Artist Bunnie Reiss — that's her bottom right putting the finishing touches on a building mural — will open her Landers studio during the opening weekend of the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY BUNNIE REISS
Bunnie Reiss has owned her property in Landers for almost four years. The desert expanse was a welcomed escape from Los Angeles, and a place for her to enjoy the privacy and quiet.
“I had treated this as sort of my quiet magic place, because my work is so public already,” says the artist, who owned a storefront gallery in LA.
“As I started spending more time out here in the desert that gave me a better feeling for the area. I knew about La Matadora Gallery, but because this was my private place I did not think of showing much of my art locally.”
When the pandemic hit, however, Reiss began to look at her desert escape as a full-time permanent move, and made it official about a year ago.
“I have a better rhythm in living this way right now, which makes it easier for me to open up my world to other people,” Reiss says. “I was ready to share my art in this community when I made the move.”
The 20th edition of the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours, set for three consecutive weekends in October starting Oct. 9-10, will give Reiss her first opportunity to show her work to a large desert audience. “I really want to share this world out here, and I want people to share their world with me,” Reiss says. “I'm really looking forward to connecting and just hearing people's stories and hearing how they're doing.”
As part of her permanent move to Landers, Reiss created a painting studio on the property, which will be open to tour visitors during weekends 1 and 2. Tour participants can view and interact with more than 160 artists over the three weekends with the unique opportunity to see them in their work space.
“I thought it would be really fun to open up the property and invite people to come and see it,” Reiss says. “Living out here is just take a breath first, if you want to sit on your porch and have a cup of coffee for an hour, that's fine. You got plenty of time. You got a whole day ahead of you. It's more that I have a better rhythm in living this way right now, which makes it easier for me to open up my world to other people.”
A muralist who does both exteriors and interiors, Reiss has already put her mark on Untamed Yoga in Joshua Tree and The End in Yucca Valley. She hopes to expand into Palm Springs. “I'd love to do one there,” she says. “I think it would fit really well down there.”
Reiss chats further about her art and the Highway 62 Open Studios Art Tours with Palm Springs Life.
What is currently inspiring your art, and how has it evolved over the years?
My work has always just been a real exploration of nature and the systems within it. The way that we interact with each other, what happens when you put things out into public spaces?
Our reaction to beauty, our reaction to feeling good, the simplicity of feeling good, those are all things of interest to me.
I love mysticism, magic, and the cosmos. Because my family is eastern European, there's a lot of mysticism in it. There's a lot of discussion about community, and working together to make things possible. I think I'll always be someone who wants to put things out big in the public and leave them there. That will always feel very natural to me.
I've had a pretty bad block during the pandemic, especially the first year. It just seemed like there was just too much emotional crisis going on, to the point where I couldn't even really filter it through my artist's vision. Now that things are settling into this new world, the same ideas are coming forward, but they're just coming out in different ways.
What is your attraction to mural art – how do you adapt to the conditions from the type of wall you paint on to where the wall space is located to the climate you’re in?
I started mural painting when I lived in San Francisco. When you live in places like this you can’t afford big studios. You learn to adapt. I always loved the physical aspect of painting large. In the places I lived in I couldn’t do large paintings. San Francisco used to be pretty wild. You could just paint outside, leave it, and walk away. You were leaving some weird, like modern-day cave painting, and you were taking off. There was something freeing about that. I loved it.
I've adapted a lot over the years. I think a lot of it is understanding my style and being really secure in knowing that I have a way that I express. It always looks the same way, because it is who I am to my core. With that, you learn how to adjust the materials.
I didn't know how to use spray-paint for the longest time. I was getting offered these huge brick walls. The bigger the wall, especially if it's a brick wall, you need to learn how to use materials that are going to help you. I taught myself how to use spray-paint, and I adapted it to my style. That's a really big thing to learn: how do you work with the texture of walls, and how do you work with your environment?
Why is this a good time for this type of event for you? Could you have done this earlier in your career, or are you in a better position to share now?
I definitely couldn't have. I knew that I always wanted a little bit of an art farm. We have some livestock here, and we're growing a lot of food. Sustainability is really important to me.
That's like a different part of my practice, because I think it's just a good way to live. But I wasn't ready to really put a lot of energy into buying a property or having a property. I wasn't stable enough. I was still just running around like crazy. I think there'll always be a part of me that will do that. I don't think that's over for me. I just think that it's going to look different.
I think the exhaustion of being a working artist is something that people don't address very much. It exhausts you emotionally, physically, and spiritually. You're always trying to figure out ways to re-fill your cup, especially if you're doing public art. It's not only the size of the paintings, it's that you literally are just dumping everything you have into this huge public forum, and then you are walking away from it.
Will you do any demonstrations during the Art Tour?
Probably not, unless people want to know, but I'm always happy to share what kind of tools I use if people have questions. I've never done any kind of demonstration, but people often write me. I get so many messages on social media about what kind of paint I use, what kind of brushes I use.