Student’s Performance Art Stretches Imagination

Emily Bonani will perform a series of mini-plays as well as show off some of her concrete creations tonight at the Hardback Café during Artwalk Gainesville.

Emily Bonani and Andrew Quimby fight with Kool-Aid in "Squirt." Photo courtesy of
Emily Bonani and Andrew Quimby fight with Kool-Aid in “Squirt.” (Photo courtesy of

UF senior Emily Bonani isn’t graduating this weekend—she will get her degree in December—but the 22-year-old sculpture major will be in the spotlight tonight nonetheless.

Emily Bonani clutches a toy hammer encased in concrete that she made. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)
Emily Bonani clutches a toy hammer encased in concrete that she made. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Bonani will present an evening of performance art titled “STRIP” at the Hardback Café, 211 W. University Ave., as part of the monthly Gainesville Artwalk festivities.

“I’m doing this out of my own free will, just because I’m crazy!” Bonani said Thursday night while setting up props for the event that is billed as a “playground-inspired interactive experience featuring music, dance, spoken word and video performances.”

To give you an idea of Bonani’s boldness, she will begin the night by staring at herself in a mirror unflinchingly for 30 minutes to Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” along with a recording of Bonani reciting her interpretation of making choices. She will perform wearing either a yellow rubber suit or a blue sparkly dress.

“In my mind, no one else will exist in that space for 30 minutes,” Bonani said.

And that is only the start to almost three hours of performances by Bonani, her boyfriend Andrew Quimby and others during one of the more imaginative stops on Artwalk. Although “STRIP” begins shortly after 6, most Artwalk events run 7-10 p.m.

The April Artwalk lists 27 venues offering a wide variety of events and artists. For example, the Gainesville Fine Arts Association (GFAA) Gallery at 1314 S. Main St. will debut its “Black and White” exhibit featuring artwork without color. The Sequential Artists Workshop (S.A.W.), at 435 S. Main St., presents its end-of-the-year student show with the works of Clarissa Hart, Liz Rosema, Lia Page, Alisha Rae, Roxanne Palmer, Loren Albrecht, Maxine Worthy, Rowan McCarty and Javed Imthiaz.

artwalk logoFarther north, three art spaces on the 200 block of Northwest 2nd Avenue each have something different to offer. At Patent-Arts (218), a number of local artists will have work displayed, but there will also be a Salvador Dali painting available for sale to benefit Earth Pets to rescue local animals.

Next door at 224 Studios, Charlotte Kesl will display her photographs of humanitarian efforts in South America as well as in East and West Africa. At 230 NW 2nd Ave., inside the Zorka Gallery at Anthem Tattoo, Sarah Beagan presents “Pintos Animales,” to honor “the lives of animals that might otherwise be cast aside or left to decompose on roadways.”

For a complete list of venues for April, please visit the Artwalk Gainesville website.

Emily Bonani’s performance art at the Hardback Café begins almost an hour earlier than most Artwalk events because the venue has live bands (Clarity, Dunies and Sweet Heat) beginning at 10 p.m.

Emily Bonanis handmade creation "Face to Face, Leave Some Space. Photo courtesy of
Emily Bonani’s handmade creation “Face to Face, Leave Some Space.” (Photo courtesy of

Bonani’s “very conceptual” exhibition will have a multimedia show in the upstairs bar that includes two iPads with looping videos made by Bonani, along with other displays including her wooden sculpture titled “Face to Face, Leave Some Space.” Designed to be used by two people facing each other and holding hands, each participant stares into a wooden box between them only to see a reflection of their own eyes rather than their partner’s eyes.

“It’s about physically connecting with someone but not emotionally,” Bonani said.

On the ground floor of Hardback, Bonani will transform the small concert hall into an interactive playground using her own cast-concrete creations as backdrops.

“I use cement to create an environment,” Bonani said. “In this case, I’ve constructed an environment and experience based on a rugged playground. All the performances have to do with battling something.”

In her performance “Tight,” Bonani bends a 12-foot-long pencil rod around her body, “making the masculine material my own.”

It’s not easy to put on a show like this that doesn’t make sense to most people.
— Emily Bonani

In “Squirt,” Bonani and Quimby engage in a silent “Kool-Aid fight” that includes a basketball backboard and other props.

“It’s about letting someone into your life and the push-and-pull of that—the progression of a relationship,” she said.

Bonani added that she wouldn’t expect audience members to immediately grasp the concepts she is trying to convey.

“It’s not easy to put on a show like this that doesn’t make sense to most people,” she said. “I want people to revert to a childlike state of wonder, even if that’s not in a blissful way. I want people not to be afraid to be curious.”

— Noel Leroux

For further info, visit Emily Bonani’s website.