The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Bringing the past to life: Graham takes inspiration from old photos

 

February 15, 2017

Mel J

Local resident and artist Bonnie Graham currently has her work on display at Boulder Hot Springs. She is pictured last Sunday with a drawing of her father, who would have celebrated his 102nd birthday that day.

Growing up in Indiana, Whitehall resident Bonnie Graham showed an early interest in art. She took inspiration from her father who she said saw the beauty in everything, and would encourage her budding love of drawing.

Last Sunday afternoon, an Artists Reception took place at Boulder Hot Springs to showcase her drawings on display through March in the resorts dining room. While the day was already extremely important as a chance for Graham to showcase her work, it took on even more significance because it would have been her Dad's 102 birthday. Among the many drawings hanging in the room was one of her Dad as a child.

By the time she was ten, Graham started spending a lot of time drawing people, and would bring the pictures from National Geographic to life with her pencil.

Years later, Graham still works from pictures and will often find herself going to look at antique shops to find old time photos, because she said something about them appeals to her. Graham will also visit graveyards so she can draw the pictures that were commonly found on old tombstones.

Much of the new focus of her work is on the theme of what she calls a unique family tree. She said the work explores the theme by adding stylized trees to frame a portrait.

"Just as children grow into adults, branches grow out and away from the sturdy tree trunk which remains rooted in the earth," she said.

Graham added she is fascinated by the human face and it myriad subtle changes of expression.

"My drawings capture the fleeting mood of an individual which can change completely with a tilt of the head, a slight movement of the lips or a brief shift of glance," she said.

Graham and her husband Michael Harding moved to Montana in 2014 to explore a lifelong dream of living in the west.

Since arriving in Jefferson County, Graham has taught a drawing class at the Whitehall Library, and had her artwork displayed at the Whitehall Medical Clinic. During this time, she has completed several commissions for local residents, something she would like to do a lot more of in the future.

"I can take a photograph and make it (drawing) look just like it, but I can also add something better than the photograph," she said.

Graham said being contacted about displaying at the Boulder Hot Springs was out of the blue, but it was a thrill to receive the phone call. She said at the time she was thinking what she could do to get more people to see her art. Once contacted by Boulder resident Barb Reiter about the display, Graham started working hard to add more drawings to her body of work.

As she looked around the dining room of the resort, Graham said it is a beautiful area and the prefect place to showcase her work.

 

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