“This is one of the most powerful things I have ever encountered in my whole life,” said Gary Hilfiger as he stood in awe of the murals.
On June 17, Hilfiger looked on as the murals were hung as a tribute to his wife, artist Bonnie Bell Hilfiger. They were mounted on the small white building on Route 6 across from the Martha Lloyd parking lot.
A well-known and loved artist in our community, Bonnie Bell Hilfiger passed away last fall. Among her many accomplishments were the murals she painted, including the one on the convenience store in Sylvania, her art camps, the “Troy’s Got Talent” talent show she hosted last year, her art lessons, and of course her face painting at area events. She left a great deal of artwork that speaks of her many talents.
Sadie Allen, a local artist, was a perfect fit to create the murals in which Bonnie’s memory will live on. According to Allen, Bonnie was a mentor to her who willingly shared insight and experience while offering encouragement.
“I am trying to be a good sport about her being in a better place, but am greatly disappointed that our days of going to art shows together and working on projects together are over,” said Allen. “I wish our friendship hadn’t been so brief. I was looking forward to many more years of adventure and fellowship.”
Allen’s mural project includes four panels and a door. One panel focuses on Bonnie’s faith and passing. Another is a portrait of Bonnie as a child and as an adult. The third focuses on her face painting. The last is a landscape, which exemplifies the many landscapes Bonnie painted, the area she lived in and her days in Camptown.
“Bonnie was fearless and there was no project she was afraid to tackle. Bonnie’s passing is another reminder to me not to let moments slip by because you never know when someone’s time is up,” said Allen. “It was my goal that when all panels were completed, they would nod to her art and her love of children and community. They do not contain all that she was, but capture a few pieces of her.”
As the murals were hung with the help of community members, several people came to help celebrate Bonnie’s memory.
“Beautiful concept,” said Charlotte Lyon. “She really captured Bonnie’s essence.”
“The whole building comes alive as a piece of art,” added John Seeley.
Allen chose to use Bonnie’s paints to do the majority of the murals because she thought it would contribute to her memory.
“Although me being a different person, I will use them differently than she did,” said Allen. “It is my hope that by using her own paint, many of her favorite colors will be automatically included.”
Allen worked on the landscape panel from inside her barn.
“I hate being inside on nice days, so I moved this part of the project to our old sheep barn where I could look at the mountain and the livestock while I was painting,” explained Allen. “It was as close to being outside as the wind would allow. I started it at the pond and of course now it has some organic debris in it. Adds character I guess.”
Allen used her brother, Ike Allen, as one of the models when she painted the silhouettes in the horizontal panel. She also used friends, neighbors and other family members to help position the silhouettes and faces into the painting. There is no identical likeness to any of the people modeling for her. Her intent was to just have people representing the community.
Mr. Sandman was included in the horizontal mural because he represents dreams. Allen thought it was fitting to have Bonnie painting him as if perhaps she is still painting dreams for children. According to Allen, that panel was intended to be a bit of a comfort to the community.
“Somewhere over the rainbow up in heaven, I believe Bonnie is still painting,” said Sadie Allen. “And thankfully, without the troubles of this world.”