The last time Asheville Made caught up with Bobbie Polizzi, around Halloween 2018, she was posing with her hand resting casually but intentionally on top of a skeleton’s head, the way one might pat a friendly dog at the park or acknowledge a particularly charming grandchild. Skulls were her latest inspiration, and Polizzi moved through her various muses with a cozy wink. She was familiar with the macabre, having used doll heads, vintage ephemera, old watch parts, crow imagery, cloth mannequin busts, and other emotive remnants to craft her signature assemblage pieces.
She told reporter Tom Kerr she’d been dumpster diving for treasure since childhood, repurposing scavenged items into art at least half a century before “upcycling” entered the lexicon. But it was her adult background working with famous eccentrics — including directing the design for Prince’s Purple Rain album cover — that gave her such authority over her material and the savvy to brand it accordingly. After retiring from her 9-5, she made her sculpture under the moniker Junk & Disorderly, and the fun name fit the vibe even as it belied the deep craft that went into her assemblage.
Part Steampunk blueprints, part Edward Gorey set pieces, her sculpture looked iconic in her lifetime — and will likely grow more so since her death last November at the age of 76.
“Bobbie was a guiding presence,” says Gallery at Flat Rock owner Suzanne Camarata, who carried Polizzi’s work in her venue, hosted classes there led by the late artist, and will throw a posthumous birthday party this month complete with Polizzi’s requested soundtrack (expect Queen). Viewers can appreciate Polizzi’s work, on loan from collectors, in toto, as well as work by artists whom Polizzi inspired.
“She remind[ed] us to be the best at whatever we were trying to do,” says Camarata. “[Polizzi] gently removed our self doubt by pointing out the best in the situation at hand and offering practical ways for us to reach our goals.”
La Dolce Vita — The Sweet Life of Bobbie Polizzi opens Thursday, June 16, with a party 5-7pm at Gallery at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock, 828-698-7000, galleryflatrock.com). Artwork is up through June 26.
She touched my heart and will always be there 💓
She was such a generous teacher and inspired so many of us, no matter our discipline.