The deft line work and whimsical use of color in Bunny Lee’s art initially caught my eye, but the easy, quirky sexuality of her subjects kept it there. Bunny’s protagonists, generally pictured alone, feature anime characteristics while retaining an individuality that is entirely their own. The drawings come to life in the delicately blushed cheeks, unabashed nudity, and sweet punk postures and expressions. A quick perusal through the artist’s portfolio reveals a past life as a dominatrix, a fan of Japanese culture, and a devotee of the complex art of Shibari – an erotic Japanese art form based on rope bondage. Intrigued by the art and artist, I asked Bunny Lee a few questions about her work, influences, and future projects.
There are a lot of Asian influences in your work – Shibari, anime, Japanese woodblock prints – why Japanese culture in particular? Where do you find ongoing sources of inspiration?
I find inspiration from all cultures, but Japanese culture has always caught my attention. Everything the Japanese do is done as an art form; I respect that and try to practice that kind of discipline in my own work. I grew up watching anime, reading comics and manga, and was a bit of a gamer. My first Japanese influence has to be Kiki’s Delivery Service (an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki), my grandmother rented it from a video store across the street from where she lived and I would watch it pretty much all day. I watched Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, BubbleGum Crisis and other animated, Japanese films almost continuously. Inspiration comes most often from the things I find attractive or that have a ‘changeling’ aspect to them. I sketch everything I see, certainly there is a kind of beauty in everything, but the female figure and sexuality is my biggest inspiration.
What are your favorite art making techniques and what do you think your future work will look like?
I love watercolor and gouache, mixing and blending colors has always been fun for me. I experiment, I like to try all mediums, anything to help transform my creative thoughts into something physical for people to see and relate to.
Can we talk about Shibari? How did you get into it? What do you get out of it?
The art of Shibari is fairly new to me. I become serious about Shibari in the last year, however, I began practicing it when I was a dominatrix and very much into the fetish scene. Eventually I grew out of the fetish scene but I retained this strong passion for ropes and knot work. The connection I build with those who share the same passion is amazing. The ropes connect people together like no other medium, the trust, the love; the experience is all part of Shibari for me. It’s a positive experience where you learn a lot about yourself. The bonds built with the one you’re practicing with is what I love the most about it. Not only does the connection make this art more than just art to me; I highly value the history of the art and the discipline and respect that the Japanese people have for it. I adore this art on all levels, the more I work on this craft the more I feel I’m finding myself as a person, it’s become a big part of my life.
Do you get negative feedback about your work? Are people offended or do they make any assumptions about you as a person because of the sexual content in your art?
I haven’t received any negative feedback, I carry myself and my art with respect, I’m very serious about what I do and what it represent. If someone doesn’t understand but seems genuinely interested I’ll take the time to explain. If someone were to feel offended or assume something negative of me I don’t think of that as my problem. I love what I do, and a few bad apples aren’t going to stop me. I think sexuality is very important, I think it should be expressed in a positive and beautiful light. The more we educate ourselves and open our minds to the new and exciting experiences that come with sex, the more I feel we can build confidence within ourselves and with each other.
You have some gorgeous sets of Shibari photos on your site. Can you explain the process of working with erotic photographers and models? How does this compare with the other parts of your artistic practice, drawing and painting, for example?
Thank you, the one thing I do adore about Shibari is connecting with other beings; it’s a very social medium. I’ve gained some of the most amazing friends through Shibari. In particular I feel fortunate to work with photographer Insuh Yoon, who understands my vision when it comes to ropes and the female body. As for practice, I usually work on myself, a mannequin, or my boyfriend. Recently I’ve connected with another inspiring Shibari artist and we practice on each other at least once a week for a couple of hours. Drawing and painting is kinda lonely for me, I’ll sit for hours drawing while watching anime. Drawing and painting is a way to express my creative thoughts. I like both mediums, one is very social and almost spiritual and the other is more like meditation and enjoying my Me time. It balances out.
If you would like to see more of Bunny Lee’s art, Shibari photo sets, and future projects, we encourage you to visit her on the web: http://www.bunnyleesworld.com
Princess Kitty Lady, Watercolor, Gouache, Ink on 10″x14″ paper
Punk Chick, Watercolor, Gouache, Ink on 7″x10″ paper
Blue Haired Bondage, Watercolor on paper
Merry Spankmas! , Watercolor on paper
Untitled, Watercolor, Gouache, Ink on 10″x14″ paper
Hitachi Galore, Watercolor, gouache, & ink on 7″x10″ hot pressed paper.
Sketch, Graphite on paper