A SOLO SHOW BY ISABELLE BONZOM
AT THE MUSEUM OF THE ISLAND OF NOIRMOUTIER, WESTERN FRANCE
In the summer of 1996, the Musée des Traditions de l'Ile de Noirmoutier (Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of the Island of Noirmoutier) gave carte blanche to artist Isabelle Bonzom for her creation of an exhibit weaving a dialogue with museum collections. An on-site specific solo show, "Analogies" was built on associations of ideas and images, on comparison and confrontation as it considered the museum collections and galleries, as well as the interior garden and the surroundings of the museum.
Isabelle Bonzom conceived and created a pictorial itinerary related to the themes and artifacts presented in the museum: the sea, the trades and customs of the islanders. The exhibition, like a treasure hunt, led visitors on a pathway that started in the neighboring streets and entered the museum before continuing into the courtyard garden. In a dialogue with their context, one hundred paintings by Isabelle Bonzom were displayed in the museum and blended with collections while the artist created a dozen mural paintings in the adjacent streets.
She painted shellfishes on various walls in the streets as allusions to the island’s environment and to real shellfish presented in the museum’s collections. In “The Cycle of the Moon,” she painted on local roof tiles a work of art that was displayed in the museum room dedicated to navigation, as a nod to the celestial body’s influence on tides.
To the right: a gallery in the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of the Island of Noirmoutier where “Gimlet” painted by Isabelle Bonzom was presented. This painting was inserted on a real carpenter’s workbench that belonged to the collections. Likewise, dozens of Isabelle Bonzom’s other paintings were integrated into the collections throughout the eight rooms of the museum.
Please read “Loving Liaisons” an essay written by archeologist Claude Baudez about Isabelle Bonzom’s series of roof tiles.
Isabelle Bonzom’s exhibition at the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of Noirmoutier proposed that visitors engage in an interactive reflection about reality and art, in a game of mimicry, hide-and-seek and discovery dealing with what is real and what is painted.
French curator and art historian Vincent Cristofoli, director of the museums of the island of Noirmoutier, gave carte blanche to Isabelle Bonzom for Analogies. In the text below written in 2015, Vincent Cristofoli reflects upon her on-site exhibition:
It is with delicacy that Isabelle Bonzom explored the museum galleries.
"Having observed every piece exhibited or put in storage, she proposed a new inventory of our collections. She drew and painted with oil or watercolor household items, working tools, moons and landscapes. Going beyond a mere descriptive account, she created, and works of art were born. Substituting itself to the museum objects, her work deploys itself in an itinerary through eight galleries with pronounced themes. Fishes and meats meet knives, scissors and rattles to find a logical and poetic place.
A regular visitor of museums, Isabelle Bonzom questions their meanings. She invites viewers to a genuine game in the museum and in the city. One looks for the piece of art and asks oneself : What is it confronted with? Is it the object or its image which I see here? Or is it only its image? From a simple tool, Isabelle creates an icon. As the visitor follows the journey suggested by the artist, he or she goes from one surprise to another.
Isabelle Bonzom makes things visible. Her precise vision when she paints a tool or a plant in the interior garden encourages the viewer to look and watch in a different way. Metal pincers become beautiful and their importance in the museographic corpus is brought to light. Those are not simple pincers, old yet common, they are a museum object responding to a certain logic. Imprescriptible and inalienable, the object has a legal status which is often ignored by the visitor. Isolated on its support, made sacred by its status as a creation, the object is having a discussion with its representation.
The “Analogies” show was an authentic installation. Isabelle Bonzom made the museum and its collections her own. She moved into the place, then left, more precisely she almost left as she is still here, in the pieces which stayed behind and continue to stand out in all their delicacy."
Vincent Cristofoli, 2015
During the one-year preparations for this on-site project, Isabelle Bonzom stayed on the island several times. She painted coastal landscapes, salt marshes and fields. In the museum, she drew objects and traditional dress, studied local customs, documents and maps like a fanciful anthropologist. During the exhibition, a selection of one hundred drawings and paintings were installed in the museum galleries in accordance with collection artifacts and gallery themes, along with mural paintings by the artist on walls surrounding the museum building.
On the occasion of this site-specific solo show, Isabelle Bonzom began to explore the seascape, points of view, horizon and distances. She also painted in a new way, with watercolor directly on the canvas, letting the textile bare as she does for the paper. After “Analogies”, she has continued her work about landscapes by dedicating several series about landscape. See her series.
© Isabelle Bonzom - 2021