LBI. One of those artists who calls Surf City home is Lori Bonnani. Lori came from a family of painters and gardeners, her mother painted for Lenox and Boehm in Trenton. In college Lori studied art and design while earning a degree in Landscape Architecture, which combined her love for the natural environment and visual arts. Afterwards she continued her love of the arts and took classes and workshops at Studio Incamminati and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She spent her summers taking art classes at the LBIF and with Jane Law. In 2008 Lori started painting full time. During this period of training she would find inspiration in turn of the century American Impressionist artists like, William Merritt Chase.

Lori paints in an Impressionist style using oils and often depicting local architecture and environment. She choses subjects that convey a “sense-of-place”, always looking for what makes a place unique and memorable, finding inspiration in the familiar, such as a building, a path or an experience, from her interactions with the local environment. Painting the subjects in full light, often outdoors, taking advantage of early morning or evening light in order to capture the ever changing colors of her subjects. Her prismatic palate of colors range in cool blues used for sky and water to the warmth of yellow ochers and burnt sienna used for beaches. The thoughtful attention to LBI’s generous light allows Lori to paint the reminders of her time on the island and capture the mood of the island with the idea of sharing her inspiration with her viewers. A viewer of her work may share the same inspiration, experience or a similar “sense-of-place” while they see a familiar subject in a new way.

I reached out to Lori and asked her about her image of the Egret which was picked for the annual LBI Artists Open Studio Tour poster a few years ago.

Matt Burton: “Can you tell me about the Egret image used on the poster and how it felt to have your image picked to represent artists on LBI?”

Lori Bonnani: “I live on LBI on the bay and am an avid birdwatcher. I first saw that beautiful white egret standing on the railing of a deck. He flew in and and I think he was looking for something to eat in the shallows of the bay where the water is very clear. He seemed to be posing for me. The color of the sky set against the white egret was a striking combination and a moment of inspiration that I quickly thought I must paint. I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photographs. The resulting painting titled “The Great Egret” was a favorite in my household and I entered it in the LBI Artists Show which was hung in your gallery. I had no idea that the painting was being considered for that year’s Open Studio Tour poster.”

MB: “I was drawn in by the contracts of colors- the blue of the sky and bold white of the egret- what kind of feedback did you receive?”

LB: “Prior to the [LBI Artists Open Studio] tour, many people had seen it around town and I was quite surprised at the positive reaction to it. The original painting sold immediately during the opening reception of the studio tour. As a result, I have continued to paint and be inspired by the many beautiful birds on the island including terns, egrets, grey herons and even those pesky seagulls.”

MB: “What is the current series you’re working on and where can we see your work?”

LB: “I am currently working on two different series of paintings that have inspiration rooted in the natural environment of the island. There is a central theme to both series: water and wildlife. The first series I’m working on is a series of local birds and waves done with oil painting. The second series is in a new medium I have been working in, encaustic wax paintings. Encaustic wax is an ancient art form whereby a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and pigment is melted down to liquid consistency and painted on a rigid surface of cradled boards. I am working on a series of encaustic wax paintings of waves.”

MB: “I’m looking forward to see ing your new series! Any final thoughts?”

LB: “I would like to borrow a famous quote by the French artist Edgar Degas: ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’.”

Lori Bonnani’s paintings can be viewed at Solace Gallery, 2312 Long Beach Blvd., Surf City,and at in her Surf City studio during the LBI Artists Open Studio Tour on June 30th.

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