If you’ve been to Union, you know that there are a few special art pieces on the walls that help to set the tone for your dining experience. Today we visited MB Boissonnault in her studio to talk about her art and the commissioned piece that welcomes you into Union.
Tell us about your studio.
I’ve been in this space for eight years. The building is owned by Frank Moss. He likes that there are artists still living in the neighborhood. Frank is my hero and a lot of people don’t understand the service he does to the art community here by letting us stay at a reasonable rate without wanting to get too involved. He’s doing us a huge service, but he doesn’t make a fuss out of it. This building has a long history with the community at large. There used to be a bottling company in it. First they bottled alcohol and then eventually Coca-Cola. I’ve met neighbors who say that as kids they used to come by and steal Cokes when the bottlers weren’t looking. There are all kinds of artists living in this building: painters, welders, sculptors. All kinds.
How long have you been an artist?
I’ve been a professional artist for over 20 years. I went to school at Dusseldorf’s Art Academy in Europe which is one of the premiere art schools in the world and I lived in Europe on and off for over a decade.
The German painters trained me. They are the reason why I’m a dedicated artist. They’re precision and detail. But I’ve also got this California painter living in me which is all about light and air and freedom. I love California artists, like Larry Bell who literally made a box of light. I want to be the next wave of California artists holding space for that kind of work. As an artist I’m walking a line between that German stylized accuracy and this airy, 1960’s -1970’s California thing. The German’s are saying, “life is shit” and they’re deconstructing it and tearing it apart. The Californian’s are saying, “Life is great” and they’re creating art that is light.
What inspires you in your art?
In general, I’ve always been painting the status of America in the world. The power of land is very important to the work that I do. We are on very powerful land here in California. But, I’m from Vermont, so everything turns into a mountain. (laughs) Right now, I’m very inspired by water and more specifically, waves. For a long time I was painting specific waves, but I was finding that the image was dying during this process. Once I let go of the specific wave and gave in to painting the idea of waves, my work began to breath and the images became more environmental.
The art business has its highs and lows. It can be a tough row to hoe. And the art world in LA is very competitive. But if you’re that kind of person, an artist, then you’re obsessed. If you’re a painter, it’s not an existence that you choose. You just have to do it. You have to have your own voice. You have to create an alphabet for your work that everything lives inside, but you also have to constantly create something new.
How did you and Bruce meet?
I met Bruce because I work as a vegan private chef and I was hired to consult on a vegan menu for a restaurant he was working for in Santa Monica. I was a bit nervous about coming into a restaurant trying to tell a chef what to do, but after three minutes, Bruce and I were fast friends. He was just so sweet to me. I taught the staff how to deal with eaters like me; people who are vegan, gluten free, or just have a lot of issues. Bruce is a full-experience chef. He wants his diners to be taken care of.
Union asked me to create a piece for them for the shop. Bruce and Marie came into my studio and picked out six pieces they liked, so I had an idea of what kinds of themes they were drawn to. They really liked pieces that invite you in and then open up. They liked paintings with an open heart and big sky. So, then I went into Union and just sat in their space and considered what it was like to be there. Creating an original work for Union was easy because the space is so bright and airy and inviting. I’m very happy with how the piece turned out.
Where can we see your work on display?
Right now I’ve got a show up in Ojai at a place called the Porch Gallery. It’s a gallery on the main drag which is showcasing some really great, contemporary work.
I also have a show at the end of June in the Gypsy Trails Gallery. It’s an old trailer turned art gallery that drives around to different museums. This month it will be in front of MOCA featuring some of my art.
You can find out more about MB at her website: www.mbboissonnault.com