Visual Arts

Arty Girl: Bill Berry aka BopBagBill at Night Gallery

By Lilia Menconi

A Katrina pool photo.

People person or not, interaction with undesirable personalities is inevitable during the course of a life. Thankfully, we get to pick our friends. And now that I'm pushing 30, I've finally perfected my craft of surrounding myself with truly phenomenal folks. I prefer not to waste my precious free time with anyone less than stellar.

That said, I remember a couple instances in my youth when I relished in relationships with people I silently hated. I know, gross.

I'll admit, I shamefully performed acts of cruelty toward innocent peers who's only crime was that I found them annoying. Granted, the instances were few and far between and I was, for the most part, a compassionate kid - I wasn't an outright "mean girl". But I certainly remember cringe-worthy moments where I was unnecessarily harsh. And those hideous memories haunt me to this day.

I guess we all love to hate. So now I keep those characters at a safe distance and expel that nasty energy toward people I can't hurt. Like Shannon Dougherty or Ted Nugent.

And since I've latched onto such individuals, I can relate to photographer Bill Berry who takes it a step further than I. Instead of focusing his love/hate externally, he flips it all on himself and creates an alter-ego named BopBagBill.

BopBagBill is a cartoon man printed on one of those inflatable punching bags that child psychologists recommend to parents of angry kids. He's a lost soul who fluctuates between an antagonistic attitude and an inclination toward noble acts.

A Tsunami pool photo.

At Noble Gallery for the months of September and October, you can see BopBagBill as he leisurely floats in the swimming pools of New Orleans - the only objects that weren't destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Then Berry takes BopBagBill to the leftovers of the resort swimming pools in Southern Thailand, destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami.

Bill Barry is native to New Orleans and currently lives in Bangkok, Thailand. Having received art education from ASU and University of California Davis, the man has shown his work from coast to coast in the U.S. and recently had a solo show in Bangkok.

With the photos in this show, BopBagBill is an ever-present figure in horrendous circumstances. He floats in green pools of sludge in an inanimate state. It's tough to tell if BopBagBill represents the feeling of gut-wrenching hopelessness or if he's simply ambivalent. Either way, looking at him in these photos, not doing anything to help is frustrating to no end.

But here's the catch - and the tension with this character - he may not be helping, but he is there, exploring and experiencing this aftermath of destruction. Which is way more of a sacrifice I ever made in response to these tragedies.

Maybe I need to be shamed for that. And I can't help but to love BopBagBill for bringing that to light. But, of course, I hate him at the same time.

Bill Berry aka BopBagBill at Night Gallery runs until October 31st at Night Gallery in Tempe Marketplace, 2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway.,, Night Gallery.

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Lilia Menconi
Contact: Lilia Menconi