Briefly describe the work you do.
The main area of my practice is sculpture, with a secondary focus on other visual media and writing. My focus is on reinterpretation of symbolic object tropes with an eye towards unsettling and removing their recognizable narrative qualities. This is done in order to leave only a strange and hard to articulate experience with the object; one that is meant harken back to the basic quality of the transcendent experience that spiritual symbolism is employed to translate and represent.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in rural Colorado. My childhood home was situated where a dirt road intersected a paved road; neighbors were few and far between. I’ve never been a country girl at heart, growing up in the countryside felt like doing hard time in the most spacious jail imaginable. The prairies of Colorado are vast, beautiful but lonely landscapes that strike two big notes of mostly flat land and wide open blue skies. That sense of simple beauty on a grand scale, a paradoxical sense of confinement in an expansive place, and sense of a vast idyllic loneliness has had a lasting and discernible effect on my writing practice.
The visual art component of my practice has been more influenced by exposure and escapism to where I wasn’t at the time, through reading, junkie levels of TV consumption, encounters with art, design and objects.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio”
I tend to be very prolific in very concentrated bursts of activity, but spend very little time in a formal studio space. My current “studio” is just a jam packed garage warehousing my materials. Works in progress are brought into my house so I can wrestle and live with them intensively. Most of the time put into my practice is spent between my ears or out in the world, scouring antique shops, junk piles, auctions and all manner of stores to find materials for work in progress or to inspire new work.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I don’t know that its changed for me. I’ve been following the same folly for longer than I can remember, my first step was in all likelihood taken towards it . I suppose it’s not really about roles per say, it’s more about figuring out what must be done to make what has taken hold of my imagination a reality. That’s always changing from piece to piece, and the actions are so transitory as not to become proper roles. As the process of getting there isn’t based in repetition or following one identifiable process, it still feels like being along for a very exciting and entertaining ride.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
My work gets made when its urgent, not based on deadlines but on a overwhelming need to see it through. I love working at night because everything is so quiet and there’s no one and nothing else demanding my attention. When I work, I work until I completely physically exhaust myself. The concept of a regimented work day schedule is still alien and probably forever unattainable to me.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
It’s become far more goofy and cartoonish in nature. A sense of looming discomfort has always been a part of the work, but the means by which this is achieved has changed. There’s far less death and sex and far more bonkers cartoon style sight gags installed in their stead. About 4 years ago I started operating on the premise that making work that was happier & brighter is likely more unsettling & jarring than employing a direct tactic with objects that are already loaded and unsettling (out of the context of the work).
Most of the work is still referential to the human form, but now more so as a symbolic object of agency, or as a reference point that scales the cultural and ritual artifact to the human experience. The undercurrent of humor, unsettled whimsy, and material qualities remain largely the same. My general area of research is unchanged, but the facets I explore within that territory is constantly changing.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
The formative influence on the object balance that goes into my work is owed in large part to the elderly ladies that I’d visit as a child. They had such amazing curated collections of things amassed over their lives. It made me want to be them, to the degree that a great deal of my playtime was spent dressing in makeshift costumes and pretending to be the elderly ladies I knew. Their aesthetic was a balance of qualities best summed up by mid century plastic flowers, a beautiful colorful fantasy with notes of a vile but still endearing cheapness. My work has long since moved on from an old lady aesthetic, but I still love using materials that have an unresolved stature that mirrors this specific range of competing qualities.
Other than that, Jung specifically has had a large influence on my work. I’m voracious when it comes to writings and interviews about exploring the contextual and philosophical framework of spiritual and transcendent experiences. I could name few, but many who wrestle with the big questions in this area have influenced my work immensely. I’ll just cite it here as Krista Tippett et al. to cover a wider (yet still very incomplete) territory.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
This is it for me really. There are many other passions in my life, but none that raise to the level of a palatable occupation. I’d say theoretical physicist, but really, that’s just my nerdy version of a rock star fantasy.
Betsy Lundquist is a Colorado based artist, working primarily with sculpture and installation. She holds an MFA from Goldsmiths: University of London (2009), and a BFA from University of Colorado at Boulder (2006). She co-founded Misery Connoisseur magazine, a London based art and literary magazine. Lundquist has worked with the London based collective GANDT, and P.A.S.T. Projects among others. Some of her of works are currently represented by Ian Kennedy of Ruby+George of Denver.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.