The Bonner Collection - More Than You're Expecting
If you live in the South, you're familiar with Jim Bonner's commercial art. Now visit the Bonner Collection in Old Town to see his take on the natural coastal world.
- story and photographs by Karen Fineran
Ship models, wooden duck decoys and seabird figurines are artfully displayed among exquisitely rendered watercolor paintings of pelicans and other wildlife, boats, and lighthouses. Sea-colored jewelry is draped over driftwood sculptures. Vibrant ceramic seahorses, starfish, seashells, crabs and turtles seem to be crawling just about everywhere.
The Bonner Collection Art Gallery contains the studio of well-known artist Jim Bonner, and is the primary outlet for his watercolor paintings and prints. Owned by Bonner and his wife Patsy, it also contains an expansive retail space showcasing home décor, jewelry and gifts, and featuring the work of several other local artists.
The gallery was first opened in Pass Christian in 1996, moved to Old Town Bay St. Louis in 2003, moved to uptown New Orleans in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, and in 2013 finally returned to its Gulf Coast home.
Originally from Meridian, Mississippi, Jim Bonner hails from the heyday of the advertising era in the ’70s in New Orleans. He’s the guy who designed the iconic Barq’s root beer can, the Crystal hot sauce pepper logo, and the original New Orleans Jazz NBA basketball team logo, among many others, some of which are available as prints at his studio.
So while a commercial graphic designer by trade, and a very celebrated and successful one at that (with a lineup of design and advertising awards to his credit), Jim’s true passion eventually emerged for painting watercolors of wildlife and nature scenes. His work has been exhibited at The George Ohr Museum and at the Ocean Springs Annual Show. His studio sells his original watercolor paintings, as well as signed and numbered giclees and prints.
Jim also accepts commissions, and is particularly talented at painting pet portraits that seem to perfectly capture the spirit and sensibilities of these quirky cats and dogs so beloved by their owners. He’s even painted Bay St. Louis’s own Lucy!
Jim’s wife Patsy manages the retail side of the operation, collecting and displaying unique coastal-style gifts, home decor, antiques, new and vintage jewelry, and fun beach fashion like colorful bags, hats and scarves. Alligators and herons adorn delicate boxes made of capiz seashells. Dinnerware, hand towels, lamps and pillows prominently feature crabs and other sea motifs.
Patsy says that the NOLA couture line that she carries is especially popular, with its neckties, dog collars, and key chains sporting alligators, cocktail glasses, fleur de lis, or red beans and rice. She also carries the original art pieces of a number of local clay artists, jewelers, and mixed media artists.
“This building is in such a great location that I think it really lured us back to the Bay,” Patsy explained about thedistinctive French Settlement Building that was opened for retail space on the Old Town beachfront in 2013. “Plus, we have such a love for the beauty of the Coast, and we love being right by the water here. Since we moved here, so many people have been coming and telling us that this is their favorite place to come in the Bay!”
The Bonner Collection Art Gallery is conveniently located in the French Settlement building at 108 South Beach Boulevard, steps away from the Bay St. Louis Harbor. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday and Monday afternoons “by chance.”
Many of Jim’s paintings, as well as some of their retail goods, can be viewed at their website at www.thebonnercollection.com.