Bonnie J. Smith


 My textile fiber artworks are about what I see and know. It is my aspiration in life to keep telling my stories and that of others. Two themes that I have explored in depth are the effects of the drought in California and the importance of family relationships. I have also created art works about social justice by exploring subjects such as the suffragette movement, the plight of women of color, a friend with AIDS, illegal immigration, racism and rape.

What I have seen as I view the terrain of California is the effect of the drought that is damaging this state. This became quite clear when I started taking a series of photos of the Alviso Salt Marshes located in the Bay Area of northern California. The before and after drought images jarred my sensibilities. Watching how the ongoing lack of water has affected this environment overwhelmed me. Creating a Drought Series of textile artworks allowed me to push this alarming message out into the world.

Another subject that has inspired me is family and all that entails. As my immediate family has gotten older, I have felt a strong desire to let members of my family know how much they mean to me. Many people in our society simply fly under the radar and they need to be celebrated. These artworks were inspired by a series of photos and snapshots of my mother and me, my father and my youngest daughter.


1972               Theatre and Drama Studies, Indiana Central College, Indianapolis, IN
1970-1971    Business Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, IN


Bonnie J. Smith is a California-based textile artist whose works have been exhibited at the United Nations Headquarters as well as in London, Paris, Australia, China, Japan Lithuania and Taiwan. She is a self-taught artist who has taken Master Natural Dye Studies from Dartmouth University Professor Joan Morris. In 2016, Smith was the recipient of a Leigh Weimers Award and Grant.

She created the celebrated textile series “Swimming Upstream,” which tells the story of her recovery after a work-related injury that forced her to use a wheel chair for over a year. Once that series was completed, she realized the art works were not just about her but about anyone trying to swim upstream through life. The series has been exhibited widely and received “The Health Care Heroes Award” from and was featured at The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, United Kingdom in 2017.

Her work has been widely exhibited throughout the United States and she has received many grants and awards including the winner of the 2015 NICHE Award in Washington, DC. She has also published two memoirs, one titled Through a Child’s Eyes and another titled Swimming Upstream. Smith has been a member of the Women’s Caucus for Art since 2007 and was elected Peninsula Chapter President in 2015.

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