By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Candice Bohannon drove past a patch of wildflowers called cardoons for years before she decided to paint them. At first, she recalls, she was content to merely grab the prickly plants from the side of the road and bring them home. “I came back home with a lot of wounds because they are very thorny,” Bohannan says with a laugh.
Not long ago, however, the cardoons seemed particularly stunning. And she knew the area was soon to be cleared for a new roadway. It would be their last season. It was time to capture them on canvas. “I love how weeds can sometimes be very beautiful. Cardoons grow wild everywhere in Southern California with very little water and nurturing,” she says. “They are so forceful and willful.”
Bohannon not only talks about the wildflowers as if they have human characteristics, she paints them that way, too. Anyone who saw her painting in the California Art Club’s Gold Medal Show recently might have observed that the spiny weeds did, in fact, convey a human-like energy, almost as if they could walk off the canvas and onto the floor of the museum.
At 27, Bohannon was one of the youngest artists featured in the juried show. Already an award-winning painter, she most recently was named a semi-finalist in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Her painting captured an elderly woman afflicted with dementia. Unlike some artists, Bohannon relishes working in many genres—still life, landscape, figurative. “I paint things that interest me,” she says.
What doesn’t interest this Northern California-based painter and sculptor though, is art that comes from a cynical point of view, mocking and tearing apart things she holds dear. For Bohannon, art heals and awakens emotions as well as brings substance to light. She explains with this analogy: “Great artworks can be related to a feast, the meal laid out for you: beauty, thought, emotion, and kinship. It can leave you feeling full or perhaps serve to awaken the appetite further. But it will never leave you empty.”
Universal themes are what interest her most, and she looks to many of art history’s great painters, such as Rembrandt and Michelangelo, for inspiration. “I’m not going to paint the inside of my car or my daily sandwich,” she says. “Those things don’t register an emotional blip on my radar screen.”
Growing up in Applegate, a small mountain town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, Bohannon says she was a quiet and shy girl. By the time she started thinking about what she wanted to become, she realized that she loved and was good at only two things: writing and visual art. Thus, after high school graduation, she headed for the Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, CA, which seemed like the big city at the time. Since graduating from there, she has returned once again to Applegate, where she shares her life and art with her husband, Julio Reyes, also a talented emerging artist.
Bohannon’s studio is in her home, and it’s not unusual for her to spend more than 100 hours there working on a single piece. But her method is strictly spontaneous and embraces variety. For example, when she met an intriguing woman at a wedding in Baltimore last year, she asked her to sit for her. When she saw a horse at an equestrian center, she watched it for hours and then painted the white equine as a symbol of innocence. Although it’s early in her career, Bohannon is self-assured about her career choice. As she writes, “I create because I must create, it is what I was born to do. There’s no other life for me.”
See more of her work at www.candicebohannon.com.
Featured in August 2009