The Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association has, for many years, been intently focused on the nexus between art and commerce. Krista Leaders, with a few others, began the First Fridays Art Walk movement way back in November of 2006. Since then, arts have been the driving force for the neighborhood’s economic growth.
It is no surprise, then, that the BKBIA is announcing the launch of ARTiculate, a monthly hour-long art talk series funded, in part, by a micro-grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach. The series opens on February 7, in Elise’s Tea Room, with celebrated artist Betsy Lohrer Hall. Betsy has participated in international collaborations, had solo shows at El Camino College and the Stone Rose gallery, and is currently participating in Strange Comforts, a group show at dA Center of the Arts in Pomona.
Betsy works in a variety of formats and media, yet all of it feels clearly identifiably as hers. Her work is often based on processes that, over time, produce beautiful and complex results. In the last few years, she’s been focused on painting.
“I have been focusing on painting recently,” Betsy said, “in part because the way I am working with gouache, patterns and negative space has grabbed and kept my attention pretty intensely. When I first started getting deeply involved in the gouache paintings I felt awkward that my work seemed to be going in two directions at once. Recently, something shifted, and I’ve come to accept that this is just the way I work; it is like I have a private practice (the paintings, very meditative and solitary) and a public or social practice (the installations and performances which involve real space, real time, interactions, and collaboration).
“The paintings usually start with something conceptual, but intuitive and largely non-verbal. The installations and performances often start with a seed concept — usually with socio-political or environmental underpinnings — but I address these through metaphor and abstraction. I often start an installation or performance project with reading, research, and writing. The paintings begin with visual research, and image gathering.
“The paintings are incredibly process-oriented. They come about organically through the accumulation of simple marks and the interactions between the colors and marks. This is much like the workings of community. In all my work I am thinking about interconnectedness, and relatedness.
“In recent years I have also begun to combine some of the conceptual research with the mark making. This is evident in my Flight Paths project, and also the newest works (completed in early January this year): Fire Flies Close to Home. The Fire Flies paintings are in the Strange Comfort show at dA Center in Pomona right now.
“With Flight Paths, it started as a proposal I made to show at LAX. Actually, it started with something that is a constant in my work, regardless of medium, going back at least to 2003: the interactions and relationship between natural, organic processes and human made patterns.
“When I was working on the ideas for Flight Paths I discovered a bird, the Sooty Shearwater, that flies up to 40,000 miles each year. The mating pairs meet up once a year on the south island of New Zealand and then depart on large, figure-eight flights that cross the Pacific from as far south as Antarctica, all the way up to Alaska and Japan…then back to New Zealand.
“This connects directly with my fascination for natural processes happening all the time–often unnoticed– and my desire to record them somehow, in art. I started thinking of these as global-scale, bird-made drawings and knew I needed to incorporate them into my work. In the Flight Paths piece I juxtaposed these with other bird flights, including those of the Arctic tern (equally stunning distances — no GPS!) and also human images and patterns of flight. This approach relates closely with an installation I did years ago at the Huntington Beach Art Center and one I am working on now.
“It was really nice showing Flight Paths at LAX because I was contacted by several people who were moved in some way by the work. In fact, a French Canadian poet, Stephanie Filion, felt a connection between her writings and my work, to the point that she asked if she could use an image of Flight Paths for her book of poetry, L’Orient, Louisiana, which just came out. Unfortunately, I don’t read French, so it will take some time for me gain the true essence of her words, but I love how art can build connections between people.
“The work itself has gone on to forge further connections. When I showed at CSUF I met another poet, Jie Tian. I’ve been thinking, for quite a while, about how to combine visual art with poetry, sound, and performance. This was part of the impetus for Liminal, in December, at The Loft.”
[Note: I was a participant in Liminal. -srw]
“Also, while I was in that show (focused on the environment) I learned about a book called The Spine of the Continent which has been very influential in my thinking. I’m sure will influence my future projects. The strength, wisdom and beauty of nature never cease to amaze me.”
Betsy is enthusiastic about participating in the first ARTiculate art talk.
“I think it’s great to offer this kind of active exchange of ideas to the community, but I am not sure I have the capacity to completely understand what it means. Sometimes, seeds take time to germinate. What I can say is that I hope to share my passion for art, creativity, and ideas. My art practice, and way of seeing things, can be a way of connecting, a starting point for dialogue and exchange. I suppose that if there is one thing that I hope those in attendance will take away, it will be a vivified sense of wonder with the world around them and, maybe also, an appreciation of their own creativity and the innate creativity of community.”
ARTiculate begins on Friday, February 7, at 7:30 PM. The event is free, and open to all ages. In March, ARTiculate will feature Frau Fiber, who describes her artistic practice as “a hybrid of art, activism and apparel production.” In April, painter and illustrator Margie Darrow will be featured. ARTiculate will feature painter David Early in May. Singer, songwriter, and novelist Lee Adams will be featured in June.
Elise’s Tea Room is located at 3924 Atlantic Ave. Other venues will be announced as they’re scheduled.
For more information about Betsy, visit BetsyLohrerHall.com. For more information about First Fridays, visit FirstFridaysLongBeach.com. To learn about the Arts Council for Long Beach, visit ArtsLB.org.
Betsy Lohrer Hall, 2013 photo by Gloria Plascencia
Flight Paths, 2011 installation; paint, graphite, thread on rice paper 70″ tall, width dimensions variable photos by Gene Ogami