Celebrating transformational artist Bobbie Polizzi
In 1997, Bobbie Polizzi settled in WNC after retiring from a long, successful career as a product/design executive, where she had been involved in collaborations with the likes of Prince (she oversaw the artwork for his monumental Purple Rain album) and luminaries such as Michael Jackson would regularly drop by her office. Upon moving to this region, Polizzi set up a studio and dove right into assemblage art – with the same curious, experimental enthusiasm that had fueled her childhood passion for diving into dumpsters.
“My dumpster diving started when I was seven or eight years old,” Polizzi once revealed. “I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and would cruise around the neighborhood with my little red Radio Flyer wagon on trash day – looking for anything I could take apart and put back together. There was a print shop where I found paper that I’d bring home to use for art.” Decades later, Polizzi was still refining her knack for spotting the artistic potential of random discarded items. “When you do assemblage art,” she observed, “you never look at things the same way again. You tend to look at what it could be, not what it is.”
That positive perspective shaped her work and defined her life, as Suzanne Camarata, owner of Gallery at Flat Rock, attested in a recent press statement. “Bobbie was an artist in every sense of the word. Her artwork illustrated so well the unique vision she had of the world — at times cheekily macabre, but always full of emotional depth and complex creative effort. She had a unique ability to convert ordinary items into extraordinary treasures, often taking one person’s cast-offs and transforming them into unique works of art. Her mixed-media assemblages, altered vintage photos, steampunk creations, and artist books were always a hit here at the gallery.”
Polizzi, who affectionately referred to her body of work as “Junk & Disorderly,” died last November. On June 16, a day after Polizzi’s birthday, Gallery at Flat Rock will host a celebration of her life, friendship, and artistic legacy during what Camarata describes as “a big ol’ Bobbie-style party.” Many of Polizzi’s creations, on loan from collectors, will be featured plus works by other artists paying homage to Polizzi, who was a mentor to many.
Polizzi once described her artistic process as “taking something that started life as one thing and transforming it.” Camarata believes that those words were equally applicable to Bobbie herself and the many lives she touched. “She brought that same sense of creativity and redemptive spirit to her own life and her many friendships,” the gallery owner states. “Whenever she was in the gallery, the energy of the place got amplified five-fold with her grounded, lively presence. She will be missed.”
La Dolce Vita — The Sweet Life of Bobbie Polizzi opens Thursday, June 16, with a party 5-7pm at Gallery at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock, 828-698-7000, galleryflatrock.com). Artwork is up through June 26.
While I’ve often used street finds in my own work, Bobbie taught me much more sophisticated techniques to make visions happen. She was a generous teacher and over-delivered her wealth of knowledge. She will be truly missed.