ArtPrize 8

Baptism by Fire: An Allegory of Transformation celebrates the broad spectrum of emotions that humans experience through the use of archetypal, religious and cultural symbols.

3-dimensional papier mâché sacred hearts and alabastrite skulls are used to evoke an emotional response. The juxtaposition of the iconic symbols of life and death in this piece explores both the religious and secular implications of the term Baptism by Fire, and tells a story of transformation.

The life experiences that truly transform us are often born of struggle and hardship. Yet we often seek to forget the very experiences that deepen our understanding and appreciation of life. The height of our joy is equaled only by the depth of our sorrow. In honoring the “negative” we appreciate the positive more fully.

Sculptural elements are staged on graduated pedestals of reclaimed barn wood beams. Additional hearts will hang from a suspended beam above the table, allowing the hearts to visually interact.

Baptism by Fire, or at least the beginnings of it were born when Bethany began working with  iconic images of hearts nearly 25 years ago, using the heart as an allegory for the
process of healing. Over the course of time the heart made numerous appearances in her art, each time taking on a new form and new personal significance.


Bethany revisited some themes expressed in other mediums in the form of these new sculptures. Images of life, death, betrayal and love were among the many expressed with in piece. Baptism by Fire: An Allegory of Transformation reframed experiences from Bethany’s past to tell a story of transformation. The installation was a critical and commercial success for Bethany, garnering atten
tion from the media. The piece was featured in the WZZM TV 13 news montage while reporting of ArtPrize news was delivered. As well as earning a place in MLive’s article, “See 12 Haunting Pieces from ArtPrize 2016“. It was also featured by Women’s Lifestyle Magazine, among others.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the ArtPrize experience was the ability to talk with people about the piece, it’s inspirations, and how the process of making the installation had changed Bethany. But most of all, it was knowing that the piece was having an impact upon others. This drawing was given to Bethany by a seven year old, who deeply resonated with the imagery of the hearts.

Baptism by Fire was built upon the foundation of painted calaveras and was an expansion of it as well as Bethany’s love of archetypal sacred hearts. It also saw Bethany experimenting with new materials and themes. Below you will find photos chronicling the prototyping process as well as different stages of the installations development. From concept drawings, tin foil armatures, and table building to finished sculptures, Bethany worked from the beginning of may to the end of August with singular focus and  determination. These months of work produced over 75 hearts, 20 skulls, and a one of a kind table made from reclaimed pallet boards and rescued barn wood beams the hearts and skulls sat upon.



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