Bonnie Lucas at ILY2

Bonnie Lucas, White Rock, 1986

Bonnie Lucas’ first West Coast solo exhibition, currently on at ILY2 Portland, offers a comprehensive view into the artist’s complex exploration of the aesthetics and ideologies of what she refers to as “traditional femininity.” Her allegorical works are at once a celebration and a critique as filtered through the most accessible strata of commodity culture. We profiled Lucas Issue 20, with text by Tiana Reid.

Bonnie Lucas Pretty in Pink, 2018

The majority of the works on view are meticulously hand-sewn low-relief assemblages on fabric using a cornucopia of inexpensive, feminine-coded 99-cent store commodities—pastel ribbons, beads, buttons—all of which Lucas reveres as “precious objects.” In more recent assemblages, Lucas introduces parts of dismembered dolls and plush toys as well as costume jewelry.

The earliest works on view are delicate abstract reliefs featuring items of clothing, ribbons, and sewing findings stitched to a ground and meticulously traced in undulating lines of yarn that ripple outward and fill the voids between forms.  

Bonnie Lucas Untitled, 1978-79

Bonnie Lucas Untitled 1978-79

“Shopping is a big part of my practice,” Lucas says. “I honor and love the supercharged feminine objects I use; I want to make them potent and powerful.” Lucas intuitively follows her compulsion to dismember these objects, snipping them carefully apart with scissors or pliers and reconstructing them in compositions that are at once sweet and nostalgic, disturbing and visceral. Objects are cut and splayed open, penetrated, stuffed, and threaded through and around one another in precisely arranged tangles. It is in these physical deconstructions that Lucas deconstructs the minor violences of relations among women and their things under patriarchal capitalism.

Bonnie Lucas, New Man, 1984

Bonnie Lucas, And This Too Will Pass, 1983

Lucas’ titles such as “Sweetness” or “Happy Together” reflect her ambivalence; an ironic sincerity or sincere irony. They make it impossible to ignore a darker read of even her most benign compositions. In the press release for her first solo show in New York’s East Village in 1984, Lucas was quoted as saying, “I create feminine monsters.” She stands by this assessment to this day. Bonnie Lucas 1978-2023 is on view til May 27 at ILY2.

Bonnie Lucas, Spoiled, 1986

Bonnie Lucas New York City Princess, 2023

See our feature on Bonnie Lucas in print here.