Sunday, February 6, 2011


 "Prepared for Lift Off" 1998 - Elsha Bohnert (formerly Alshaa T. Rayne)
Wooden chair, acrylic paint, wire wings, lace, fringe, found objects

I googled my former name, Alshaa T. Rayne, and came across these images of some art chairs I made.  They were published in the gorgeous calendars of the City & County of Honolulu Recycling Department. 

"Sticks & Stuff" 1999 - Elsha Bohnert (formerly Alshaa T. Rayne)
Wooden chair, tree branches, fabric remnants

To my surprise I also found a reference to my art show, "Painted Virgins & Karma Babies," at Hawaii Pacific University back in (I believe) 2000.  The exhibit showed a collection of painted mannequins and "re-worked" dolls.  Interestingly, the show caused such consternation and outrage that the President of the University called in the Director of the Honolulu Academy of Arts to evaluate my work on exhibit.  Should it be banned?  Eventually my show was given the green light after all and I enjoyed the results of controversy: a huge turnout at the opening and great media attention!

So it was fun to find that someone had written a paper, mentioning my show and its effects on the viewers.  Here's the quote:

The state and the politics of knowledge
By Michael W. Apple, Petter Aasen (p. 61)
In Honolulu, a multimedia exhibit at Hawaii Pacific University, entitled “Painted Virgins & Karma Babies,” by artist and poet Alshaa T. Rayne, transforms Barbie dolls into images of dislocation, fear and disaster, soliciting reflection on our vulnerabilities.  The visual image of Rayne’s work evokes discomfort as much as it provokes discussion.

You never know what shows up when you google your name!

I actually don't remember having any Barbie dolls in that particular show.  Besides the mannequins, I just had a bunch of old baby dolls, found at Goodwill, except for one that had washed up from the sea.  Ooh, that was a beauty, that one, all discolored, no hair, and a leg missing. 

Oh wait, I remember now.  I did have Barbie dolls, a dozen of them.  I fastened each one of them to a beautifully-turned and decorated stick (like a long power wand) and gave each Barbie a beak like a bird.  I called them "Barbie Spirit Sticks."

Another time, I created a show of Barbie dolls as characters from the Bible: Adam & Eve, Samson & Delilah, Salome & John the Baptist, Mary & Joseph, Cain & Abel, etc.  Great fun!  And that show, too, caused controversy.  For an artist, that's all good.

When I get my scanner to work, I can post some of the images.  Meanwhile, below is a picture of "Bad Dream Angel," a life-size mannequin with "wings" of white cotton rags for people to write their bad dreams on.  When "Bad Dream Angel" flies away at night, she takes people's bad dreams with her to the place where bad dreams become inspirations for strong medicine poems.

"Bad Dream Angel" by Elsha Bohnert
Fiberglas mannequin, found objects, acrylic paint
The metal hooks on her shoulders are for tying the "bad dream" cotton rags to.
The rags become her wings.


  1. These are all sculptures, but I recall you did some panels for the wall, also. I saw one I liked at the Honolulu Country Club exhibition a few years ago.

    Please build up your inventory, Elsha. I would like to buy a wall art piece from you. It is my goal to have at least one piece by each of my artist friends. I already have one by my high school classmate, Suzanne McCrary (Autumn in Tokyo). It hangs in my dining area. Do you remember seeing it when you came to my home?

  2. sorry, it is called Autumn in Japan.

  3. To Kate: I have no idea why this site is not letting you post a comment. Thanks for emailing me anyway so I can post it for you.

    Kate wrote: "As someone lucky enough to have two of your 'reworked' dolls vivifying a wall - such power & character, they are deeply appreciated - I am so glad to hear documentation and photos resurfaced. I had followed you as a poet (with your hand-produced, decorated books) and believe our first meeting was waiting for a writing workshop to begin over on the windward side. We had plenty of time to get a sense of each other. You were Alshaa then & we discussed everything under the sun while waiting for that class (except personal career biographies & resumes... so unnecessary!) After that, I'm thinking you were in a show at Amfac with some of your 'girls'. Oh, I can't remember the commercial name of the tower. I was in some AHA shows there myself. Now that I've lost all my income and am having to reassess and rework my life within the framework of survival, it is the art of friends (along with a very few remaining pieces of my own) that helps sustain me. Once again, thank you for my 'ladies'.... they are treasured."

  4. Kate is a multi-talented artist and writer.

    Visit her at:

    I miss you, Kate!

  5. To Gigi:

    Yes, I noticed Autumn in Japan, although I did not know its name then. Beautiful art! Beautiful visit! You're such a gem!

    That is so sweet of you to want something by me, Gigi. Hopefully I'll get back into making art again. It's not as easy now that I don't have a studio of my own to mess around in whenever the muse strikes me. I mostly write now, keen on getting a collection of my poems published. But who knows what I may come up with for the Pen Women Biennial in May?

    Thanks again for your encouragement!

  6. Mahalo for the loving & encouraging words, Elsha. May we both get
    back to the 'doing' when the time is right, and at this moment keep
    seeing, storing away clues, treasures & tidbits for now & future appreciation (& possible appropriation later; can't rule that out!)

  7. Wow, I'm back being a persona con grata! Site is allowing me to post again.
    Oddness. Oddness.