Bunny Burson returns to St. Louis with new work celebrating family, art and faith


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Printmaker and artist Bunny Burson may now call Colorado home, but she’s come back to St. Louis for her newest art opening this weekend at the Bruno David Gallery in Clayton. This is her sixth solo exhibition with the gallery and is the latest chapter in her journey of family, art and faith.

History in the attic

In 2009, while rummaging through her mother Helga’s attic, Burson found dozens of letters her grandparents Leo and Malka Rabinowitsch wrote to their daughter. They sent Helga and her brother Axel to America on the day Kristallnacht began, Nov. 9, 1938. Leo and Malka wrote the letters between the years 1939 to 1941 as they tried to escape first from Germany and then from Latvia. They would never make it out of Europe.

“My mother could never speak of them,” Burson said.

But Burson would soon speak for them.

Bunny Burson

For Burson, 74, who earned a BFA in printmaking from Memphis College of Art and an MFA in printmaking and drawing from Washington University, the letters spurred interest in exploring her family’s past. In 2010, Burson’s daughter Clare went to Latvia to continue researching the family history and she wanted her mother to accompany her.

That journey and her mother’s letters became the basis of Burson’s 2012 exhibition “Hidden in Plain Sight.”

Every piece in the show had a reason for being here, either aesthetically or in terms of narrative.

“One of the first pieces I created which features oversized handwriting in different colors that’s layered over excerpts from the letters,” said Burson. “I wrote in my grandparent’s script and felt like I could make the marks with their hands. My grandmother wrote in correct, very proper German but my grandfather’s writing wasn’t as good.”

The exhibit paid tribute to these letters and was her way of coming to terms with the past.

“My work gave me not only the opportunity to explore Holocaust history in a very personal way, but also a deeper understanding and appreciation of my Judaism.”

everything that was…still is

After “Hidden in Plain Sight,” Burson wanted to express the connectivity of her maternal grandparents to unlikely future generations. She began to explore her heritage through popular sites like Ancestry.

“But it was an evocative depiction of the genome of the zika mosquito in The New York Times that caught my attention,” said Burson. “The link between our generations could be expressed using my genome as an art form. After this realization, I had my own genome sequenced thanks to the McDonnell Genome Center at Washington University.”

Burson’s newest exhibition “everything that was…still is” opens Sept. 10 and runs through Oct. 22. The show combines her art with science and her decades-long exploration of her family history

“Because I knew so little about my family, there had always been a void. So finding the letters in 2009 sent me on this journey to find and connect with what was and still is my personal history, through analog and digital imagery,” said Burson. “This is a metaphor for the history I had been searching to find. It’s also a metaphor for all of our histories as we all share 99.9% of our genetic structure.”

For this show, Burson connected with the Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine in Los Angeles.

“Since I am drawn to process, I wanted to experiment with different materials to express these forms, which I was able to see firsthand in their lab. I was commissioned by a friend of the Ellison Institute to create four large woodcuts with 3D chromosomes to be donated to the Institute when it opened on the USC campus.”

As Burson’s art leaned into honoring her mother in “Hidden in Plain Sight,” this exhibit gives her father his proper due. In several pieces, Burson uses German book pages from her father’s schoolbooks.

“To re-discover and alter these books was meaningful, as reading was an important part of growing up in our family. The fragile, faded book pages in German became the perfect platform for high-tech 3D chromosomes connecting me to previous generations,” said Burson.


The Bruno David Gallery is located at 7513 Forsyth Boulevard in Clayton, Missouri. 

  • Monday, Sunday, Closed
  • Tuesday–Friday, 11am–6pm
  • Saturday, 11am–5pm