A little History - prayersmadevisible

A little History

"Beauty is love made visible - the ultimate beauty is Light. By looking for beauty, by creating beauty, by sharing beauty, we transform ourselves and those we touch…together we approach the Light."

- Bonnie Vierthaler May, 2010

I’ve always loved art, but devoted my early years to dance.  My career as a visual artist didn't take off until 1969 when I  learned to weave from my next door neighbor.  Within  months I had won the Best of Show award in a highly regarded exhibition, and a whole new world opened up to this recently singled mother of two toddlers.


Weav-Wind Bell

Fiber and Fabric Arts (1969-1974) Pittsburgh,PA and Athens and Atlanta, GA

 My early fiber and fabric pieces were often 3-dimensional, and humorously pushed at the limits of artistic traditions, as well as social conventions.  

Often the titles that came to me were cosmic and visionary.  I didn't understand at the time, but they were glimpses of things to come.  At that point, however, my passion for making the world a better place was rooted in social commentary…and delighted in poking fun at the flaws in human nature and our earthly existence. This could be seen especially in three significant bodies of work:


The Feminine Hang-up (1972) Athens, GA

The Feminine Hang-up (1972) was an exhibition of 9 fabric banners in the shape of female figures. They hung by the wrists and flapped in the breeze. Each was accompanied by a free verse commentary on the plight of women in this society. This was my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) thesis and exhibition at the University of Georgia.


Works in Rubber (1976-1979) Seattle, WA

Later, working as a CETA Artist for the City of Seattle, a simple sketch that reminded me of rubber led to a series of 15’ suspended triangular pieces woven with strips of recycled inner tubing. Curious about making art with other industrial scrap materials, weaving fell by the wayside as I explored this rich, new medium With the Gasket Shop, Gaco-Western, and Boeing. We were all delighted to find that the process of having an artist in the plant was just as exciting as the artistic results. This work, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and sponsored by Allied Arts of Seattle, became the Works in Rubber series, and was honored with a solo exhibition at the Polly Friedlander Gallery and various individual pieces were installed in public places around Seattle…including the lobby of Mayor Wes Uhlman’s office.

During that time, even though I was actively exhibiting and selling my artwork, serving as an artist-in-residence for schools, corporations, and the City of Seattle, receiving grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, serving on art juries, speaking on panels, and getting plenty of media coverage, something was missing.

In 1979, in a moment approaching epiphany, my work loomed large as simply a reaction to the world around me; useless in the face of the real role of the artist…a true artist is out in front, leading the way, creating a subtle blueprint for a beautiful, harmonious world. But how? Feeling ill-prepared for this calling, and not wanting to burden the world with any more useless stuff in the meantime, I vowed not to make any more art until the way became clear, and so began a lifelong spiritual journey….



“The Joy of Smoking…A Spoof on Cigarette Advertising” Art Exhibit  (1986) Traveled the East Coast from Maine Is the photo of the first exhibit too bad to use here or should we just link it to “a lively exhibit"

In 1985, with one foot still anchored in social commentary, I broke my vow of abstinence from art to take on the tobacco companies’ deceitful advertising campaigns. The result was The Joy of Smoking…A Spoof on Cigarette Advertising, a lively exhibit of 63 collages that used powerful ads from medical journals, pasted on top of the deceitful tobacco ads, to tell the truth about smoking. I traveled with the exhibit to schools, hospitals, libraries, parks, and shopping malls all over the East Coast. Within months the images were on the front page of the American Medical News and hanging in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building.


The BADvertising Institute (1987-present) International

o the doctors, teachers, and health educators who were asking for them. I began offering BADvertising Workshops in the schools so that the kids themselves could experience creating their own honest ads. That was so successful that BADvertising Train-the-Trainer Seminars were created to expand the reach of the BADvertising approach. During this time, I was included in Who’s Who in American Art and honored with a Giraffe Award…given to people who stick their necks out in the public interest.

Within a few years this counter-advertising approach was mandated by the CDC, and State Health Departments and large voluntary health organizations like the Lung Assn and Cancer Society, were creating their own powerful counter-ads and videos.

In 1995 the award-winning BADvertising Institute website was the first tobacco prevention message to hit the World Wide Web. Twenty years later I still get heartfelt messages from its viewers. It can be seen at www.badvertising.org.

Note: in 1987 I began studying Chinese on my own. I wasn’t sure why, but I figured that when I became fluent I would find out.

In 1997 I was invited to present my BADvertising work at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Beijing and my mission became clear…my unorthodox tobacco prevention methods were needed in China. The movement in the US was in good hands, so in 2000 I tiptoed out of the country and began the work anew, serving as a Spoken English teacher at Xiamen University in China and quietly planting the seeds for tobacco prevention in a land where they have more smokers than America has people, and tobacco accounts for 10% of the economy. (Update: All schools in China are now officially smoke-free, but that’s a whole different story…see Green Breathing…bringing Smoke-free Air to China.)


Green Breathing …bringing Smokefree Air to China (2006-2009)

In 1997 I was invited to present my BADvertising work at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Beijing and my mission became clear…my unorthodox tobacco prevention methods were needed in China. The movement in the US was in good hands, so in 2000 I tiptoed out of the country and began the work anew, serving as a Spoken English teacher at Xiamen University in China and quietly planting the seeds for tobacco prevention in a land where they have more smokers than America has people, and tobacco accounts for 10% of the economy. (Update: All schools in China are now officially smoke-free, but that’s a whole different story…see Green Breathing…bringing Smoke-free Air to China.)


02 Embrace from Above-gold series

Prayers Made Visible ( 2007-present) US and China

Once settled in China, I began exploring new avenues for my own artistic expression. After several years of color studies with oil pastels, my Prayers Made Visible series finally began to emerge as a crack of light under the door. Now, thirty years later, ready or not, the time for uplifting others has come. The need is great. Life’s journey has burnished my heart and my art with a sense of light and inner peace that finally seem worthy of sharing. If the soothing, uplifting energies of my Prayers Made Visible images don’t yet lead the way, at least they might shine a light in the right direction. Let’s look to the light and take the journey together…

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