Hard and Cuddly with Ross Bonfanti
Written by: Lori Teagan All images courtesy of Ross Bonfanti

Ross Bonfanti draws you in with art that at first glance seems humorous and elementary.  But as you peel back the layers, one quickly realizes a serious and quite complex sentiment being portrayed.  Hardening abandoned warm and fuzzy toys with cement hits home the very real point of the interior rarely mirroring the exterior.  Going through the very taxing maze of life causes most of us to develop armor to keep our real selves pure/sane as a coping mechanism.  Ross has tapped into something that is recognizable to most people because self preservation is a shared human trait.   

“The toys end up discarded but by finding and filling them with concrete I encapsulate their past …”

Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?

I grew up in the east end of Toronto. My father ran an Italian gift shop and my mom was an elementary school French teacher. I have a sister who is 12 years younger. My dad’s shop was mainly a gift and jewelry store, but he also carried toys. The store, the sidewalk and the lane way really were my playground. I would do a lot of imaginary playing and dreaming up different scenarios creating little environments inspired by my favorite childhood cartoons/super heroes and 70’s professional wrestling story lines.  This is also where I think I fell in love with concrete – the texture, hardness, color and the sparkle that was created when the sun hit the sand particles. My decision to become an artist’s gradually flourished by watching my mother making beautiful drawings and paintings while taking art courses at OCAD University. She is an artist herself and she supported and nourished traditional aspects of art such as drawing and painting from when I was very young.

How do you describe your form of art and what tools do you primarily use?

I am inspired by different art movements from Renaissance and Romantic painting to Dada and surrealism right through to Neo Pop. 

If I had to label my form of art I would say contemporary urban folk with a splash of Neo Pop.

I use a wide range of tools in my practice. From traditional art tools to pretty much anything you’d find in your local hardware store.

How did you stumble upon the idea to use found children’s toys, concrete and hardware materials to make an artistic statement?  Does this say anything about your own childhood?

Yes, I’ve used toys and concrete separately in the past but slowly they merged together in most of my different series. Toys carry a strong message to which people can universally relate. The “Concreature” series is featured in “No Hard Feelings”.

I find stuffed toys in thrift shops. They were once loved or given to someone with some sentimental attachment. The toys end up discarded but by finding and filling them with concrete I encapsulate their past history and emotional energy. I make them important again. The concrete references urban existence and how sometimes we are hardened by our daily stresses and pressures. The works also have an aspect of “what we see isn’t always as it seems” because the pieces appear soft and cuddly but in closer inspection they are hard, heavy and solid.

Tell us about upcoming exhibition at Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, “Ross Bonfanti: No Hard Feelings,” opening April 15th in NY – how did this come about and what should patrons expect?

This is my 4th solo exhibition with Rebecca Hossack Gallery in New York. This show is slightly darker than in the past but still has a sense of humor with a sense of hope. It focuses more on the idea of leaving yourself open to be hurt and the process to forgiveness.  

Which artists/sculptors do you look up to?

Off the top of my head I would say Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons.

What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?

I think one critique that stuck with me was when one of my art instructors at college said   : “you have no savvy”. I still don’t know what that meant but it didn’t deter me from working harder in pursuing my dreams.

I have received many positive remarks about my artwork but one that stands out was from a high school art student whose teacher used my work as inspiration for an art project where kids would bring in their toys and make their own Concreature. The student told me about her experience and struggles in the process and thanked me for the work I make. She said she is a fan.

Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man? 

I’m not much of a fashionista although I do appreciate fashion. Back in the 80’s I would faithful watch Fashion Television with Jeanne Beker every Saturday. Really, feeling comfortable is the most important. What do they say “it’s not the clothes that make the man”.

I do have to admit that I like to wear a nice Italian suit now and then. Otherwise, a black T and jeans does me fine. 

What is your personal life philosophy?

What goes around comes around. So I try to be respectful and courteous to others. 

I believe in family and in being a good role model for my children. 

When it comes to my art practice, I think the most important thing is to touch people on an emotional level. 

How can people learn more about (or buy) your current and upcoming works?

Please check out my website for news, cv, resent works and coming events. Also check out my show at RHGNYC or go to their website at

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