What does home feel like? Kalamazoo artist puts it on canvas

May 23, 2013

“As an adult, that feeling that I had as a child has escaped me. That comfort and the security and safety of home," says Kalamazoo artist Bonnie Pfingst. "That I’ve just now recently purchased my own home here in Kalamazoo and I’m loving it. Every day I can’t wait to get home and build a fire. And sit on the couch with my son and just enjoy life, just be.”

Everything in Pfingst’s art seems to point to home, family, and a sense of place. She uses domestic objects like felt and thread. And parts of her work might remind you of Michigan, with nesting birds and subtle blues and greens. In her piece called Northern Sky, a numbered house sits on what looks like a boat made of dress pattern paper that floats on a constellation map.

“There’s a piece out of a little encyclopedia or something and to me it is a sky map, but it also refers to the Earth as a whole," Pfingst says. "And then this is my tiny house, this is my tiny place in this…in this world.”

Pfingst layers many of her collages with maps and text from old books and dictionaries.

“I’ve always been an avid reader," she says. "I devour the written word, you know, print. I can sit for hours. Especially when I was younger, it was my way of finding peace but then also learn about…learning about the outside world.”

And sometimes the random texts she picks up just happen to fit the mood she’s in.

“I scavenge old books at Salvation Army or Goodwill or whatever. And this one I grabbed, it had a cool cover on it. It was Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street," Pfingst says. "And I wasn’t familiar with the story and I began cutting up…using the text, paper punches, whatever in all of my pieces. And as I was working I became acquainted with the story from using these pieces of text. And I’m not really sure of the whole story. But basically this woman…she’s a young married woman and she’s unhappy with her home life. And anyway it was mirroring the same experience that I was having in my home life. And this is text that I gleaned purposefully out of Main Street.”

The text on the artwork reads:

They passed the whiskey, laughed. She desired to be drunk. The whiskey choked her and she handed the bottle on repentantly. Too late she remembered she had given up domesticity and repentance.

But Pfingst says some things just can’t be a coincidence. It’s that kind of fate that inspired her to make a series of fox paintings and even a fox family tree.

“There was one day I was driving on the business loop and I saw a fox. And then it was like an hour later and I was farther north on 131, and I saw another fox. I thought it was strange to see one fox let alone two in the same day," she says. "So then, the next time I was in the studio I did this little fox in the field painting. And I got a great response from it, I loved it. It just felt right.”

Bonnie Pfingst is actually moving out of the Tiny Studio at Park Trades this weekend. But you can still see her art at the Kalamazoo Art Hops or contact her via e-mail at thetinystudio@gmail.com.