Ojai artist weaves seaweed for new exhibit in Ventura

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Seaweaving for Carrying, installation detail. Courtesy of the artist.

It took a trip to Scotland for Ojai-based artist Cara Bonewitz to reconnect with the ocean.

“I was getting my MFA at the Glasgow School of Art, and I came across this article about Victorian women who would go out and collect seaweed,” she says. 

She was immediately hooked by the idea. 

“I [would] board this train in Glasgow, and I'd go to the coast, taking these bags, filling them with seaweed. And then lugging them back onto the train, and hauling these heavy bags of seaweed back to my studio,” she continues.

Then she began weaving with the seaweed.

“I'd weave with it while it was wet. And it would dry on the loom. And then I would take it off, and play with different ways of hanging it and installing it,” she describes.

At her first local solo exhibition, “ Current in the Shadows ,” long gold and yellow strands of seaweed hang from the walls and ceiling of Ventura College’s New Media Gallery. Some strands are woven into elaborate tapestries. Other pieces stand alone as sculptures.

Seaweaving for Floating. Courtesy of the artist.

Floating, detail. Courtesy of the artist.

Far from the Ground, detail. Courtesy of the artist.

Seaweaving for Carrying, installation detail. Courtesy of the artist.

Bonowitz says she was drawn to working with seaweed because of how the material continues to decay.

“The most beautiful moment I have with the seaweed is when I first see it on the beach, that first glimmer of it,” she says. “It can be really frustrating because when I bring it back to the studio, I feel like I'm always trying to get back to that initial moment when I collected it -- that initial beautiful encounter.”

The exhibition runs until April 9, though the COVID-19 outbreak may affect gallery hours. Check with Ventura College’s website before visiting.




Kathryn Barnes