Artist and author Bonnie Kassel is a Roslyn native who now makes Manhattan her home. But the education Kassel received in Roslyn, not to mention the many lifelong friendships she developed, is never far from her mind as she continues to pursue her two careers.
Kassel is an artist who works in metals, creating objects for hotel lobbies, cruise ships and restaurants, among other venues. After a commission, Kassel likes to time off and travel. This has been a habit for years and in the process, she developed another passion: Photographing and writing about her overseas destinations.
Kassel has published her essays in numerous publications, such as a recent article on Majorca, Spain that was printed in The Boston Globe. And now a book-length collection of her work over the years has been published. Without a Spare: A Fearless Woman’s Life of Travel, is a collection of twenty-four chronological short stories covering a time span from 1960 to the present. The book takes the reader on a dizzying tour of the planet, from Switzerland to The Seychelle Islands, Belgium to The Himalayas and from Southern Ethiopia to Tunisia, Turkey and Xila.
The book’s jacket cover contains a quote from Miriam Beard which sums up its contents: “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
“In between commissions and shows, I traveled, often for long periods of time,” Kassel recalled. “Even extra activities including leading a weaving expedition to the highlands of Guatemala on an Explorers Club grant and a 5-year stint running The Adventurous Appetite (culinary pleasure trips to Brazil, India, Turkey by gulet and the Caribbean by yacht), included travel.
“My travel articles have appeared in major newspapers (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), and I’m a regular contributor to the Huffington Post,” Kassel continued.
“These are all recent endeavors. My profession, throughout my life, has been to create and execute expansive metal murals for hotels, office buildings, restaurants and cruise ships on a worldwide basis.”
Kassel claimed that it wasn’t easy to choose her favorite destinations, but she listed several of them.
One was Switzerland that Kassel liked “because of the diversity for its small size, including mountain villages and sophisticated towns. Travel one hour and you can change from Italian to French to German food/culture/landscape. Plus, it’s gorgeous (and cheese is my weakness).”
Another was Turkey that Kassel remembers for its history, archaeological sites, markets, food and people.
Finally, she chose Sri Lanka for its “miles of beaches, wildlife reserves, ancient ruins that house massive Buddhas and a bounty of tropical fruits.”
Kassel took time to talk to The Roslyn News about her fond memories about growing up in the village.
As a teenager, Kassel moved with her family from the South Shore to Roslyn.
“It wasn’t suburban living that I was used to. It was like a historic, picturesque town in New England. Living there raised my standards and has always had a big influence on me,” Kassel said, also recalling the long walks she took with her mother on autumn weekends at the grounds of the Nassau County Museum of Art.
Among the positive influences was Roslyn High School. Echoing many a student who has graduated from there, Kassel still remembers the “many dedicated teachers” she had, rattling off the names of Mr. McGriff, Mr. Longo and Mr. Slutsky. Her family was neighbors with the Phillips family, which included classmate Michael Phillips who went on to become a well-known Hollywood producer of such films as The Sting and Close Encounters of The Third Kind.
Also in Roslyn, Kassel was friends with a classmate, Susie Goetz, whose father was an artist who actually made a living from his trade. That, too, made an impact on Kassel who, in time, would earn a living from the before-mentioned metals work. At age 16, Kassel spent a summer in Switzerland where she realized she was a “born traveler.” That would pay mighty dividends later on. After Roslyn, Kassel attended American University in Washington, D.C. and San Miguel College in Mexico. From there, it was on to her career in metal work and eventually, writing and publishing travel essays.
Still, the seed for Kassel’s multi-faceted career, as with so many successful natives, was planted in the schools and neighborhoods of Roslyn.
“It was an amazing place to grow up,” she said.