In the waning months of the last year of the last century spent toiling as the editor of a weekly newspaper in Pasadena a press packet landed on my desk detailing an exhibit at the Mendenhall Gallery and from it I discovered and become enthralled with the art of Richard Bunkall, a resident of the city and long-time instructor at Arts Center College of Design.
Little more than a week later, at the age of 45, Bunkall died after a five-year struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. In shock as I read the perfunctory obituary in the Pasadena Star-News, I mourned his passing somewhat selfishly in that I’d just found his heroic art. As such I wanted both to know more and share that with my readers, and thanks to the grace of his widow Sally during what had to be such a difficult time, she allowed myself and writer Kathleen August to intrude upon the Bunkall home, and access his studio, where he created his amazing works, and where surrounded by family and friends he passed in May 1999.
It was a deeply emotional experience and privilege, to say the least.
Q&A: Curator Peter Frank (center) is flanked by artists Kenton Nelson (left) and Ray Turner (right) as they discuss Bunkall's life and his art.
It was equally emotional to visit the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) last night for a standing-room-only event surrounded by some of his most profound and moving creations, to remember the man and his art and to celebrate the launch of a new book devoted to both, the first publication of the artist’s remarkable 25-year career as a painter and sculptor.
If this is your first time hearing about Richard Bunkall or it’s been a long time since you last thought about him, I’d encourage you to make a trip out to the PMCA to introduce or reacquaint yourself with his remarkable imagery before the exhibit, “Richard Bunkall: A Portrait” closes April 22.
Where: Pasadena Museum of California Art, 490 E. Union Street, Pasadena, 91101
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m., through April 22.
Cost: $7 adults; $5 seniors and students; free the first Friday of the month