Animal sexuality

Rebekah Bogard

Photo By David Robert

Rebekah Bogard started drawing animals when she was growing up in Wyoming, and she never stopped, not even as a grad student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

These days, she’s making big sculptures of Japanimation-style deer-kitties, bunny-pigs and other hybrid creatures that spring from her imagination. They cuddle each other or pose in solitary bliss, their brazen sexuality obscured by extreme cuteness.

After two years as a University of Nevada, Reno sculpture professor, Bogard is having a solo exhibit, Love and Leisure, at UNR’s Sheppard Gallery until Feb. 16. She’ll give a lecture there on Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 784-6658.

Your sculptures are pretty sexual. They’re also cute and fun and sweet. How do people react when they see that combination?

I’m not sure, exactly. People don’t come back to me with that information, and I’m not in the gallery all the time. I am getting some positive response. Those people are really excited about it. But they don’t really talk about the sexuality. People are generally uncomfortable with that and focus on, “Oh, it’s cute. It’s really fun.”

Some artists get a lot of feedback, but in your case, it ends up being mostly a one-sided conversation with your viewers.

I like the fact that I’m not with the viewers all the time. I try not to spell out everything with my artwork. There’s more interaction that way. And I’m really shy and introverted, so I don’t like to act that way. I like the work to do it for me.

Do you think the cuteness and fluffiness of your creatures comes off differently in an art gallery than it would in a cartoon or a toy store?

Yeah, I think it does. I think when people go into art galleries, they have a certain mindset. I think they’re ready to be challenged by the whole thing when they go into a gallery. I think they’ll see beyond the cuteness. I think people are more thoughtful when they go to a gallery and less so when they go shopping.

One of the best parts about being an artist is that you get to kind of create your own fantasyland, and sometimes you get to live in it. Your sculptures take a lot of time to make, and you’ve mentioned that you spend a lot of hours in the studio working. Do you spend all those hours living in the fantasyland you’re creating, or is it more like just being at work?

It’s a combination of both, but I think, ideally, I’m kind of in my fantasy world. I’m in my own head when I’m working. But then there are days where it’s just work. Some of the things you have to do are not necessarily enjoyable, but you have to do them to finish the work. Some days you just have the blahs, and everything is boring. Making plaster molds is the biggest drag in the world, but it’s a necessary part of making my work.

What would you have ended up doing if you hadn’t become an artist?

I think that I’d be living in the streets. I’ve tried going [the non-artist] route. I worked at a flower shop for a couple years, but I was miserable. Being an artist is a big risk and a huge commitment, but it’s a huge privilege. If I didn’t have art, I don’t know where I’d be.