The Bodner


Ever have one of those friends who is just, well, there when  you are together? They are always so present in the moment, that they perpetually gloss over tidbits you would really appreciate knowing about them. Everyone enjoys bragging on their pals and assorted loved ones.  Some people truly are ignorant of their own genius and opt to not give us the chance.  Their vocation is just what they are, so what could the big deal possibly be?

A year ago I met Jessica Bodner and her boyfriend, Robert Catalusci. They had recently relocated from San Francisco to Ventura. Two artists with eclectic backgrounds, but a long track record from what my girlfriend Donna and I could surmise, in producing art. Robert though almost equally obtuse in describing exactly what he does, unwittingly let the cat out of the bag during a housewarming at the industrial space which serves as the joint production studio for the two. He showed us a video segment toned to match the color of the evening sky. Turns out it was an art concept projected on to a big screen built spanning some buildings adjacent to the 280 freeway in SF. The display had stopped rush hour traffic as an array of huge military jets engaged in an ominous dogfight that offered little clue the show was projected. Two days later, the Gulf War began. That is Robert.

But Jessica, wow, nothing but: “Oh I am a welder who makes lamps and has done some sculpture”.

That was the extent of it for the year, till an e mail dropped in containing a photo of a smiling Robert standing next to a large object that looked like a beehive. I am nothing, if not curious. I went by the shop where Jessica was busy welding away. The piece was a large, intricately engineered and fabricated metal sculpture with a value-scope that would be hard to measure in dollars. Yes, it was a lamp.

Over a period of two visits I documented the final construction and Jessica graciously exposed what an amazing talent she is. I needed to know more and the following text was sent to me by her Father, artist Stanley Bodner, who I had met while working on the Ventura Film Festival.

Stan Bodner: “I’ll give you some thoughts from my perspective:

Early on Jessica exhibited her unique view of the world. Sometime after serving her toddler-ship, she asked me what I thought of a miniature drawing that had she made. I don’t remember what I said exactly, it may have been something like “That’s a cute kitten.” I do, however, remember her response. She said, “That’s not a kitten daddy. You can’t see it, because your eyes are too big”.

That was the last time anybody ever mistook what she created.

Jessica’s mother, Alexandra and I both spent our pre-digital lives in front of an easel or behind a drawing table. Jessica spent most of her childhood under the drawing table.

Her summers were spent on the farm with her grandparents. Her grandfather was–before he retired–a welding foreman for Chicago Bridge and Iron. He kept a shop in the garage. As you know manipulating metal became her chosen media.

Yes, Jessica had an inordinate amount of exposure to Art and media, but it would all have been for nothing, without her extraordinary talent and desire to create.

She also had a poem published in grammar school, and was a finalist in a statewide public speaking competition.

Prior to moving west, Jessica graduated from The Chicago Academy for the Arts (a collage preparatory high school for the arts in Chicago). She continued her schooling in LA and San Francisco where she received her BFA.

There is one additional observation that I would like to share;
I made an unannounced visit to the principles office at CAA late in her sophomore year. The office was adorned exclusively with Jessica’s paintings and renderings. This had happened before in Jessica’s Grade school!

I hate to use the phrase “proud to be…” in describing my feelings. I like “lucky to be…” fits so much better.

She is “The Bodner”.  I am, “The Bodner’s father.”

Alexandra Navickas  studied at the Chicago Art Institute and Graduated with a teaching degree from U of Illinois.
Alex worked as a commercial artist designing and photographing fashion catalogs. When Jessica was born, Alex concentrated on her painting, later to be exhibited in Silvia Siegals Oak Street Gallery. After painting, she became a photographer specializing in hand-colored photos, for 15 years, then a few years designing African-American greeting cards, and then on Jessica’s suggestion, began making lighting fixtures 10 yrs ago for her business,


Stanley Bodner recipient of the “Alexander” and “St Guardens” medals for art New York High School system.

Graduated Cooper Union.  After an internship lasting a few years, I started my own Graphic Art Studio. My clients were Advertising Agencies, Mills, Manufactures and publications. I made the transformation from drawing board to computer early on. My introduction to the Mac happened in 1985.

I haven’t shown a portfolio for many years, however, I will e-mail you some current samples under separate cover of Alex’s and my work.

Oh, I just read your mighty blog. I am impressed. One favor I would ask; Please leave the Warhol bit out. It is somewhat demeaning sounding like sour grapes, and I do not wish to bask in reflected glory. Yes, he couldn’t draw, but he was a terrific designer, not unlike the many famous artists that have impressed us through the years. In my opinion, Edgar Dagas could draw, Renoir couldn’t. Both are geniuses.

I did appreciate the Pink Champagne he would send around Christmas. “A toast to Andy Warhol”.

Cheers, to Stanley and Alex (and yes,  Andy too). You’ve given us a true light in The Bodner.

Click on any image to  see the full frame view.

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