Dance with the Divine

By Deena Dolan, Photography by Clay Dolan

Allowing herself to be guided through open curiosity, awe and reverence, Bonnie Dorgelo places trust in the fluid movement of colour energy via acrylics, inks and water on canvas to create paintings that connect between inner nature and nature’s sacred wonders.

Years ago, while visiting her then gallery in downtown Collingwood, I enjoyed a delightful gift of time chatting with artist, Bonnie Dorgelo. Long a fan of her work, speaking with her in person formed a firm and lasting impression—both personally and artistically. Captured always by Bonnie’s ability to manipulate colour while creating movement, that brief conversation altered my perspective of how I viewed and interpreted her work. I was struck anew with how her canvases sang, infused with her lyrical sense of joy.

Meeting with her recently, enhanced my impression. The woman is an inspiration. And—she has no idea. There is no guile. The spirituality evident within Bonnie Dorgelo is unmistakable. It’s palpable. Of this, Bonnie is completely aware. It’s who she is, she exudes it. As a member of the human race, she embraces it, while as an artist, she infuses it onto and into her canvases. You can’t miss it.

“If you ever get a chance to watch ‘Where the Universe Sings’ by Lawren Harris, I highly recommend it,” smiles Bonnie. “I love how he expressed a strong spiritual essence within his Canadian landscapes and spent a great deal of time outdoors.” Indeed, for Bonnie, spending time outdoors is an understatement. As a child, the oldest of five siblings, Bonnie spent most of her waking hours exploring nature whenever possible. Her need to be one with it only grew as she grew. Eventually, in 1992, her adventures with her siblings took several of them to Whistler, British Columbia. In her 20s at the time, the adventures became bigger, bolder, riskier; skiing; mountain biking; mountaineering; hiking; rock climbing; and wilderness survival. From there, the world beckoned and she travelled—Malaysia, Thailand, Australia. “There were always bodies of water nearby. I remember having to be pulled off the coral reefs.” For years, Bonnie explored, collected experiences and held onto various found-objects of interest, not knowing that one day, these very things would somehow contribute to her emergence as a visual artist.

Upon returning to Collingwood, Bonnie happened to connect with the late Carol Whyne who had founded the Georgian Bay School of the Arts. She enrolled in a five-day abstract acrylic course. “I was hooked and wanted to do more.” At Carol’s suggestion, in 2002, Bonnie enrolled in the Haliburton School of art. 

Something clicked. “It was one of those magical moments, when you come together with land, water, air, trees—the right people at the right time. I felt like it was home.”

It was a brief period—15 weeks—but Bonnie was ensnared. She whole-heartedly jumped into the local art scene, not as a painter but as a creator of wire sculptures. Her pieces became known, she won awards and using small steps, she intuitively worked her way up into the larger world of art. From there, she moved into jewellery design and her success was so immediate, it became her major focus. By necessity, painting took a back seat. Then, in 2012, Bonnie opened her own boutique art gallery in Collingwood. Bonnie’s partner, Nic Gallo took on the role of managing the gallery thus allowing Bonnie time to pursue her passion for painting once again. The bright location provided an ideal space to showcase her intricate, silver jewellery and her large-scale, colour-inspired canvases.

But then, in a flash, it all came to a screeching halt. Literally. On January 21, 2014, a horrendous car accident changed everything. Everything that is except for the spiritual essence of the artist herself. Broken bones could, and would, delay things but nothing could quell the indomitable creative energy of Bonnie Dorgelo.

Before the accident Bonnie had been on a bit of a treadmill, having nearly reached the ceiling of what she could possibly produce as just one person. The accident, as dreadful as it all was, forced her to pump the brakes (pun intended). There was no other choice but to regroup, prioritize and take stock. It was an arduous period. Pain, fear, panic and anxiety were constant companions but a combination of physical rehab and emotional therapy worked in concert with Bonnie’s strong work ethic and propelled her forward. Following her own creative guidance, she embarked on a strict regimen of journaling. She felt that to be worthy, she had to create—the countless projects she produced during that time are fascinating.

Dorgelo’s progression of healing is abundantly evident today. She has learned to give herself permission to be more open and patient. “To be in creative flow, it’s best not to overthink. For a creative experience to feel more successful, resistance dissolves as I allow myself to be guided with open curiosity, awe and reverence. Am I paying attention? Am I listening? Am I trusting?”

A huge new body of work sits alongside her previous pieces. “Right now is an interesting time,” states Bonnie. “I feel like I‘m in transition. I am more connected on a spiritual level.” Bonnie has an uncanny sense about where she’s at in this moment. “My work has improved but I feel that my art therapy work and the other work that I have been doing are coming together to produce something new. I’m right on the edge of it.” The works of outspoken and fearless artist Jane Ash Poitras, as well as the mystical renderings of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, have made an impression on Bonnie and may play a role of influence in yet-to-be-produced works.

Bonnie’s use of colour is otherworldly. “Colour can be a portal that activates access to that sacred part of ourselves. It opens us to the aliveness within, moves us, nourishes, comforts and inspires us.” Working on the floor using gravity, Bonnie begins a project with a “loose intention” of a theme—waterscape, airscape—and using her hands, follows where the colour wants to go or where the horizon line wants to rest. She works fluidly in layers, encouraging an interplay between the acrylics, inks and colours. “Through trusting the fluid movement of colour energy via acrylics, inks and water while deepening the connection between inner nature and nature’s sacred wonders in our outer world, true magic happens.”

Bodies of water and harmonious hues of blue play a strong role in Bonnie’s work. “There’s something about water that is so resonant to us. When in close proximity to water—whether it’s gazing upon it or diving into its embrace—I immediately feel a calming, healing, cleansing effect, simultaneously soothing and invigorating my nervous system, heart and soul.” 

Working once again in her gallery on Blue Mountain Road, Bonnie is open by appointment but keep an eye out for pop-up shows and seasonal hours. Bonnie’s work is also available at the Loft Gallery in Thornbury. She accepts commissions and loves the challenge of creating luminous colour environments that hold meaning for her clients. “I reverently create from a place of how our sacred waters and the air we breathe ‘feels’.”  Her passion is unmistakable. “Art changes lives. It’s a dance with the divine. It connects us with our higher, inner guidance system. If we can be present to this deeper connection, that precarious line between inner and outer realities becomes harmonized.”

Bonnie Dorgelo Gallery – 766 Mountain Rd. Collingwood   705.441.4109