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Updated: Feb 20

By Carrie Leigh Dickey, Owner and Visionary of Artfolios


I was sitting in my sophomore year drawing class with a pad of paper and my tackle box full of pencils, inks, charcoals, and erasers. I was very shy and was trying not be observed in a side corner. And in she walked: shoulders back, tall, head held high. She was power, beauty, and kindness all wrapped together. I was drawn to this phenomenal woman—who was she? Ann.


“I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,  

And the flash of my teeth,  

The swing in my waist,  

And the joy in my feet.  

I’m a woman



One Thursday Ann was called to be our portrait model. She was placed in a chair on top of a platform, and the lighting was set. I pulled out my conté crayons and began. I first ruffed in her facial bone structure. Then I began to add the details: I drew her high cheekbones and her insightful eyes. I worked the shading until it was just right. Then came her hair. As class concluded I had the best portrait I had ever drawn.


“Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.  

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.  

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.”


Ann became and remains a dear, dear friend of mine. She is every bit as amazing now as I thought she was the first time we met.


“I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,  

That’s me.”

-from the poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

QA with Ann

Why do you create?

Ann: I don’t know why—I have always created. As a girl, I spent my summers creating art with other neighborhood children in the backyard of one of our neighbors. And in my teens I created lots of fashion designs and in those days dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. I made some of the clothes that my parents couldn’t afford to purchase for me. Why I create isn’t one hundred percent clear, but creativity has always been important and necessary for my peace of mind.


What path led you to where you are today?

Ann: A thousand and one different things. But I would have to say that my need to prove myself more capable than my limitations as a dyslexic person was at the top. This led me to Salem College, and it was there that I discovered fine art.


What inspires you?

Ann: Lots of different things—even if I can’t do anything with the inspiration other than jotting it down. The same can happen with the interactions with people. Someone could share an experience or I could see a stranger whose face reminds me of a beautiful African sculptor. Also, other artist’s works—the importance of that was learned in college. For me artistry is a gift and the recipient must respect it as such.


What inspired you to create symbolic artwork?

Ann: I couldn’t function within academia, without adding different types of symbols to reflect what I was learning. I wasn’t able to write exactly what a professor had shared in a lecture without my own symbols, so using symbols was how I took my notes. The use of symbols is how I interpreted what I was learning when I didn’t record the lecture. And my symbols help me complete my formal education. (Yes, obtaining my degrees was a very difficult experience.) Dyslexia taught me to find ways to express myself, and there was nothing else I could do but move within those confinements. It was while studying art history that I gained an understanding of how people once expressed themselves before the development of a written language. From there, I learned of the Adinkra and other cultures’ art symbols. My art education gave meaning to what I had previously only viewed as a limitation.


What/who influences your work?

Ann: I would have to say The Divine. I am a spiritual person, but in my youth I confessed to being Christian. And like in my youth, my old age has given me a trust in and a respect for the Divine. I don’t believe that my gifts are simply my own. And these days I am inspired by the art that our son creates!



Ann Bonner, Founding Artist, is a graduate of Salem College where she majored in Studio Art. She earned her MDiv from Wake Forest University School of Divinity with a focus on art/theology. Ann has participated in invitational one woman shows and juried shows, has been the subject of film documentaries and marketing materials, was invited to be the art chair, and has participated in many invitational art experiences. Her Art/Theology seminars answer the need for the inclusion of the arts as a part of theological education. The seminars offer art as a means of insight into our most intimate thoughts through an artistic expression.


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