Made in Contact by Bonny Nahmias and Gabriella Willenz

In this feature, Bonny and Gabriella share how a personal art exchange that started in the early days of the pandemic evolved to Made in Contact – a digital art book bringing together 30 Asylum Arts alumni.
You can now visit the project in our special project section.
The project was supported by Asylum Arts grants.

This exchange started as a duo exchange at the very beginning of the pandemic, during the first shelter in place order, when we decided to send art to each other. The idea was to exhibit work at each other’s home that would also function as a gift, in the absence of audience/friends/family/gatherings.

One of the things we both said we miss the most, and used to take for granted, was communal meals. I, Bonny, wanted to be present at Gabriella’s family dining table in some way or another, so I chose to make her four napkins, as the number of members in her household. The bird’s print on the fabric, from which I made the napkins, represents nesting – an activity everyone was engaged in at that point: cooking, baking, cleaning, home improvements and also mating and conceiving (at least this is what I was doing). On each napkin I sewed the name of a herb so each person would recognize their personal napkin. I chose herbs that grow in my garden in California, but also herbs that grow wild throughout Israel, to include another home Gabriella and I share, the place where our extended families live and where we grew up. I chose rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. I picked them fresh and wrapped each in its matching napkin and mailed them to Gabriella.

This exchange of works followed a period of conversations. We felt it was vital to talk and process with a fellow artist, to help put words, shapes and meaning to this experience. Every conversation started by checking in about what is happening in our lives at the moment, but quickly extended into themes about home, fraught nationalities, violence, climate, waste, otherness, parenting, relationship and loss. It all felt very connected.

Both of our extended families live on the other side of the globe, so we are used to communicating virtually. But the sudden impossibility of flying and not even having the option to visit family when desired was daunting. I, Gabriella, talked about the complicated choice to raise children (I have two of them) far from their grandparents. Bonny said, as an aside, that they are thinking of having kids. My daughter at the time was about one year old and I had some sweet swaddle blankets I didn’t need any more. From them I made a set of monogrammed handkerchiefs with the initials of Bonny and her partner. I was thinking about the parent-child interconnectedness and the constant tension between “me” and “us” that was extremely heightened during shelter-in-place. The work became more meaningful as the package arrived exactly on the day Bonny found out she was pregnant.

This small exchange later evolved into the larger exchange, which we titled Made In Contact. We wanted to do something that is not virtual, which has taken over our existence, and we wanted it to be something someone can experience with all their senses, smell, touch, taste, sight, maybe even sound.

As this project evolved to include a larger number of artists and we saw the exchanges grow and transform from storytellers to makers to writers, we also wanted to remake work in response to each other. In the beginning we made work for each other, and now we wanted to make work inspired by the other. These pieces, are of course, as we noticed with all the other collaborations, mediated through ourselves. At the end, the project Made In Contact is about connection and care and a testimony to the powerful process and artifacts it can produce. It was an exciting process bringing together 30 artists to create 10 mini collaborations. As this project finally culminates in a digital artbook we are excited to see how each collaboration enhances the others creating a chain of solidarity.

Made In Contact Digital Artbook

Artist talks

January 26, 2022, 9am PT | 12pm ET | 7pm Israel – Bonny Nahmias and Gabriella Willenz in conversation with Michelle Claire Gevint, Elisabeth Nicula and Alicja Gaskon. RSVP

February 23, 2022, 9am PT | 12pm ET | 7pm Israel – Bonny Nahmias and Gabriella Willenz in conversation with Liat Berdugo, Milcah Bassel and Arielle Angel. RSVP

Participating artists:
Robyn Awend, Annie Albagli, EG Asher, Arielle Angel, Michal Birenbaum, Milcah Bassel, Liat Berdugo, Sophie Barbasch, Noa Charuvi, Simon Crafts, Shasha Dotan, Assaf Evron, Leora Fridman, Boris Fishman, Michelle Gevint, Alicja Gaskon, Efrat Hakimi, Caroline Kessler, Bonny Nahmias, Elisabeth Nicula, Roni Packer, Jonathan Rotsztain, Adam Liam Rose, Rae Stern, Jeremy Shuback, Denise Treizman, Masha Vlasova, Katie Wong, Noa Yekutieli, Lauren Zoll, Anonymous.

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