Sophie Bonet is a Miami based Visual Artist who has explored a variety of contemporary dance forms and visual arts disciplines including drawing, painting and sculpting. She refined her visual and conceptual vocabulary by experimenting with mixed media, collage, and non-conventional photographic techniques.
Bonet is currently working on her series "Via Onírica", which consists of creating human-sized photograms.
Catalina Piedrahita: Magic. That's the first word that comes to my mind when I think about you and your artwork. Where does this mysticism come from and how does it power your creative process?
Sophie Bonet: Yes, I also find strong “mystical” elements in my pieces, not only in the aesthetics but as part of the heart and soul of my intention for expression in the first place. It is part of my active search and journey at a personal and spiritual level. It comes from the most basic idea to identify the “divinity” of the self.
I remember reading my mom’s metaphysics books when I was 12 and reading Carlos Castaneda at 15. I am very curious and passionate for experiences that allude to the expansion of consciousness. That’s what drives me to create and project my questions and findings through my work. Art is a kind of alchemy, and I find redemption through creation.
CP: Is your creative process a "ritual" to you? If so, can you explain the process and the purpose of this ritual(s)?
SB: I don’t see it as a “ritual” but there are some aspects of my creative process that I follow with respect. Even when I’m very flexible while creating and working on my pieces or developing ideas, the entire process is very intimate and personal. I ALWAYS work at home and alone. I feel more connected with the main concept, the space and the technique.
CP: "Via Onírica" is an ongoing project. Can you tell us about the next stages of this project? Do you see "Via Onírica" being finished anytime soon?
SB: I don’t think Via Onírica will be finished anytime soon. It’s not a project that you develop and then move on to the next one. It’s more like a living entity that changes and evolves throughout time and different stages. I don’t feel the need to start new projects because Via Onírica is flexible and always leads me to experiment with new exciting ideas and techniques, so I never get bored. Most of the time my projects start by chance more than with purpose. Like when I discovered the photogram technique. I was doing collage and mixed media for years then and I thought “OK, this is it, this is what I will do forever” and one random day I ended up in the “wrong” photography class and I totally fell in love with this technique. Since then I haven’t stopped working with it. I suffered for months trying to find some way to connect or incorporate the photograms to the collages I was working with before (because at school everything must be “coherent,” but that’s not how it works) and at the end I understood that I could just do both or none, because I was the artist/author.
I am still experimenting with photograms, always looking to challenge the technique a little bit more to make it fun and to learn. Currently I am using regular black and white photographic paper to make the first print and then I transfer it to a huge single sheet or photographic roll, but it's been a challenge trying to develop a 5x6 feet piece of paper in my bath tub… I accept suggestions!
CP: The female figure is very present throughout your work. Can you talk to us about the meaning or symbolism of the woman's body in your artwork?
SB: Well at the beginning I started incorporating the female (and child) figure in my work because it was accessible to me. Then I understood it was one way to identify myself in a collective context: where the female archetype represents the maximum expression for beauty and fertility. It brings my own approach and fascination for the feminine aspect of life in conjunction with nature.
CP: Can you tell us a bit more about your ethnic background? How do you think it reflects in your artwork?
SB: Honestly, I consider my work to be more universal than related to a specific cultural background. As a kid I had the opportunity to live in different places and connect with people from different cultures, and as an adult as well, so I have no sense of patriotism at all. In my immediate family we have more than 5 nationalities, plus the new generation bringing another addition. I think for that reason I ended up living in a city like Miami where you can find a huge diversity growing every year.
CP: How do your relationships -friends and family- affect your creative process? Does your artwork tell any stories about these relationships?
SB: I don’t think my relationships affect my work in a direct way. I find inspiration in my personal/emotional experiences, and I may apply them through the process, but it's not what drives me to create. The nature of my work is more of a monologue; an introspection into my own existential arguments.
CP: You are a very young mother and I can discern from your artwork that your relationship with your daughter is very special and unusual compared to most mother-daughter relationships. Can you talk to us about this relationship and the role it plays in your artistic world?
SB: Well, I get that a lot, but I don’t know how “unusual” our relationship may appear to other people. My relationship with Luna is very natural and honest. It is based on respect because that’s our philosophy in life. I didn’t grow up with the traditional figure of the “loving mother,” so I knew when I had a child I wanted to do things differently. I treat Luna with the respect and love that all human beings deserve. I value her ideas a lot, and I try to guide her instead of “imposing” her my own way.
Going back to the question on how it has inspired my work, the entire subject on a person giving life to another human being is just a delight for me. From my personal approach it is the most INTENSE, mysterious, beautiful, painful, and orgasmic experience all at the same time I've ever had. From the beginning the entire experience opened a door full of questions about existence with all its processes of life and death.
CP: You were 21 years old when I met you. You were a mom and you were one of the most dedicated students in our class. How did you make the decision to embark in school and how did you manage your life at that time?
SB: I was on my 2 semester of Anthropology in college when I became pregnant. I decided to take some time off to dedicate myself completely to the new baby experience, but after a while I realized that I wasn't completely happy. I felt something was missing and that I needed to re-take my journey and keep growing. At that point I started looking for a creative career, and I went for Visual Arts because the curriculum was flexible to learn different mediums from painting to sculpting, to design and photography, etc. I fell in love quickly with the career and environment. It was a big challenge having a job, being a mom and going to school, but somehow I enjoyed every moment of it.
CP: To me the creative process is always frustrating and painful. How do you achieve insights or breakthroughs? Do you have any advice for those artists who get stuck in this process?
SB: I think everybody processes ideas in their own way, and I agree it gets very painful, specially when you are still setting up your own process. The only advice I could give from my personal experience is to take a break, but don’t take it for too long. Sometimes we get stuck because we are looking at things too closely for too long and we just need space to change perspective to resume the workflow.
CP: What are your thoughts on Miami as a city for emerging artists? Have you found good opportunities to grow as an artist? If you had the chance to live anywhere you wanted, where would you live and why?
SB: Every time I come back to Miami I find a city more projected towards the arts. In the past few years it has opened itself widely to the contemporary art scene in general, providing many resources and accessibility for young artists to create, exhibit and grow. We have organizations, many art projects and of course art fairs like Art Basel which creates awareness in the community every year. I always say every city can be the perfect city, and it can serve as a platform for anything you do as long as you have something to give. I mean, if you really want to grow in your field you have to show what you got. You have to produce good work and actively look for opportunities.