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Artist Bonnie Maygarden presents ‘Desert of the Real’

Bonnie Maygarden’s canvases look like they’ve come right out of the digital printer, but in fact are all meticulous hand-painted abstract representations. As a recent gradate of Tulane’s MFA in studio art, Maygarden earned her bachelor’s degree at Pratt Institute in New York, and was classically trained in photorealism before extending this technique to mimic “reality” in less traditional ways.


In her current show, “Desert of the Real,” at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, she presents a stunning abstract collection that plays on themes of technological reproduction, but could just as easily be inspired by the natural world of draping fabric, water surface, and crumpled paper from everyday life.


“I was interested in photorealism, but other photorealist painters didn’t really appeal to me,” Maygarden explains. She focused her training into creating abstract illusions, playing and experimenting with vibrant neon, synthetic-looking color to mimic and mock the computer screen we all spend so much of our day on.


“This existence we have [online] is almost more real to us than our day to day lives,” she says. “In terms of fine art, I’m always thinking about how our experience of images on the internet is very different from experiencing reality. I wanted to take that idea and try to replicate the glow of the screen, the colors.”


Since we experience many things in life online nowadays — social interactions, virtual tours, research and news-gathering — it’s vital to underscore our awareness that this “reality” has been enhanced and modified by other humans, just as paintings have always been perceptually altered versions of reality.


The title of Maygarden’s show, Desert of the Real, refers to a quote by French theorist Jean Baudrillard, who is a conceptual inspiration for the artist.


“Baudrillard predicted that the simulations of reality created by our culture will become more real to us than reality itself, and furthermore he believed our culture would become a ‘desert of the real’,” she explains.


Written by Elisabeth Morgan