This blog exists to inspire people to seek out all the great art that lives in and around the Minneapolis skyway.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interview: Betsy Byers talks bodies in space and memories of night swimming up north

Betsy Byers's work is oil on canvas.

Betsy Byers' show entitled, "Elsewhere" is now open at the Burnet Gallery in Le Meridian Chambers Hotel and the reception for the artist is this Friday, Jan. 21. The pieces are mostly large, with two sets of smaller groupings and many blue tones that suggest depth and the experience of water, sky and earth. She speaks of "bodies in space" and seeing the works in person helped me to understand that inspiration -- the paintings definitely evoke a sense of being between landings or firm footings. When she told me that she has memories of night swimming up north, I could see and feel what she was talking about.

In addition to meeting me for a little preview, Byers kindly answered a few of my burning questions. While all of this makes for a good peek and read, it should simply be a teaser before your visit to the gallery. For my money (and it's free), this show best fits the Burnet space of all the ones I've seen. And don't forget to do a drive/walk by to see the two pieces facing Hennepin Avenue, as well.

Here are her answers and the show's details -- and she'll be at the opening on Friday if you want to meet her and quiz her yourself.

As you walk in, this is what stares back at you.
Skyway of Love: There's very much the feeling of objects in space in your pieces -- almost as if there are pathways that drop off. Is there a sense of transitory nests there?

Betsy Byers: I am intrigued that you described the work as "transitory nests"... I think that is a wonderful way to describe spaces I am interested in painting. My work is concerned with how the body remembers and explores place. I purposely played with both transparency and opacity because I wanted the viewer to experience expansive voids/pathways, as well as visual structures that anchored them in space. Thinking of these anchors as "nests," is a lovely comparison, as I want the opaque forms to feel safe and reassuring.

SOL: Many of your works have blue as a major component. Is it representative of water and sky and other natural spaces?

BB: The blue in my work is representative of both water and sky. The value and saturation of the blue helps to describe time and light in my paintings. 

SOL: Were you born and raised in Minnesota? How do you feel your art is inspired by Minnesota -- is it the natural environment, the people, the light...?

BB: I was born and raised in Minnesota, just south of the Twin Cities. However, growing up, I spent most of my summers at our family cabin and my grandma's farm up north. The experiences of my youth influenced my aesthetic and also serve as a point of inspiration for the majority of the places I dwell in while I am painting.

In particular, the work in "Elsewhere" draws imagery and color choices from my experiences night swimming at my cabin in Northern Minnesota as a child. My mom would wake us up in the middle of the night and we would tiptoe down to the lake, out onto the worn wood of the dock and quietly slide into the cool blackness of the water. The memories of moving through the expansive darkness and gazing up at the innumerable stars continue to remain with me. While swimming, I could not distinguish where my skin ended and the water began. The world changed for me in those moments. Those memories have drawn me deeper into trying to understand the relationship between space and place, and how they in turn affect our own formation of self.

SOL: How do you come up with the titles of your pieces? Do you know the name when you start or does it come to you during or after the paintings are finished?
BB: It depends on the work, but I usually title the pieces after they are finished. My paintings tend to change slightly (sometimes radically) from my initial intention while I am working on them. I like to honor the possibilities that the paint offers while in process. In rare instances I title the work beforehand. In the current show, "Descend II" is one work I knew the title of from the beginning. For this piece, I was working to describe the sensation of moving down the series of steps to the lake. 

SOL: I know you are working in oils. Can you tell us a little bit about the medium and why you are using it for these works?

BB: With oil, I am able to work both directly and indirectly. I prefer utilizing a combination of both methods. Direct painting offers me an immediacy of mark. Working indirectly, by adding other media to the paint, I can slowly build transparent layers. In other words, oil is versatile and malleable since it stays wet for so long. It takes my work at least 4 weeks to dry. If the oil paint is substantially thick in can take a few months to dry. 

SOL: And is there anything you want us to know?

BB: I hope you come and experience the work in "Elsewhere." I find that in spending time with visual art, learning always takes place. Art has the ability to communicate in different ways than words, and to me, that is a very powerful thing. 


The Details:
Le Meridian Chambers Minneapolis
901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Opening: Friday, Jan. 21, 6-9 p.m. (free to the public)
Show: Jan. 14, 2010 - Mar. 6, 2011,
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

In the right window

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Clinton Rost: Barnes & Thornburg LLP, then Gallery 360 (law office to art gallery?)

Will You Be Here For a Minute? - 2010, oil on canvas

Clinton Rost has a show at Gallery 360 this weekend, so I thought I'd search out his work. And, while the opening is way down on West 50th Street, I found he had some art hidden in the land of the skyway as well. There is, however, a bit of a hitch on this one. You've got to be tenacious to see them -- or in need of legal counsel.

Pixels and Print - 2010, oil on canvas

Three of Rost's oil paintings hang at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, a law firm in the Capella Building. His contribution to the lawyers' downstairs conference room is part of a program with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) called The Art of Teamwork. In fact, the offices are full of amazing works of art -- and they've even purchased two pieces as a result of this partnership.

Queue of Two - 2010, oil on canvas

These are close ups of his paintings -- oils with bold brush strokes that use the texture of the paint as part of the composition. They are of folks in public, although he seems to make clear that they are immersed in their own private spheres within that public space.

Check out Rost's show at Gallery 360. Here are the details:

What: Spy House - Paintings by Clinton Rost
Where: Gallery 360, 3011 W. 50th St., Minneapolis
Opening: Sat., Jan. 15, 2011, 7-10 p.m.
Run of Show: Jan. 15 - Feb. 28, 2011