Women work hard. In our hands we hold the stuff of our lives. We tend, care, feed, fuel, nurture the collective success of all those we know and love. And for it, our lives are rich with a beauty which takes our breath away. How to notice and love those moments for what they are? How to take deep care of our own hearts, fill up, and honor our own journey?

These are the questions which inform my work each day. To place in your hands a lovingly prepared item, one which elicits a longer exhalation or provides illuminated guidance—this is what lifts me and keeps me creating. In this way we just keep circling that good stuff around and around. I lift you, you lift me.

In this week’s blog I’m featuring Betsy Anderson, a local artist whose hands never stop. Her symbolic works underscore the multilayered lives women lead. Displayed right now at the Firehouse Art Center here in Longmont, it’s a must see exhibit, open for just one more week until May 9th. Read more about it in the blog. Then go see it!

All my love, always.

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“A woman’s social status is often reflected in her embroidery talents.” This sentence is the sort of thing that gets Betsy going. Her art lifts layers of symbolism to the surface—literally. Working with vintage fabrics, dye processes, and embroidery, she intuits the creation of a piece as she works. In the dye patterns and fabric itself she finds a cave, a field of flowers, anatomy and sex organs, tears, eggs, the human form. Both the intricacies and colors of her work are super-stimulating. We love what she makes. We think you will too!

Betsy will chat up anyone. Her mind works quickly and so a conversation with her can take an immediate plunge down a multitude of rabbit holes. When asked about isolation and the pandemic, she says she likes how it has forced us all to think more about our collective humanity and what it means to be a human being on this earth.

Drawing upon the history of women, her work is sometimes combined with words by Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, or Sylvia Plath, to name a few. So if you want to talk about those powerhouses and the challenges they faced, some horrifically dark, Betsy will ride that train with you. Is the subject of Me Too tackled? Yes! Want to explore ritualized dating practices? Sure! “Do you know about the Bowerbird?” she’ll ask. Want a statement apron which challenges the reasons for even wearing one? Absolutely!

“I look into old pieces of silk and I see a galaxy, an archeological dig, the laundry! For me, this tactile work speaks of the layers of the history of domestic life, the rituals and attractions of humans, parts of the body which are fetishized, the evolution of women’s work and their lives gaining power.

I was taught embroidery very young, probably 1st grade, so it was a positive thing for me. I majored in fiber and fabric in college but switched to fine art painting and printmaking because I wanted to try everything! My Aunt Anna was a first generation American immigrant from Sweden. She was a feminist and dress designer in Minneapolis. She never married.

When I am working with a textile I am aware of everything about it. I think of how the crop used to make the fabric was grown, the history of labor and often slavery which may have contributed to a vintage piece’s production. I also think about the dye process of tea staining, indigo dying, rust staining and all the layered connotations in those things. The vintage pieces I have used come from the 1940’s and the 1970’s. Those are very different eras for women. So when I layer visually in my work, I’m also layering symbolically.”

When not creating, Betsy researches what gets passed off as art in mass home stores. She calls herself a cultural explorer. What does this mean?

Betsy: “I have a love/hate relationship with beautiful things. Design is very personal. I curate what I have in my home. I care about having things that someone made with their hands. I love that aspect of humans—the whole handprints in caves stuff, magical paintings of animals, what we choose to put on our skin. It’s important for people to talk about these things. It really is! I don’t like how things have become so mass-produced. Everybody has the same shit! I say, get something original, that an actual living person made from their spirit and soul. There’s only one of those.”

Betsy’s show, Home is Where the Art Is, is open until May 9th at the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont, Colorado— for tickets.

Find her on Instagram @betsyandersonart

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