When I started writing the Featured Artist article for Luna Mosaic Arts, I put a list together of questions I thought I would like to know about different artists. Sometimes you will see the same question every month, such as the one pertaining to charities the featured artist supports. This is a question of which I feel speaks volumes about what is dear to each individual artist. I was told by a boss once, “If it is personal it matters”. I feel that charitable causes we choose to support, relates many times to subject matter in an artist’s body of work. You can decide for yourself.
Another question that went onto the list was, “Do you listen to music while creating (what type/bands) or do you prefer the TV(what shows/genera/channel)? Silence? Pod cast? Etc.? That question went on my list, specifically with Betsy Youngquist in mind.
I tend to work with my TV running all day. My favorite days are marathons on the Syfy channel of Paranormal Witness, Ghost Hunters, or anything that has to do with strange and mystical things. This is a love I got from my mother, and wondered if there were any other mosaic artists out there that had a similar habit or fondness for all things magical and other-wordly. I was not at all surprised to see Betsy’s answer to this question. When I read her answer the first thing to go through my mind was, “I knew it!”
Yesterday I had the chance to speak with Betsy on my drive to Chicago for a hammer and hardie intensive workshop at The Chicago Mosaic School. Although I currently live in the Indianapolis area, I am originally from Chicagoland area. Betsy is also from the area although she was speaking to me from New Orleans where she has currently opened a gallery (Gallery Two) with a friend. Our conversation left me with affirmations to thoughts and ideas, a sense of being exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment, and wanting to know even more about Betsy and her work.
So now that I have shared a little of my experience with you, I will let Betsy speak for herself… Enjoy!
LMA: How did you get started in mosaics?
Betsy: About 25 years ago I was teaching teenagers how to make mosaics for a summer arts program with the Rockford Park District. I was living with my mother at the time and one day when I came home for lunch I had the idea of gluing beads to a knife and grouting it. I took a knife out of the silverware drawer and that became my first grouted mosaic. In the broader definition of mosaic work, I was creating watercolor paintings in college and they didn’t feel finished even though they appeared to be so. In response to a need, I added small separate textural elements to the surface of these paintings in the form of tiny cut pieces of colored foil paper. This evolved into smashing glass Christmas tree ornaments and adding those fragments to the painting surfaces, and eventually to the addition of beads. The true completion of these paintings was only achieved when I added mosaic work to their surfaces.
LMA: What about mosaics resonates with you?
Betsy: Getting lost in the creative flow of working with small 3-D elements. The weaving together of textures, shapes, sizes, colors, and luminosities with the historical and accumulated energy of these materials. That is my creative dance and it is intuitive at its best.
LMA: Where do you feel your source of creativity comes from, and what inspires you to create?
Betsy: Dreams. Nature. Personal experiences. Animal encounters for sure. I believe that animals are messengers of spiritual significance, and unusual animal encounters speak volumes. Through the years books on the varied cultural symbolism of animals are my most commonly used print reference material. My source of creativity comes from those barely tangible realms that operate through the guise of ancestors, nature, or myth, where the flow has to be trusted because it is only glimpsed, never fully seen. For example, Creating sculptural memorials to deceased loved ones has been a doorway to creativity. Once in awhile a little magic surfaces through this process, and this access is an inspiration as well.
LMA: Do you support any charitable causes? Which ones and why?
Betsy: Wolf Park - wolfpark.org
Earth Island Institute - www.earthisland.org
Doctors Without Borders www.doctorswithoutborders.org
NPR - www.npr.org
LMA: How would you describe your mosaic/artistic style?
Betsy: The easiest description is three-dimensional mixed media. Words that fall into the 3DMM basket include beadwork, sculpture, mosaics, and assemblage. I would say the movement that most closely connects to the narrative content of my work is Surrealism. I like to think that in appearance my cast of characters may be a little off, but that underneath it all these creatures have hearts of gold. I find there to be both levity and depth in what I do, at least that’s how my work translates to me.
LMA: Do you listen to music while creating (what type/bands) or do you prefer the TV (shows/genera/channel)? Silence? Pod cast? Etc.?
Betsy: Pandora and podcasts of radio programs ranging from TED Talks to programming on alternative concepts on shows such as Coast to Coast AM, Midnight in the Desert, and the Other Side of Midnight.
LMA: What is one of your favorite quotes or sayings? What does it mean to you?
Betsy: “Seek, for only the seeker will find”. - Edgar Cayce.
If you know the story of Dr. Suess’s Horton Hears a Who, you know the concept of finding something unexpected and reality shifting in our everyday existence, of being open to something illogical based on our understanding of what the world is. I believe there are so many miracles to be experienced if we never stop seeking or searching.
LMA: Tell us about your single greatest mosaic/artistic moment.
Betsy: Metamorphosis “Metamorphosis” is a figurative sculpture that started as a reaction to the BP Oil Spill. Sometimes intense events become catalysts for creative expression. After the spill, I was overcome with a strong desire to process the environmental tragedy through a self-portrait. “Metamorphosis” is the result.
Betsy has graciously given a link to her Facebook page which chronicles the evolving of “Metamorphosis”.
LMA: If you could give readers one single piece of advice, what would it be?
Betsy: Here enters Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss” quote. If we explore the things that we are drawn to and that bring us joy, we are seekers. Bliss is the driving force behind that. It is doing the things that bring joy to us. It doesn’t need to be a big picture, high pressured finding our “purpose in life” kind of thing. Instead it is doing the simple things that bring us joy, giving ourselves that space and permission. The big picture part of that is a result of all the little blissful acts that we allow ourselves, those little steps that bring us to the summit.
By the time I had gotten off the phone with Betsy yesterday, I had a knowing deep down to my soul that I was meant to talk with her. As brief as our conversation was, it was powerful. I felt renewed in thought, fresh in approach and ready to take on a new level of learning from my class. I truly believe my path will cross with Betsy’s again, in some fashion, in the future, and I look forward to one day meeting her in person. Until then, I will keep seeking new experiences in learning and life.