profiles.jpg

Digital art pioneer

Household computers were still the stuff of science fiction when BONNY PIERCE LHOTKA ’64 graduated from Bradley. In fact, 1964 was the year the computer mouse was invented.

It wasn’t until the early ’90s that Bonny decided to utilize the skills she honed in her printmaking and painting classes at Bradley to create digital art. “It was a very bad time for the art market around 1990,” she recalled. “There was a tremendous shift in what kind of art people would purchase. I considered abandoning it altogether, but around that same time, Hewlett-Packard came out with color inkjet printers. I saw one and knew that was the direction I wanted to go. I bought a computer and jumped right in.”

Fast forward two decades, two books, and three DVDs, and Bonny is considered an expert in digital art. Together with her colleagues Dorothy Simpson Krause and Karin Schminke, she laid the groundwork for blending art and technology. “We pioneered many of the methods people are using today to produce mixed media work,” she said.

Her finished products are a mix between photography, painting, printmaking, and Photoshop. Bonny creates her art using “layers of destruction,” editing images to add and remove elements, then digitally layering them. “In the end, it’s about 15 to 20 layers on top of one another.” 

Her work is shown internationally and has been commissioned by United Airlines, Johnson Space Center, the U.S. State Department, Charles Schwab, and the Consumer Electronics Association, among others. She is the recipient of the Smithsonian/Computerworld Technology in the Arts Award and has work in the collection of the American Art Museum at the Smithsonian. 

Bonny’s most recent book, Digital Alchemy: Printmaking techniques for fine art, photography, and mixed media, published by New Riders Press, demonstrates how to use a computer and printer to turn everyday pictures into “true works of art.”

Bonny credits much of her success to learning the ins and outs of technology, including social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. She also ensured that her book would be available on e-readers. 

A native of La Grange, Bonny chose to attend Bradley for its printmaking department. “Dow Mitchell was my printmaking instructor, and there was something magical about his teaching and his allowing us individual exploration and expression,” she said. “My art is who I am.”

She and her husband JOSEPH LHOTKA ’63 live in Boulder, Colorado. Her work is part of the Digital Dark Room exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles until May 28. 

See more of Lhotka's work at lhotka.com.

— Erin Wood Miller ’09; Photography by Bonny Lhotka