Bonnie Ora Sherk (1945-2021)

It is with great sadness we share that pioneering ecological artist Bonnie Ora Sherk passed away on Sunday, August 8, 2021, in San Francisco, California (USA). Sherk will be laid to rest on Wednesday, August 11 at Noon at the Mendocino Jewish Cemetery, near where her parents are buried.

Bonnie Ora Sherk was an American landscape architect, planner, educator and international artist, and founder of Crossroads Community, known as The Farm, and A Living Library. She’s well-known for her environmental performance work in the early 1970s, including Public Lunch, where Sherk ate her lunch in a cage next to tiger and lion cages in the Lion House of the San Francisco Zoo. The performance took place on a Saturday at 2pm, during normal feeding time and prime spectator attendance, highlighting a human being fed and watched like the other animals.

Public Lunch (1971). San Francisco Zoo Lion House. © 1971 Bonnie Ora Sherk.

In 2012, Patricia Watts conducted a two-hour interview with Bonnie Ora Sherk for the ecoartspace archive. Excerpts from the interview are located on our website under Exhibits, Performative Ecologies, an exhibition curated by Watts in 2020, including Public Lunch at 826 Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Watts additionally interviewed Sherk with SITE Santa Fe last summer for their My Life in Art series here.

Former ecoartspace curator Amy Lipton too worked with Sherk, including documentation of her Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park in FOODshed: Art and Agriculture in Action at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, New York, in 2014. 

The artist coined the term Funcshuional Art in 2003 to describe a new genre of art that combines the functionalism of the west with the sensitivity toward ecological alignment, natural systems and spirituality of the East. Her goal was that this concept would embrace the diversity of cultures from all directions. 

Bonnie Ora Sherk’s early groundbreaking performative work and fifty-year career focused on ecological issues with The Farm and A Living Library have been incredibly inspirational.

She will be missed and remembered. 

Her Instagram account is a_livinglibrary.

Sitting Still I (1970). Army Street/101 Freeway Interchange Construction Zone, San Francisco. © Bonnie Ora Sherk.

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ecoartapace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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