By Darlene DeVita
The following is one in a series of sneak peeks at the upcoming People of Chelsea additions by Chelsea Photographer Darlene DeVita. The new work will ultimately appear on the fence of the Chelsea Public Library (CPL) Spring of 2022 a collaboration between the People of Chelsea project and the CPL.)
X Bonnie is a Chelsea artist and is also known for her landscaping work. We photographed in her garden, once a dumping ground now a paradise!
Let’s start with how you got your name, X Bonnie Woods.
“I started using the “X” professionally in 1978 as an artist. At the time I was working on folded paper with ink. They were maps, treasure maps, realistic maps of specific places, certain cities. This was Pre-Chelsea. For instance, if I were making a map of this porch where we’re sitting now, there would be a little rectangle there where you are, and there would be a little square where I’m sitting, I would be an “X” on where I’m sitting right here on this chair, and then I’d sign my name next to it to show that’s where I was on the map. Up to that time, I would sign my paintings with my last name, Woods, but in this show, because of where I placed my name, rather than at the bottom of the piece, they started calling me X Woods. I started getting fan mail to X Woods, and I just thought it was cool because I was getting letters to X Woods. From then forward, I kept using it, and I like it. The X can mean so many different things to different people. W can look mysterious, X marks the spot, X chromosome, female. I just liked it and kept it.
I moved to Chelsea in 1999 via Ohio to Boston to Chelsea. In the beginning, we used to have artist’s walks. At the time, we had a little map of where the artists lived and where their studios were. We also had garden walks. This seems long ago now because there are many more artists in Chelsea now. I remember having open houses here.
One of my favorite galleries was the Spencer Lofts Gallery. I have had several shows there. It’s a beautiful space, and it was perfect for my work because I was working on big pieces. They looked fantastic in that space. Unfortunately, the board members of the association decided not support the gallery anymore. That was a big loss. I’ve been in different exhibition spaces in Boston, but that was one the best spaces in the Boston area. To see that end was a terrible thing for the arts in Chelsea.
There was the Chelsea Art walk too! The foundry was one of my favorite parts of it. To have it right here in Chelsea! As I understand it, that was the only bronze foundry in New England. They sculpted the “Make Way For Ducklings” [by artist Nancy Schön] there! They had tours with wine and cheese during the art walk, and at the end of the tour we had an opportunity to make an iron 6×6 coaster.
I spend a lot of time in Germany and still have a number of projects going on there, my daughter and two grandchildren live there, but I have consulted with Mimi Graney, and Chelsea Prospers on their history walks. One of my ongoing projects is a new city map for Chelsea. I’m getting ready to gear up on that project again. I think now that Chelsea is opening up a bit after the pandemic, it might be time to go around again and talk to people about the project.
It seems the pandemic brought Chelsea to its knees in a lot of ways, but you can see the Chelsea spirit. It’s the how the thing of making something out of nothing, the Phoenix rising up out of the ashes. Chelsea’s very resilient, we’re usually hit very hard by whatever tragedy comes by, and somehow we pick ourselves up again and again, and we get ourselves on the “map” again!”