My art chronicles my adventures in the wilderness and through life. I use embroidery to communicate provocative environmental and social issues. I present quantitative information in an unusual combination of stitched text and graphics. The work provides a novel opportunity to consider the scientific and historic context inherent in current events and social questions.
My current work examines geophysical climate issues. After hiking with scientists to measure Yosemite National Park's last glacier, the Lyell Glacier, I embroidered the glacier's topographic lines on silk, and presented historical comparative photos and text from 19th century explorers' journals. During another backpacking trip I walked on mushy trails winding across recently melted glaciers on the 'haute route' in Switzerland and made an embroidery of the Bluemlisalp Glacier incorporating the topography and a graph of its shrinking size over the past century. After trekking in Tibet, I assembled a large embroidered velvet and brocade wall hanging which integrates ancient Tibetan cultural traditions with land and water control issues.
Recently I've collaborated with scientists on two environmental projects. For one, concerning inland lakes, I embroidered a large silk and brocade graph using invasive species and native fish population data. Historical records of lake ice and chemistry are presented in other graphs, along with explanations of the science. In another concerning climate change, atmospheric field equations and ice core records are embroidered in brocade alongside a quote from Ernest Shackleton, an early 20th century Antarctic explorer.
I am often astonished when I find a passage in an explorer's journal that describes scenery I have visited or a rugged mountain trail I've walked. I share that sense of discovery and uncovering in my work. With soft materials and ornate stitching, I hope to expose the viewer to fascinating science and environmental interactions on our earth.
Bonnie Peterson has received several grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a grant from the Illinois Committee, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and other awards. She was an Artist-In-Residence at Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Isle Royale, and Crater Lake National Parks. Her work is in the collection of the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC, the National Park Service, private collections, and she has an extensive exhibition record. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois-Urbana and an MBA from DePaul University. Click here for a 5 minute interview (WTTW, Chicago Public Broadcasting, 2009).