A tapestry of flowers

November 26, 2022 § Leave a comment

Gary Bukovnik with his “Flower Cascade” tapestry.

WHEN TWO TAPESTRIES of his flowers are released in the coming months, it will mark the realization of a long-held dream for Gary Bukovnik, the San Francisco artist whose floral watercolors are admired around the world.

“Many years ago when I when was first beginning to see tapestry as a possible fit for me and my art,” Bukovnik says, “I was contacted by the Atelier Raymond Picaud in Aubusson, France. After some talks we decided we should proceed. I made a cartoon for the 1 meter x 1.5 meter tapestry woven in the traditional way of Aubusson.”

It was a great success, and the six large tapestries of white pelargonium woven in the mid-80s sold immediately. So did a smaller tapestry of a waterlily. One of each is in the museum in Aubusson. But an economic downturn took the tapestry studio under before the partnership could flourish.

“Ever since those first works, I’ve wanted to return to this medium,” Bukovnik says. After viewing a 2020 exhibition of artist Hung Liu’s paintings hanging alongside tapestries of her work, he set about searching for a way to revive his interest in tapestry. He found it close to home. Magnolia Editions, which had made the Hung Liu tapestries, was just across the bay in Oakland.

“They were Jacquard woven tapestries that involved the newest technology,” Bukovnik says. “I had known Don Farnsworth, the director, a long time ago and asked for his guidance. There was a lot of back and forth across the bay, and finally we had chosen two images for weaving, which was done in Belgium, near the city of Bruges.”

Magnolia Editions describes itself as “a handshake between the art of the past and the art of the future” and notes: “Tapestries are an ancient medium, with antecedents from centuries past including Chinese kesi, Middle Eastern kilim carpets and Medieval European wall hangings. Yet these editions are created using cutting-edge software on state-of-the-art Macintosh computers and hot-rod industrial looms.”

The floral tapestries will be released by Magnolia Editions in an edition of 10, complete with hanging devices, for $18,000 each. Bukovnik is delighted. “I think they are quite amazing,” he says, “and I am really excited that I am on the path again to seeing my art interpreted in tapestry.”

Gary Bukovnik, “From the Garden of Earthly Delights,” 48 x 62 inches, Jacquard tapestry

Gary Bukovnik, “Flower Cascade,” 48 x 68 inches, Jacquard tapestry

Flowers for Santa Barbara

July 19, 2021 § Leave a comment

GARY BUKOVNIK, one of the nation’s most respected contemporary watercolor painters, is presenting an exhibition of recent florals at the new Thomas Reynolds Gallery at 1331 State Street, near the historic Arlington Theater, in Santa Barbara.

The exhibition, “Gary Bukovnik: Watercolors,” opens with a public reception — the gallery’s first since moving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara earlier this year — on Friday evening, July 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. to noon, Bukovnik will paint on location at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The painting demonstration will be live-streamed by the Botanic Garden. In addition, Bukovnik’s work will be included in the Lotusland Celebrates auction on July 24.

“Flowers chose me,” says Bukovnik. “I tried for years to escape. But flowers are the vocabulary of the language that I speak.” While his paintings are realistic and painted from life, he says: “Botanical accuracy is not my goal. Color is not even a concern. More and more I think of flowers as form. The structure comes from nature, but the rest comes from me.”

Bukovnik paints exclusively in watercolor, often on a large scale. “Watercolor has light — light is a positive force,” says Bukovnik. “I am a positive, optimistic person, so light — that is for me. I also like watercolor’s reductive nature, its spare and limpid qualities, and careful use of negative space, which is as important as any objects. And I like that there must be thought and study before taking action.”

Bukovnik has a long history with the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, having presented a number of exhibitions of his work at the gallery’s San Francisco location. The gallery was founded in 1994 and became a fixture in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, presenting historic and contemporary California art and artists.

Thanatopsis — Aeterna

April 16, 2018 § Leave a comment


CAROL AETERNA VOLK IS DEAD. She did not pass! She did not fall asleep! She did not go to the great beyond! Aeterna Volk just died. She was never afraid of death, for if you are afraid of dying, you cannot love to live.

Aeterna Volk does not need a memorial or funeral service to convince herself that she truly is dead. The people who have known and loved her will memorialize her in their hearts. Those who never understood her philosophies will not be moved because she has expired.

— Final entry in a book of poems left behind by Carol Aeterna Volk, published posthumously with watercolor paintings by Gary Bukovnik.

At long last roses

October 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

FOR THE FIRST TIME in his long and storied career as a painter of florals, master watercolorist Gary Bukovnik paints roses.

Flowers for China

March 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Gary Bukovnik at work on his largest watercolor yet.

Gary Bukovnik at work on his largest watercolor yet.

SAN FRANCISCO PAINTER Gary Bukovnik has become increasingly popular in China, with a number of museum exhibitions of his watercolor paintings of flowers in recent years.

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Making beautiful music together

June 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

FOR MORE than three decades, watercolorist Gary Bukovnik has created a painting every year to announce the new season of the San Francisco Symphony. Here’s a video preview of his latest for 2013-14.

The 2012-13 season poster

The 2012-13 season poster

ARCHIVE: San Francisco Symphony posters

Why flowers?

May 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

Gary Bukovnik | Ecstatic Exodus

Ecstatic Exodus | Gary Bukovnik


A conversation between master watercolorist Gary Bukovnik and Clare Henry, art critic for the Financial Times.

Cezanne spent many years painting apples. Your vocabulary has always been flowers. Yet it’s obvious to me that with your remarkable draftsmanship, you could draw anything you chose. Why flowers?

It’s not an option. Flowers chose me. I tried for years to escape. Flowers are the vocabulary of the language that I speak. I originally fought it, with varying degrees of success. You search and travel to explain who you are. Eventually I understood. These are the true representations of me — for better or worse. Take it or leave it. It has to be.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Mapplethorpe, Odilon Redon, Fantin-Latour, Monet, Van Gogh — think of those sunflowers and water lilies — Demuth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, all are famous for their glorious flower pictures. Which artists do you admire? Have they influenced your work?

I particularly admire Demuth. If I could have chosen a teacher, it would have been Demuth. He was such a facile watercolorist and had an amazing ability for selective vision, including exactly and only what he wanted to include. I feel a great sympathy with Mackintosh, in particular his watercolors, which in addition to benefiting from his keen eye have a great deal of heart and soul. I love his Zinnias. O’Keeffe and Mapplethorpe use flowers in a completely different way from me; their sensibility is not mine.

Your pictures are very beautiful. Yet you have said that in America having flowers as your subject is a disadvantage and makes for problems. Why is this?

Because flowers are innately beautiful. It’s easy to dismiss something beautiful. In this age of angst and gritty confrontation, curators these days seem to want edgy work. It’s different in Europe, where there is an art historical dimension. And sometimes people feel that watercolors have less value or that those using watercolor are not so committed. To me, that’s ridiculous.
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