Donnie Bandy is one of Iowa City’s sharpest visual artists, a sort of neo-psychedelic Joey Ramone whose art school was (Fast Times at) Ridgemont High. His images are in the purest tradition of lowbrow culture, i.e. Robert Williams or Ed Roth, existing only because they are fun to draw and rad to look at.
This Thursday from 5-7 p.m., the White Rabbit is hosting the opening reception for Bandy’s first local solo show, titled Recent Works. Technically, however, Bandy has had artwork displayed before. A giant, multicolored, jig-saw Stegasaurus skeleton hung in the White Rabbit for several weeks last year, highlighting a group show of several artists.
Bandy is modest about his work, creating images of prehistoric lizards and bike-riding mutants out of sheer enjoyment of the process.
“I’ve never taken art too seriously. I don’t have an agenda or anything and I don’t have a super-regimented structure. If it’s fun, I’ll finish a piece, and if it’s not, I won’t,” said Bandy, who has been drawing, riding skateboards and collecting motorcycles since he was a kid.
His current show features four paintings, acrylic on wood paneling, and various smaller pieces as well. White Rabbit owner Cortnie Widen and Bandy also collaborated on a limited edition t-shirt for the show, featuring a dog who is surfing on his own puke. And, it’s as incredible as it sounds.
Bandy hasn’t always worked on larger scale paintings, however. Part of his roots go back to drawing while doing flyers for local shows.
“‘I’ve always doodled and kept a sketchbook,” said Bandy. “There are so many people around here doing shows that I started doing flyers and got back into graphic work. My favorite thing is doing show flyers. It gives you a deadline that you have to stick to. But, there’s no pressure. In all actuality, its up for two weeks and then it’s trash, unless someone hangs on to it cause they like it. Its not a permanent piece, but sometimes you do make a noteworthy thing cause it feels good and it’s there for people to see.”
Bandy’s art needs no explanation in an art world filled with commodity and complexity.
“My mom asked me, ‘why do you do this?’ and I said, ‘just because,’” explained Bandy. “It’s really that simple. There is no greater meaning besides that it’s fun to make. I try to keep it chill, with no deeper meaning. If someone else wants to find their own deal, though, that’s fine with me.”
Bandy has also collaborated in the past on musician and artist Brendan Wells’ comic anthology “Free Dog Food,” containing a who’s who of Iowa City comic artists.
His art tends to leak into everyday life as well, as he and neighboring artist Dana Haggard built a 5-foot tall, full color Bart Simpson snowman last winter, and Bandy has a penchant for Halloween costumes and dressing in drag, showing up to parties and shows as witches, red devils, Mad Max villians and in Jackie Onassis-esque vintage wear.
“I went to this ’40s themed dinner party and I didn’t want to be a greaser,” he said. “What would I do? Roll up my jeans and cuff my shirt sleeves like I do everyday?
“But most of the time I like traditional, simple costumes. The Wicked Witch of the West, stuff like that. The red devil was one of my favorites. I wish I could be both at the same time.”
Recent Works by Donnie Bandy runs from February 6 to March 5 at the White Rabbit Gallery at 112 South Linn St.