By Gina Malone
When Grace Carol Bomer began calling herself Grace recently rather than the usual Carol, it was, she says, a rebranding. “Grace is my grandmother’s name, but it is God’s extravagant grace that is most significant in my life and my artwork.” She established her Soli Deo Gloria Studio in 1988, its name a nod to the insignia of Dordt University, called Dordt College when she attended the Iowa school and received her BA in secondary education and history.
Bomer was born and raised in Alberta, Canada in a pioneer farming village, Neerlandia, that her grandparents had helped to establish when they came from The Netherlands in 1911. Her mother and three aunts on her father’s side all painted. “I was surrounded by love of art as well as music,” Bomer says. “As a teenager, my longing to do art was so strong that I took correspondence art lessons since our small, rural school did not offer them.”
In college, she was taught the connection between art and literature and the Christ figure. “Good writing, like good art, uses analogy and metaphorical language to share the eternal story,” she says. “And good art deals with the truth of the human condition. These concepts are very important to my work as an artist today.”
After college she and her husband took teaching positions in Alberta, but when, six years later, he was diagnosed with a debilitating disease, they moved to Kansas to be close to family. “During his five-year recovery, I did not return to teaching, but began my quest to be an artist,” she said. With a mortgage to pay, she decided that art had to be a career rather than a hobby for her. “I was ready! I took a two-week watercolor class and entered the Kansas State Fair, winning first place. I submitted a painting to the state Watercolor Society show and won a Purchase Award. It was confirmation to me that I was on the right path.”
She and her family moved to North Carolina in 1981, where Bomer became involved in Asheville’s art scene and the Watercolor Society of North Carolina and took some classes at UNCA. “There, S. Tucker Cooke, who was then head of the art department, became an important influence,” she says. A month-long study in Amsterdam in 1995 and a trip to Italy to study Biblical narrative in art, in 2001, heightened her perceptions.
She has worked in most mediums, including pastels and charcoal, but oil and beeswax is her medium of choice these days. She works in encaustic in her home studio and cold wax and oil at her Asheville studio. “I love both techniques using beeswax as it is so rich and organic. It gives my work dimension and mystery.” And allows for “happy surprises,” she adds. After a gift from a stranger of boxes of gold and silver leaf, Bomer began adding this element to her work, underneath the oil and wax.
“My desire has always been to have my art bring together my faith and visible reality,” she says. “Thus, my paintings combine abstraction and realism because both the visible and the invisible world are real. I incorporate images using photographs or by hand drawing them onto the surface. I scrawl a line of poetry or asemic [wordless] mark-making onto a surface and, in the process, I make metaphors and analogies that relate to the outcome of the painting.” Once inspired by poetry or Scripture, she begins abstractly, layering oil and wax colors. “For example, in my recent commission Taste and See, I incised the Hebrew text with my pottery tool,” she says. “Taste was on the gold panel and See was on the silver panel. This text became more obscure as I continued working. During these first layers, I relinquish control in order to create mystery and allow the viewer freedom to imagine and to explore the artwork. I suggest rather than describe an object or an idea.”
To learn more, visit GraceCarolBomer.com or follow her blog at email@example.com. Soli Deo Gloria Studio is located at #6 Warehouse Studios (second floor) on Lyman Street in the River Arts District.