Colorado papermaker and mixed-media sculptor Bonnie Ferrill Roman creates airy, medium-melding installations that connect the dots from the realm of well-crafted fiber art to the frontier of art about ideas and personal issues. A longtime educator dedicated to sharing techniques and foundational know-how with young art students, she's currently an adjunct at Regis University and the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. But she's not completely tied down by that load of making and teaching while also raising a family: Ferrill Roman recently coordinated the Colorado Women Artists Photo Project, gathering hundreds of women via social media to Acoma Plaza at the Denver Art Museum for a mass Sunday morning shoot. Learn more about this artist via her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Bonnie Ferrill Roman: I’ve done several collaborative projects over the years – combining my handmade-paper-based sculpture with that of artists working in paint, mixed media, ceramic, glass, digital media and even art furniture. What I find most engaging about working collaboratively is the challenge of melding ideas, materials and working styles successfully, and how the experience inevitably changes my work. With that in mind, I would be incredibly honored to collaborate with Andy Goldsworthy – one of my art heroes. The incredible beauty, simplicity, profound silence and impermanence of his works have resonated with me for years, undiminished. To work with him, to get to immerse myself in blending our processes, would be transformative.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I’m taking artistic license with this question, and answering “what” rather than “who.” I am fascinated with how our bodies work on the cellular level, how we change and develop, how the mind shapes the body and how the body shapes the mind. So I’m investigating things like the recent scientific work being done on the microbiome in our guts that influences much more than just our digestion, the recent studies around the concrete physical effects of mindfulness practices, studies looking at epigenetic changes based on environmental factors and how those changes may be passed on to future generations, and what’s being discovered about how specific changes in diet and exercise can affect cognitive ability over the short and long term.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Art that celebrates the ugly, violent and/or horrific side of humanity — but not just because I think beauty (and there are many kinds of beauty) makes artwork more seductive, which gives it more power to communicate while simultaneously feeding a hunger we all carry on a deep psychological level. More essentially, artists shape the world by imagining and then making real what has never existed before – and then sharing what we have created, which affects others. So the accumulation of what we are making real is influencing the direction of our world’s progress. Though I believe fully in freedom of expression, I also think we bear responsibility for how our work influences others — the fruit it bears.
What's your day job?
I have two at any given time. I work thirty hours per week for my dad’s engineering company as an office manager and technician, where my left brain gets a workout dealing with spreadsheets, databases and bookkeeping. I also teach sculpture at Regis University during fall and spring semesters, and co-teach a fiber-arts class at RMCAD during the summer, where I get to feed the creative and social aspects of my personality and help students discover the joys and challenges of making art.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
“Unlimited” is quite a word. I would first buy a big chunk of land and create an artist community – a large one, with housing for different kinds of artists, including those with families – somewhere near the mountains. There would be a large communal studio with state-of-the-art equipment, lots of space for individual studios and art storage, and a large shared gallery/art center/community space. Second (since “unlimited,” right?), I would support initiatives to create affordable housing for Colorado’s creatives, many of whom are being priced out of places they’ve lived for years. Third would be to fund creative grants for other artists in Colorado. After that, I would fund progressive groups working to make our society better.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Except for my first three years and a few I spent in Minneapolis in grad school, I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life — so it’s home, and that’s a big deal to me. I don’t love all the changes I see happening in Denver lately, with so many people moving here and the pressure that is putting on housing and infrastructure, but creativity is valued here, and people in general have hope. I do love all the typical things — snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, sun, climate, etc. — but also the great art community.
When I took the lead in organizing a photo shoot of Colorado women artists (after reading an article in the Huffington Post about a similar event in L.A. in August organized by Kim Schoenstadt), nearly 300 of us came together at the DAM on Sunday, October 30, 2016. It was so amazing – but it wasn’t really due to me. It was a result of our amazing community sharing the opportunity, passing it on, helping it grow organically.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Bring back grants for artists – no strings attached. There are opportunities here for artists who want to do “community outreach” artwork or artwork that connects into a nonprofit organization, but not much that just provides support for an individual artist who isn’t somehow using their artwork as social work. While I feel like that type of art is really important, it’s not the only art that should be valued and supported — and at the end of the grant period, it would be great to see the resulting body of work shown in a dedicated space at the Denver Art Museum.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I can never choose one “favorite” anything — it’s just not how I think. So instead, here’s a top-ten list of Colorado creatives and the work I love most right now (in no particular order): Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s multimedia work is wide-ranging, yet always so thoughtful and focused on environmental issues. Trine Bumiller’s sublime layered and joined abstract paintings of natural moments just vibrate. Theresa Clowes’s enveloping fiber installation at the Buell last summer was a triumph, and I love her smaller fiber works, too. Martha Russo makes such amazing strange, obsessive, overwhelming experimental ceramic work — her retrospective at BMoCA was amazing! Anna Kaye’s incredibly detailed charcoal drawings of fire-ravaged forests are astounding. I love to just dive in and swim around Mark Brasuell’s overpowering non-objective canvases. Michael Brohman’s thought-provoking (and sometimes disturbing) sculpture has kept me fascinated for years. Deidre Adams’s incredible, layered, palimpsest-filled canvases and fiber-art pieces are really getting noticed (and high time, too!). And in a different vein, I can’t even begin to describe the poetry of Maria Berardi and Kathryn T. S. Bass, except to say that I don’t have the fortitude to take in too many of their poems at once. They are that powerful.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
The Colorado Women Artists photograph project really galvanized me, and now that it’s winding down, I’m ready for the next adventure. I have a recent piece showing in Contemporary Fiber 2016 at Niza Knoll Gallery in the Santa Fe Arts District until December 3, and in the coming year I’ll be continuing my studio work — combining my handmade paper with felting and crochet to create sculptures and forms for installation, as well as working more with my digital photo composites, a very new direction for me. I will also be pursuing either commercial gallery representation or joining one of Denver’s many amazing co-op galleries again – or both. It feels like time, after taking a few years off from a more rigorous showing schedule for the early years of mommy-hood. I have always likened my creative cycles to the seasons (I’m not one of those artists who create every single day), and though Colorado is heading into winter, in the studio it feels like spring.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I have the inside scoop that painter Julia Rymer Brucker is moving back to Denver. She has made a serious splash in Danville, California (near San Francisco), in her few years living there, so I have a feeling the ripples will start to be felt here when she gets home and gets her roots replanted; her scientifically based abstract works are just exquisite.
Learn more about Bonnie Ferrill Roman online. See her work in Contemporary Fiber 2016, currently on view at Niza Knoll Gallery, through December 3.