Artist Bonnie Lautenberg Has Something to Say

'Lady Liberty' Opens at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU


"Even Lady Liberty Lost Some of Her Freedoms in 2020." (2020)

Jan Engoren, Arts Writer

As the wife of former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, (Lautenberg served from 1982 to 2001), Bonnie Lautenberg had front-row seats to much of U.S. history and access to the political process and its players.

A writer, photographer and conceptual artist, Lautenberg’s latest exhibit, "Lady Liberty: A Bonnie Lautenberg Retrospective" is open in time for Art Basel at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU through March 26, 2023.

Curated by Jacqueline Goldstein and featuring more than 30 works by Lautenberg, spanning 25 years of her artistic career, the retrospective includes photographs from her travels to Asia, Antarctica, Israel, Palm Beach and New York as well as a series of digital collages and photographs of pop stars.


"Harriet Tubman (2022)." Archival giclee print (4 ft. x 4.5 ft).

Premiering are her latest conceptual works including “Tears of Roe,” and “Wanted,” a diptych honoring the historical figure, Harriet Tubman.

“The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is thrilled to host this premiere exhibition of Bonnie Lautenberg’s works during Art Basel,” says Susan Gladstone Pasternack, the executive director of the Jewish Museum. “This caliber of work helps secure the museum’s spot as one of the most prestigious museums to visit during Art Basel and showcases the artwork of this talented Jewish artist.”

”I admire Bonnie’s artistry and her messaging, through which she shines a light on strong, independent women, reminding us to never take our freedoms for granted,” says Susan Gladstone Pasternack, the executive director of the Jewish Museum, adding the museum is "thrilled . . . to showcase the artwork of this talented Jewish artist.”

The show celebrates images of women, including works from multiple series of photographs and "Tears of Roe," the centerpiece of the show.



LEFT: "Star Spangled Touch - Katy Perry in Concert," by Bonnie Lautenberg (2016). From Lautenberg's Pop Rocks series. Dye sublimation onto aluminum (5 ft. x 3.3 ft.) RIGHT: "Laughing After Eating Beetle Nuts" (2007 – Vietnam); Archival giclee prints (3 ft. x 2 ft.)

A 6-ft. x 6-ft. lightbox of the Statue of Liberty, “Tears of Roe,” depicts Lady Liberty in tears over the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling to overturn 50 years of Roe v. Wade. The piece is inscribed with the dates of the passage of the law (Jan. 22, 1973) and the date of its demise, June 24, 2022.

“I’m honored to be a part of this exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Florida and grateful to Susan for offering me this opportunity,” says Lautenberg.

“It’s a big deal to have this exhibition in Miami during Art Basel," Lautenberg, who splits her time between New York and Palm Beach, says.


"The Fabulous Rosa DeLauro at a White House Event," by Bonnie Lautenberg (2009). From Lautenberg's Brief Encounters series. Archival giclee print (3 ft. x 2 ft.)

Noting that she came of age when Roe v. Wade was first passed, Lautenberg, a grandmother of three, says, “I can’t imagine my children and grandchildren not having the same freedoms I had.”

“Nobody should tell women what to do with their bodies,” says Lautenberg. In an opinion piece she wrote, she states: “I hope that grandmothers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters look upon “Tears of Roe” as a reminder of the freedom of choice women had for 50 years.”

Also on display are photographs of dancers at the Tropicana nightclub in Havana, Cuba in 2015, concert photos she took in 2010 of Lady Gaga at a concert she attended with her husband, then 86, and portraits of Andra Day, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry from her series entitled, “Pop Rocks. “

Lautenberg, who wanted to be an actress, had a small role in Paul Mazursky’s 1976 film, “Next Stop Greenwich Village.”

Intrigued by Hollywood, in “Art Meets Hollywood,” Lautenberg pays homage to cinematic “femme fatales” such as Barbra Streisand, Viola Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Octavia Spencer, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe, among others, for breaking barriers in male-dominated films.



LEFT: "Statue of Liberty Killers" RIGHT: "Lady Liberty: Tears of Roe," by Bonnie Lautenberg (2022). SEG Lightbox (6 ft. x 6 ft.)

She became interested in photography when, as a young mother she met photographer Erica Stone in New York. She bought a Canon camera and enrolled in classes at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City.

She never looked back and says that in addition to Stone, she is inspired by photographers Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz (“I wish I could do what she does,” she says.)

Her first photography project: “How They Changed Our Lives: Senators As Working People,” a checkerboard of Frank Lautenberg and his senate colleagues in the appropriations room, is now on-ine as part of the Library of Congress and highlights the accomplishments of more than 100 senators, including her husband whose 1987 legislation banned smoking on airplanes.


"Vision in Green Tropicana," (2015). From Lautenberg's Cuba series. Archival giclee print (4 ft. x 2.7 ft.).

Alongside their photo, she posted a small summary of their accomplishments. They include Hillary Clinton’s 2001 funding initiative for the World Trade Center after Sept. 11, 2001, and then-Senator Joe Biden’s 1994 Violence Against Women Act which provided over $4 billion in funding to state and local organizations to prevent and aid victims of domestic violence.

In 1993 she was at the White House during the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Accord with President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat as they walked out of the White House to sign a peace agreement. She captured scenes of this historic moment in time.

Lautenberg's works are included in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture; The Boca Raton Museum of Art; The New York Historical Society; The Broad Museum in Los Angeles; The Newark Museum of Art; Portland Museum of Art; and Stillman College Art Gallery in Alabama, among others.

With her creative juices always flowing, Lautenberg has a number of other projects up her very fashionable sleeves.

With her partner Steve Leber, she is co-producing a Broadway musical about the life of Andy Warhol, and working on a book about her former husband and his accomplishments, accompanied by her photography.

When she’s not working, Lautenberg enjoys time with her family and finds satisfaction from her social justice works. She credits her show at the Boca Raton Museum of Art last summer as a highlight of her career.

“That show put me on the map,” she says.

Pursuing her passion, Lautenberg says she hopes to go on and exhibit at other museums across the country.

While it’s a lot of work, she finds it fulfilling.

What does she hope visitors take away from the show?

“I want them to enjoy the art and come away saying, “Bonnie’s a wonderful, creative artist and photographer who has produced an interesting body of work.”

“I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to fulfill my dreams,” she says.

The exhibit is on view through March 26 and is free and open to the public. The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is located at 301 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. Tel: (305) 672-5044. Visit Jewish Museum of Florida | Florida International University ( A VIP Reception will be held Sunday, Nov 20 from 5 to 7 p.m.

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