Jill Bonovitz’s first clay piece, made when she was in the fourth grade, is a dense, heavy sculpture of her mother carrying two bundles—a bag of groceries under one arm and Jill under the other. For the past forty years, Jill has continued creating ceramic sculptures, but they are anything but heavy and dense. Her figure-like porcelain vases are delicate, whimsical fluid vessels with loops and rippled surfaces atop spindly legs or tiny feet. They can evoke movement and profiles much as a Frank Gehry building can convey a dancing figure. While all are a pale palette, each are unique and distinct in shape and mood.
Writing and language are integral to Jill’s larger ceramic sculptures where she sketches words on the surfaces then obscures them, leaving the narratives open to interpretation. Poems about death haunt a series of vessels she created after her father died, their ghost-like images barely perceptible. Calligraphic markings on other pieces range from the simplicity and subtle poetics seen in Richard Tuttle’s artwork, to the seemingly-spontaneous and random scribblings of Cy Twombly. The surfaces of her more recent vessels are drawn from diaries her mother kept as her Alzheimer’s disease progressed, her handwriting becoming more and more illegible.
Like Jill, these sculptures are gentle, tranquil, restrained, and minimal, yet beneath the fragile-appearing surface is infinite strength that brings contemplation and delight.