Bump N' Grind has been very long in the making. The original form was sculpted on top of stretcher bars with terra cotta clay. Besides spending an eternity on the form, learning about mold making and casting processes was also a huge learning experience accompanied by many failures. Needless to say, I am eager to move on to the next piece!
"Had he expected it to be his virtue", Oil on panel, 12"x 9"
Still in the vibe of making portrait oil sketches, as I had been for the Sketchbook Show, I decided to approach a panel I had with the same sentiment. The objective was to preserve the freshness I so enjoyed in the oil sketches. In the future I want to expand my palette, only slightly.
"Fifteen Forgotten", Oil and acrylic on wood panel, 72"x 42"
Completely forgot to share this piece "Fifteen Forgotten". An absolute direction for future pieces: drawing from history to create a poetry that is both aesthetic as well as political. Also, spending time on the Brokopondo Reservoir got me thinking about how the landscape strangely resembles the tragedy that is the Surinamese amnesty act; this entity mystically parallels 602 mi² of rain forest/life that has been drowned. I had already been thinking about the idea of obscured/drowned truth, but the relationship between the landscape and politics seems more than just coincidental and too strong to ignore.
Betsy Cain is a painter, based in Savannah. I'd feel silly if I tried to summarize her accomplishments; she's done a lot. I decided to ask her a few questions to understand her work better. Please visit her website: www.betsycain.com
Xavier Robles de Medina: Could you share your process, or the aspects of your process that hone your idiosyncrasies?
Betsy Cain: Initial random mark-making on a blank canvas/paper breaks the "preciousness" of the surface, energizes the field and sets up a search and discovery process that is limited only by my own limitations to what I can bring to the painting/drawing that day, that time, in that moment. The marks visually organize into a direction or path to follow. Not knowing is more intriguing than knowing where it all may go.
Of course, I have internal templates that I may lay on top of these visual suggestion that can be as simple as a horizon line or a divide of some kind. But templates are guides, meant to be interrupted and changed, not held fast to some thought outside of the painting.
X: When did you first start working abstractly and why?
B: I began painting as a figurative painter, very into British painters such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, R. B Kitaj, and the German painters Frank Auerbach and Max Beckman.
Ironically, all men. But I felt like they were reinventing how we see the figure and were bringing the human form into a contemporary view of the human state. I was also interested in figurative distortion and how it expressed a certain anxiety of being. I think this idea of distortion led me further into abstraction as I moved from the external idea of figuration to the internal. I saw abstraction as the language of internal space.
X: As the world of abstraction is so vast, do you feel you demonstrate a particular genre or sub-genre of abstraction?
B: I like to think that I hover between abstraction and figuration. There is an ambiguity there that resonates with me. The "before" something is known or named. I have no idea if this is any kind of genre, but I recognize other artists are working in this widening boundary zone.
X: What are a few prominent ideas in your work? Is there an internal thread that runs through all your work?
B: Dichotomies: interior/exterior, organic/invented structure, interior color palettes (retinal)/exterior color palettes (landscape),
And the idea of transition zones such as water to land, consciousness to unconsciousness. It is all about that edge!
And saturation. I think about saturation and layers of meaning.
X: In what ways have your ideas regarding abstraction changed over time?
B: My abstract language has deepened. It is a visual language predicated on "seeing" with eyes and mind wide open.
I now see abstractly and really like it when I see good abstract painting. There is a recognition there, a yes to the conversation and a gratefulness to another painter for taking me into a new territory.
X: Are you influenced, in any way, by the city of Savannah? How?
B: Yes, if you think about the very functional grid of squares overlaying the the original maritime forest and the proportions of the architecture to landscape. There is a grace there. Also, the City's relationship to the river and the huge expanse of estuaries and salt marsh are a profound meaning in my mind. It creates our larger sense of place. I am very intrigued with the idea of humidity and visual density, which is not just limited to Savannah, but the SE Coast.
X: Who do you get compared to and how do you generally feel about comparisons?
B: Sometimes people see the Bacon influence, although I don't think about his paintings anymore other than to admire them. They don't tug at me the way they did as a younger painter. People sometimes mention Joan Mitchell, but I don't see it at all. Comparisons are a hook into understanding, whether they are truthful or not. The goal, of course, is to be like yourself, although I think you have to try on and explore influences with abandon.
X: What advice would you give to young painters who are trying to establish themselves as professional artists?
B: Make, make, and continue to make; you will make yourself into a professional artist.
Be open to it all and listen to your internal voice and third eye. Don't second guess yourself, be fearless. Concentrate on seeing, not thinking, because the truth lies in the seeing.
My artistic sensibilities are deeply rooted in an observational drawing practice as well as an objective dissection of the painting as a three-dimensional object. I question social and artistic categorizations, in search for a truth regarding my own identity as it relates to the painting tradition.
The Ancient Greeks believed the organic form to be the most beautiful. The Neo-Classicists believed line most directly addresses the intellect. I combine these two concepts to create a language that is as logical as it is aesthetic. In my argument for the importance of deconstruction through formalism, I present the inherence of justice in beauty.
Absense and presence are equals. In my transparent paintings I use gloss medium on polyester film, resulting in a shadow far more visible than its source. The presence of the gloss medium alternately emphasizes its visual absence. As a catalyst for translation, the organic line transmits matter to memory. Its shadow becomes a metaphor for survival, and our inability to live without light.