Art as her therapy

For her latest exhibit, Minneota artist Bonnie Van Moorlehem went through a range of emotions.

Van Moorlehem’s work will be on display Nov. 12-Dec. 20 at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council gallery in Marshall. An artist reception will be from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 12, and will feature live music by Jerry Ostensoe from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Van Moorlehem’s paintings are described as vibrant, bold and rich abstracts that can be a depiction of a personal experience or a moment in time.

She said that the subject matter for this exhibit wasn’t what she was originally planning. In the last year, she lost both her mother and sister within a six-month period. Her paintings were a reflection of life during that time, she said.

“As a painter, you have a tendency to react,” she said. “It’s kind of my therapy.”

“Some of my paintings are memories of things that happened,” she said in the artist statement for the exhibit. “Other paintings reflect working through the process of grief. What I dealt with are human emotions. Almost everyone has dealt with the loss of someone they loved, and they had to deal with the loss of a loved one. I believe many will be able to identify with the emotions that I have expressed in the paintings.”

Many of the paintings in the upcoming exhibit have surprised her, Van Moorlehem said.

“I revealed to myself emotions that I was not even aware I was dealing with until the painting was completed,” she said.

A lot of times when she sat down to start a painting, Van Moorlehem said she didn’t have the concentration to plan out anything.

“For me, it was easier to find the subconscious than the consciousness,” she said.

A majority of her paintings were done in a mandala-like composition based on colors from nature, Van Moorlehem said. The only thing she marked on the canvas was the center.

“I would have no preconceived notion of how the painting would be completed,” she said. “I just allowed myself to get lost in the painting. The design, colors and title would just come to me.”

In the work titled “Neither Here, Nor There,” Van Moorlehem said her thought was “after someone dies, you try to figure out where they are.”

“I think it’s just the brain’s process of trying to figure out ‘where are they?'” she said.

She also has two paintings in the exhibit that are abstract landscapes.

“My two styles during this time period represents my struggle to make things normal and then struggling with the realization that nothing will ever be normal again,” she said. “I do not feel my paintings are the results of anger but a process of accepting God’s plan.”