An abstract painter, Bodnar relies on simply described elements like strong lines, solid, vivid colors, stylized script, and rudimentary but evocative shapes to create fanciful and unpredictable imagery. (Peter Frank in Peter Bodnar pp.6-7)
Born in Czechoslovakia on November 27, 1928, he came to Detroit, Michigan with his mother in 1929, where his father worked in the auto industry. The family moved to a farm in Mt. Morris, Michigan, where he grew up. His talent for art was apparent early on and supported by his teachers. Bodnar majored in art at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and graduated in 1951 with a B.A. degree. He subsequently worked as a public school teacher in Michigan, getting married in 1952. That same year he won a prize at the Flint Institute of Art.
In 1953 he burned his artwork but already the next year, in 1954, he was awarded the First prize at the Flint Institute of Arts Annual Show, while teaching Junior High School.
He obtained his M.F.A. degree in 1956, and moved his growing family to Plattsburg, New York, where he served as Assistant Professor at New York State University. Much of his work was lost or destroyed during his two-year tenure there. In 1957 he became friends with sculptor David Smith, and painter Lennie Kesl in Lansing, Michigan, who said of his friend: ”His art comes forth from him as an extension of his personal life, and for this reason he is also the most ‘natural’ of artists.” (Peter Bodnar, p.71)
During a summer in Maine, where the family would later establish a second home, he became friends with painter Raphael Soyer and poet Paul Verlain. Subsequent career-moves saw the family in West Virginia and Gainesville, Florida, until in 1962, Bodnar started teaching lithography at the University of Illinois, Urbana. While teaching and earning grants and fellowships, Bodnar continued his art and exhibited in shows around the country. 1977-1978 he served as visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he met painters Emerson Woelfer, Alberto Burri, Sam Francis, and others. In 1979, Bodnar returned to Urbana, Illinois, once again to teach at the University until his retirement in 1992.
1961 First commercial art show at Nye Gallery, Dallas, Texas
1964-66 Continued to show his work with Chapman Kelly Gallery, Dallas
1966 Exhibit at the Isaac Delgado in New Orleans, Louisiana
1967 Exhibit at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois
1967 First major show in Chicago at Devorah Sherman Gallery
1968-70 Six solo shows
1971 Solo, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago
1971 Solo at Southern Methodist University
1972 Exhibit at the Lake View Center for the Arts, Peoria, Illinois
1974 Solo shows at Newport Harbor Museum, and Newport Museum, California
1975 Solo exhibition, Southern Methodist University, Tyler Museum of Art
1979 Solo exhibition, Brubeck Art Gallery, Wabash College, Illinois
1985-86 Exhibits in Maine, Florida, Ohio and Indiana
1987-1992 Exhibits in New York, China, and Germany. Has juried shows Florida, Springfield, Illinois, and Kentucky
Peter Bodnar, Paper Trade 1992
Other information courtesy of the artist