Bonita Ely is one of the pioneers of Australian environmental art and has been exhibiting urban interventions, sculpture, photography, performances, painting, image and text, printmaking, video and drawing since 1972.
Dr Bonita Ely’s examination of complex environmental themes - The Locust People in the early 1970s, the Murray River Project - includes invented personas, - the smooth talking cooking demonstrator performing Murray River Punch , or Dogwoman’s lectures, where she barked, yelped and growled dog talk whilst showing slides of artworks featuring images of dogs from Berlin’s public art collections and environs (1982, 1983, 1984).
During the 1990s she drew attention to genetics, her snabbits [half snail, half rabbit] battling the extremes of global warming. Recently her installation of video and brush drawings for the Cleveland Street Project, Performance Space, Sydney, saw her return to the theme of interspecies communication.
Her photographs of the Murray River system in drought from 2007 - 2009, from the river’s headwaters in the mountains to Goolwa, the mouth of the Murray in South Australia show a bright, fresh bubbling spring transformed into a trickle of saline sludge in South Australia. A billabong called Bottle Bend is now a lifeless repository of saline battery strength acid produced by a chemical reaction of oxygen with mulch in the billabong’s banks, exposed by an unprecedented drop in water levels. This produces acid sulphates which change into sulphuric acid. Bonita’s 2010 reprise of the Murray River Punch performance at UTS Gallery in Sydney, Murray River Punch: the 21st Century takes you there. He public sculpture, Thunderbolt (2010), commissioned to mark the 10th Anniversary of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, signals at night to the precinct's neighbourhood the level of electricity being consumed. This is acieved by linking the lighting, powered by solar panels, to EnergyAustraialia's online data base.
Dr Bonita Ely is Head of the College of Fine Art’s Sculpture, Performance and Installation Area and academic advisor to Hue University, Vietnam, Co-ordinator of COFA's School of Art PhD Program, and an inaugural member of COFA’s Environmental Research Institute of Art [ERIA]. Her current environmental research is supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, and in the past, Australia Councill grants, and university research grants. She is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane.
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