Once upon a time, there was a quiet, attractive lady who lived on Bellemeade Avenue not far from St. Mary's Medical Center. Her silken silver hair gathered in the back, she could usually be found working away in the little workshop behind her house. A note attached to an iron grid near the back door would read, "I am in the shop."
To an inquisitive, impressionable youngster, going for a visit to Mildred Boink's tiny workshop/antique store was always a rare treat. It was a place where one could learn about faraway places, healthy foods, her beautiful bird porcelains, antiques and Oriental rugs, which were very old. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of a visit to this little paradise of wisdom and taste was the beautiful paintings she would be working on in a small, dedicated part of her shop.
An important collection of her
work is currently on display through mid-January in a gallery at
Audubon Park near Henderson, Ky.
Over the years, Boink, for the most part, toiled in obscurity. Many in the arts community did not take her work seriously. But from the late 1950s until her death just a few months ago, her easel would be occupied with subject matter ranging from realistic representations of riverboats (a watercolor of the Gordon Greene packet boat hangs in our living room), old buildings, street and water scenes of turn-of-the-century Evansville (Downtown Main Street, Evansville Waterfront and the Delta Queen, and portraits of the Vanderburgh County Courthouse, the Old Jail and other prominent buildings) to more surrealistic exercises in the realm of cubism and color, as demonstrated in the painting "Stillness of Night."
There was also the occasional
dalliance with the macabre, as in "Auction on Stringtown," a painting
taken from a photograph of an actual auction on North Stringtown Road.
Later, her work became infused with multiple influences of several different strains of artistic interpretation. It reminds one of such vastly divergent media as early American primitive portraiture, ancient Byzantine religious text illuminations, the use of color and line associated with native Totemic decorations and hieroglyphs of the Mayan culture of the Yucatan peninsula and other sources.
Add to this some rather abstract
celestial symbolism in her later work, and what emerges is an extremely
complex personality who saw incredible beauty and order in an extremely
chaotic universe -- an open-minded cosmic clarity drawn from a myriad
of ancient and contemporary sources.
From the early years of her work,
Boink developed a unique technique which she called Boinkism.
Perhaps more aptly described as textured pointillism (she directed my father's attention to the classical pointillist work from New Albany, Ind., artist Orville Carroll), her subject matter followed an eclectic path which reflected scenes and settings from her travels around the world, as well as her own hometown.
From the brightly colored shores
of Crete (her son spent several years station there in the U.S. Navy)
and Morocco, to the rural gardens of England, to the banks of the Ohio
River, Boink's unique window on the world illustrated for us a fresh,
frank and sometimes embarrassing reflection of life, morality and the
poignant sadness and melancholy which could only be expressed by such a
Perhaps her magnum opus, a
painting of an art fair in Wesselman Park from the early 1970s, depicts
several notable local individuals, people involved in the Watergate
scandal in Washington and personal friends - all deeply woven into a
tapestry of texture and color which captivates the attention of the
Later in her life, in a series of neo-abstract moon portraits (among them, "Moon Over a Crete Harbor," "Six Points of Light," "October Moon") arranged on one wall of the gallery, Boink incorporated realistic subject matter from earlier periods of her work, while attempting to convey something of depth and enormousness about the future of human civilization and our perception of reality.
When a young child, I heard my
father talk about how Boink was ostracized by the official artistic
community in Evansville.
For years this apparently pained
her greatly, but she pressed on, turning out painting after painting
with an air of satisfied artistic indifference.
Although removed from the mortal
realm by a space of time, she is having her day at this moment - here
for perhaps the first and last time since producing this enormous and
important body of artistic expression. We who are less fortunate should
revel in her courage, indifference and the enormous talent captured in
this room full of incredibly beautiful canvases.
She is there, among them all - winking at us with her piercing eyes from the ether; munching on a muffin and having the last laugh at our expense.
David Coker is a free -lance
writer in Evansville