Desert Companion

My Space: Anthony Bondi


Anthony Bond's space
Photography by Brent Holmes

On the eve of the iconic Las Vegas artist’s career show, a look at his creative space

If you were to make a list of artists most associated with Las Vegas, Anthony Bondi would be equivalent to the paper you jot that list on — which is to say, indispensable to the project. He’s a genuine Vegas character whose early collages and art-music-performance happenings did as much to define the cultural sensibility of those pre-boom and early-boom years as any artist’s work. (See Desert Companion’s profile, December 2013.) His work melded a love of history — Las Vegas’ and the world’s — with an eye for the visual and psychic juxtapositions and disjunctures of modern Sin City.

On September 15, The Studio at the Sahara West Library, the large, upgraded gallery spaces that once housed the Las Vegas Art Museum, will host a career-spanning look at Bondi’s work. We checked in at his Downtown home to see what his creative space looks like.

1   Toy Figures This wall unit holds a collection of old figurines — pirates, heroes, toy battleships. They’re still a source of inspiration: “When you invest something with 10 years of meaning, as a child, and you come back to it as an adult, that power is still there,” Bondi says. One playful arrangement groups a virgin Mary, the Blue Angel, and a lusty Pirates of the Caribbean gal.

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2   Photo of Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean Cobain He calls it a “goddess shot” and says it puts him in mind of the passage of time between generations. Speaking in the voice of the girl, he says, “I’m brand new, but mom’s wrecked.” It’s about cycles of renewal.

3   Computer screen Bondi is best known for his handmade collages and the playful, interactive pieces he built for Burning Man. Less recognized is his digital photography, which he shoots in his backyard and manipulates here. He sees it as a logical extension of the collage work, which he felt he’d played out. “I had nowhere left to go with them.”

4   Photo of child soldiers in Africa “How do you survive that?” Bondi wonders. The image serves him as a real-world reality check, reminding him where he falls on a scale of real suffering. “There are larger problems in the world than mine,” he says. “I may have the blues, you know, but I’m not a refugee.”

5   Antlered skull Bondi found this while hiking deep into the mountains near Malibu, California. Just sitting there! Picked clean, it had clearly been in the open for a long time. Which he took to mean he’d gone to the edge of where anyone else had gone in a long time — and was about to “trespass into territory of animals that didn’t have direct experience of humans. I had a choice, to keep going or turn back.” He turned back, taking the skull.

6   Historical images This batch of representations of previous human eras — structures from ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, the Renaissance, the Vatican — feeds his historical imagination. And the African huts? “It’s like, the people who live there don’t live like us. How cool is that?”

7   Burning Man plaque For Burning Man one year, Bondi built a merry-go-round. It proved to be popular, he says, with people riding on it, screaming in delight, 24 hours a day. It was near a sector called Illumination Village — “where a lot of the fire acts hung out” — and that group was so impressed with the enjoyment Bondi had created, “they gave me a plaque to celebrate it.”

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