What first catches the eye on artist Mindi Bagnall’s Instagram page is an installation piece she calls “World Wide Web.”
It’s one of her previous ArtPrize entries that was later shown at a Western Michigan University faculty show. What look like spider webs connect tiny houses across the corner of the room. The “webs” are actually electrical cords. The piece illustrates how connected — and isolated — we are in today’s online world, perhaps even more so at this time of COVID-19-induced seclusion.
“At the time, in 2011, I think a lot of people were poo-pooing my concerns,” Bagnall says. “’Mindi, you’re overreacting!’”
Each of Bagnall’s pieces tells a story and a truth, and she doesn’t seem afraid to expose her raw self, anxiety, and moments of insecurity to explore her shadow side. But her work also has bright hope and entices us into worlds of fantasy.
For about seven months, since the beginning of the pandemic, Bagnall says she hasn't been able to paint.
“But I’ve had extenuating circumstances,” she says. Bagnall took early retirement from her position at WMU, and soon after came down with a stomach ailment that her doctor said may have been caused by the coronavirus.
“And then George Floyd was killed,” Bagnall says. It was too much, and she says her creativity took a pause. Overwhelmed, she's focused her energy on creating a larger art studio in her home, where she lives with her two young daughters.
“I’ve been retrofitting my house into a giant studio, and that has been wonderful,” Bagnall says. Before the pandemic, she worked at her MKB Art Studio at the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo, where she also offered individual and group instruction.
“A lot of my ideas come from the fears I’ve have, the experiences I’ve had in my life with insecurity, and my lack of self-esteem — I work on that. I do such nice work, why don’t I feel better about myself? That’s very honest, isn’t it?”
It could be that it's Bagnall’s willingness to expose her vulnerability that's brought so many fans to her work.
Bagnall has taught art at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and at Western Michigan University.
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