Her South African heritage has had an enormous influence on Yolize Bowker Monson’s life and art. Yolize, who joined the Anderson Artists Guild last year, grew up on a farm in Pretoria, South Africa, in a home built by her grandfather. “I climbed the same trees and ate from the same fruit trees as my mom did when she was a child,” said Yolize.
One figure who loomed large was Yolize’s maternal grandmother, a prominent South African artist who persevered through a painful nerve condition and 27 surgeries. “No matter how sick she was, she never stopped painting,” said Yolize. “She’s my hero.” During the last few years of her life, Yolize’s grandmother lived with her family in the U.S. One of Yolize’s favorite memories is of finishing a portrait of her grandfather (an actor and writer) started by her grandmother. “She had me sit on the floor as she sat on the bed and told me what to do. It was nerve-wracking!”
Yolize and her parents and three younger brothers moved to the U.S. when she was 11 in search of a safer environment with more opportunities. Yolize worked in the restaurant industry for a while, then started her own photography business in Tennessee, shooting weddings and school pictures. Her last job was for Lifetouch school photography. She moved to South Carolina to help her parents with their farm and to home school her nine-year-old son, who has autism. “I love South Carolina and really love Anderson,” she said. “The farm is the first place that feels like home since moving from South Africa.”
Self-taught, Yolize works mostly in acrylics. Her first acrylic painting was inspired by a picture of Marilyn Monroe. More recent pieces are based on photos she took on a visit back to South Africa and feature Table Mountain, Plettenberg Bay, and an elephant in Kruger National Park. She also has completed several paintings of a favorite cat who died two years ago. She does commissions of people as well as animals.
These days, Yolize has been experimenting with everything from finger painting to multimedia that mixes watercolor, ink and acrylic. “I paint from emotion and feeling,” she said. “I like big canvases where I can just let go.”
Yolize’s work has been on display at the Anderson YMCA since February 15 and will hang until March 31.