Artwork a Revelation
Book of Bible inspires Springs artist’s dreamlike paintings
By PAUL ASAY THE GAZETTE
For almost 40 years, Bonnie Woolsey has pondered the end of the world. Woolsey, an 83-year-old Colorado Springs artist, is fascinated by the biblical book of Revelation. Dozens of her paintings, some dating to the 1960s, showcase John’s apocalyptic book in stunning color and stark imagery. In one painting, crystallike creatures float in the heart of a starry hurricane spiral; in another, half-animal, halfangelic beings stand in a circle of flame; in still another, the four horsemen, gaunt and terrible, thunder across a canvas. “It’s the art of the dream, you know?” Woolsey said. Decades of dream art hang in her North Cascade Avenue studio and home, sharing space with a riot of portraits, sculptures and photographs. Woolsey, constantly moving when she talks, calls her home a “little museum.” Other works from the Revelation series are stored in her other studio, in Old Colorado City.
She created a book from the series, but the only copy — made of two thick volumes — is stored underneath her polished wood dining table. She might publish the work one day. But not yet. “I’m not in any rush,” she said. Woolsey has been a professional artist for almost 50 years. She was one of the first painters to experiment with acrylic paint, she said, and her work has been displayed in several New York galleries. But when she painted the series, based on John’s end-world visions recounted in the Bible, profit was not a consideration. Only later, when the series was coming to completion, did she consider selling them. Her late husband, photographer Ben Schneider, talked her out of it. “I had people wanting to buy everything I had,” Woolsey said. “He said ‘don’t sell it. Don’t sell it. You don’t need the money. We’ll make it into books.’ “That’s how it’s turned out that I have it, because I was ready to get rid of everything.” Woolsey was raised in Waterloo, Iowa. Her father was a student of Unitarian-Universalism, and she grew up with a keen interest in all things religious. But as a child, she started attending a Quaker church three times every Sunday with friends. She credits the strict Quaker lifestyle for her good health. “I am fine because I was a Quaker and we didn’t drink or do anything bad,” Woolsey said. She adds with a smile, “we couldn’t sin, you might say. But we didn’t miss it because we didn’t know what else (we could) do.” She attended Wheaton College in Illinois (the same evangelical college from which Billy Graham graduated) but dropped out, staying home to help her father with his road machinery business. She almost punted artwork to become a missionary, and she hoped to go to Africa but didn’t. For Woolsey, Revelation’s appeal is more aesthetic than religious. Her artistic visions are, essentially, interfaith, she said. “It (the series) isn’t trying to save anybody’s soul.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0367 or email@example.com
CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE - ART OF ANGELS: Bonnie Woolsey, 83, in her studio and home on North Cascade Avenue, painted “Jacob’s Ladder,” showing angels ascending toward the throne of God.