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Lida Gail Gordon

September 28, 1949 ~ July 17, 2021 (age 71)

Obituary

Widely known visual artist Lida Gail Gordon departed this mortal coil the 17th of July, 2021. A long-time resident of Louisville, KY, Lida is beloved as an artist who created works in fiber, paper, and print, as an inspiring teacher of several generations of Kentucky artists, and as a vibrant participant, along with her husband, Peter Bodnar III, in the conversations, exhibitions, and activism of the Louisville art community. The daughter of the late Ben and Lida Ignafol Gordon, Lida Gordon was born on 28 September, 1949, in Elkhart, Indiana. During summers as a teen at her folk”s camp on Long Lake, she excelled at “tripping the light fantastic “on water skis. After graduating with a B.A. in Art from DePauw University, she taught in public schools for two years and then decided to go on for graduate work at Indiana University in 1973. After completing studies for her M.F.A. in 1976, Lida was drawn to Louisville because of Kentucky’s venerable artist Alma Lesch and joined the textiles program at the Louisville School of Art. She chaired that program until the school closed in 1983, when she was then invited to join the faculty of the Allen R. Hite Institute in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Louisville to head the Fiber area and develop a graduate program.. The advising, guidance, and support for her graduate program and its students led to the formation of LAFTA (Louisville Area Fiber and Textile Artists), part of her enduring legacy. For this often unnoticed service, UofL President James R. Ramsey, in a fall 2014 address to the university community, honored Lida’s many contributions, a recognition celebrated by her many students. Lida’s creative work required materials, equipment, tools, space, and above all time, in and around the quantifiable (and unquantifiable) teaching assignments that are the first priority of university duties. She wove and knotted and found inspiration in fishermen’s nets as well as Greek bronze-age ceramics. With textiles and fiber as her first love, she steadily enlarged her formal production to include drawing, painting, photos, and installation, as well as print-making. She came to use this range of media with ease, celebrating her craft but not limiting herself to traditional boundaries. Her first Louisville exhibition was a solo show at the Casa Grisanti-Byck Gallery in 1979, followed by two-person and group shows in Louisville, southern Indiana, Lexington, Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, just to name a few. Over more than two decades, she brought more than 75 visiting artists and other professionals with arts-related expertise to campus and Louisville. Lida was active in efforts to create greater recognition for women artists and artists of color; after she and Peter Bodnar married in 1984, they frequently worked together on public events and projects. They were part of the city’s vital art scene from the 1980’s onward—which matched for sophistication and genuine engagement with ideas —their peers and colleagues in larger cities like Chicago or San Francisco. On a more modest scale, Lida was an avid yard sailor, and always tried to get there early. Her eye for material and style led to a fondness for fashion and retail. Her appetite for collecting became an avocation with a booth in a New Albany, IN, antique mall for many years, which segued into the Saturday Flea Market on Vinalhaven Island, ME. A familiar face at at her tables, Lida enjoyed the banter of arranging and selling the objects and artifacts she loved to people who appreciated them. Lida was always a “present companion”, an extremely focused listener, whether with a new acquaintance, a student, a colleague or a life long friend. A quick wit with an infectious laugh, Lida would stand and fight on principle in both her personal and professional life. She was a feminist who walked the talk and always stood for more inclusion and equity. Lida loved to travel but she loved dogs more—specifically yellow labs & German Shorthaired Pointers— which kept her grounded more often than not. In 1986 on Vinalhaven, she conducted an oral history project on Netting and became life long friends with island “knitters”—Jerry Clayter, Bo Young, Eleanor Webb & Stephanie Crossman—and she wrote about them in her published article “Fine and Strong, on Vinalhaven’s Netting” (1992). She found artistic inspiration in this research, which led her to create a series of prints, monumental in their presence and austerity. These she printed at the Engine House Press and exhibited in a solo show at the Penobscot Marine Museum, as well as later working in collaboration with her brother-in-law Stephen Bodnar to cast some of these forms in bronze. She exhibited at the Fog and New Era galleries in Vinalhaven for many years. She had become a national, even international, figure who earned, in addition to peer recognition, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1993), the Kentucky Arts Council (Al Smith Prize, 1994) and other awards from the Southern Arts Federation and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.She is survived by beloved husband Peter Bodnar, Ill; his parents Phyllis and Peter Bodnar of Urbana, IL; sisters-in-law Dawn Bodnar-Sutton (Phoef) of South Pasadena, CA, and Eden Bodnar (Kevin Klein) of Minnetanka, MN; and brothers-in-law Stephen Bodnar (Heather) of Atlanta, GA, and David Bodnar of Urbana, IL; aunt and uncle-in-law Loralee Knotts and Howard Murad of Marina del Rey, CA; cousin Martie Boulanger of Union, MI; cousin Guy Ignafol (Cindy) of Muskegon, MI ; and adoptive nephew Travis Stove (Ashley) of Ossian, IN, as well as dozens of close friends, colleagues, and former students in and around Louisville, on Vinalhaven, and around the U.S. who all mourn her loss. A Memorial Celebration will be held at the Water Tower @ Zorn & River Rd., August 1st 2021 from 2-5pm. Donations may be made to LAFTA (https://laftalouisville.org).

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