In high school, Bethany’s art was a part of the Muskegon Museum of Art’s Student Exhibit. Additionally, she was one of eleven area students selected to participate in the museums “Senior Seminar”. After an in-depth exploration of the work of artist Marc Chagall, the group produced a walk-through sculpture that served as the focal point for the student exhibit.
Additionally, Bethany’s work won the Scholastic, Inc. regional art competition and went on to compete on the national level.
A few years later, Bethany had her first solo show at Sharvea in Kalamazoo, MI. This series consisted largely of oil pastel renderings and silk screens that explored the relationship of the heart, spirit, suffering and joy. Sadly, due to unfortunate circumstances, all that remains of the period is the postcard from the show.
Bethany spent the next several years exploring other forms of art beyond her love of visual art. Several theatrical performances with then avant-garde theater group, Whole Art Theater Company, were enough to inform Bethany that she was better left to the visual realm than the dramatic arts.
Until more recently, Bethany’s art was more sporadic and often punctuated with forays into other mediums. In 2005, Bethany was a contributing artist to a Woman’s art show at the Richard App Gallery. For this show, Bethany explored the relationships between the media and women’s self esteem, as well as the power found in the different phases of a woman’s life.
In late 2009, after much in-depth personal work, Bethany decided to write a semi-autobiographical book that used the unfortunate circumstances of her childhood to create an allegorical magical teen fiction book that conveyed the lessons she came away with from those experiences. Needless to say it was a deeply cathartic experience. Once writing and editing the book had been completed in mid 2010, Bethany chose to self publish the work, owing to the need to see the project through to completion a timely fashion. The untimely death of her mother seemed to lend more urgency to the process, and made publishing and promoting the book all the more poignant.
After a very successful book launch and two years of attending and selling the book at conventions, Bethany received an offer to re-publish the book with a slightly altered title, some new edits, and new illustrations. She pursued this objective for nearly two years, after pulling older versions of the book from the market. A series of unforeseen circumstances finally made the situation untenable. So, after taking due time to consider the possibilities, Bethany made the difficult decision to lay the book to rest, along with the past that inspired it.
In 2010, Bethany was invited to contribute as a consultant, for an ArtPrize entry, called Cirque Acirca. The original design for the entry was comprised of a football field sized mural with a walk-through exhibit that show cased each of the members talents and skills. The focus of the steampunk circus themed entry was to bring awareness to issues like depression, drug abuse, self inflicted injury and suicide among teenagers, while pesenting art as therapy. They shared their personal stories of how such things kept the individuals going throughout rather difficult paths in life
Sadly the final exhibit as it was originally designed by the group was not to be. Insurance issues could not be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved so that the group could begin their building of the entry. When the last insurance issue was finally resolved, it found the group entering the venue space a day before the start of ArtPrize. Quitting had never really been an option for anyone involved, so they simply changed the dynamics of the entry. Much of our entry’s artwork was split up and moved to different destinations. One Girl’s Treasure, a now defunct vintage shop in the heart of the downtown area hosted a variety of the artwork and allowed Bethany to display several custom made design their their store windows. This allowed her to utilize years of experience as a visual merchandiser in a unique new way.
An art event, Destination1111 offered space for one of the murals and more of the group’s art as well as taking some of our performances to their event. As for our actual sponsored ArtPrize space the project was modified to actively creating the floor mural from the original design as ArtPrize took place. This allowed individuals to come down to the space and actually watch as the group members worked on the massive painting through the three weeks of the event. Which also allowed for a lot of dialog regarding the inspiration for the piece. So, the group did raise awareness within the community, a bit differently than originally planned…
If you’d like to see more photo from Cirque Acirca, there is a scrap book documenting our adventure here:
Finally, when the ongoing situation with her book had concluded after two years of uncertainty, it left an opening for a new artistic endeavor. And, as Bethany has done many times in the past, she took her personal challenges and turned them into an opportunity to grow and express the process in her art. And so began five intense years of painting 6 1/2 inch skulls in the style of Mexican Sugar Skulls. These Calaveras are a part of the the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos, a day of ancestor honoring. For three years, Bethany has painted a circle of thirteen calaveras in honor of Dia deLos Muertos. She has utilized this symbol traditionally associated with death to breath new life into her into her art.
After years of working exclusively on her calaveras, Bethany decided to enter ArtPrize. Her entry was at the City Water Building by the Richard App Gallery, 1101 Monroe NE. Voting Code: 63276.
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 were staged on graduated pedestals of reclaimed barn wood beams. Additional hearts hung from red cord “heart strings”, allowing the hearts to visually interact.
This piece represents the culmination of twenty years of working with the imagery of hearts. Used as an allegorical template through different series of art, Bethany has expressed many thoughts and feelings through the use of hearts.
After years of painting and selling many skulls, Bethany made a big decision about the future direction of her art. 2017 was to be the fifth and final year for painting her calaveras. It was a difficult decision, but definitely the right one. After years of painting them , she had attained everything she had set out to do. The calaveras helped her realized many transformations both personally and artistically, and they are very special to her. So she didn’t want to dishonor them by producing them simply because they sold well.
So with a display of both sugar skull inspired calaveras and Catacomb Saints inspired skulls and some remaining sacred hearts from the ArtPrize8 piece, Bethany was featured in the final Dia de Los Muertos show at the Richard App Gallery on Cherry St. With the end of that chapter in the gallery’s long history, it is unclear at this time what the future holds for the Dia de Los Muertos show, But updates will be posted as they become available.
After the difficult decision to discontinue painting the skulls, this left a brief time for reflection upon the future of her art. And in that space was born an idea for ArtPrize 10. This unexpected pieced married Bethany’s love of sacred hearts, the Japanese art of Kintsugi and the very timely topic of sexual assault via #metoo. Please check back soon for progress updates. They can be found on the dedicated ArtPrize 10 page.