Betsy MacWhinney

Artist Highlight

Betsy MacWhinney

November 28, 2020

I grew up thinking that texture was something to be gotten rid of. The 1960’s (if you were too young to protest) was spent combing hair and coloring in the lines and digging up or poisoning dandelions in the yard. Where one thing was, it should be all that thing, and no blurry lines or intruders would be tolerated. Mashed potatoes were smooth, garages were swept, hair was an even length until you reached a certain older married age, when short layers were okay. I grew up in the suburbs, a place that detested texture in all its’ forms. Houses were identical, and people living inside the houses were mostly white Christians. Things weren’t stored on the porch.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly enamored with texture. Beautiful art, great ideas, and yummy potatoes don’t result from staying inside the lines. Healthy ecosystems have multiple, messy layers. I try to recreate that in my art. Also, I can’t really draw, or even use scissors very adeptly, but when you add enough layers, everything gets a little blurry and good.

I use cardboard because it’s free. I steal it from the dumpster at the hardware store, which is especially easy since they installed a ladder. The texture of cardboard makes drawing a little unpredictable, and reminds me to be okay if things don’t turn out the way I planned. It’s good to adjust to unexpected bumpy parts, or lines that aren’t as true as I’d hoped. Like life. Like 2020.
The quilts are made by piecing a basic image together with cotton fabric, and covering it with multiple layers of hand-painted cheesecloth. I’ve always admired quilting, but the abrupt edges between one fabric and another seem needlessly harsh; I like to connect them by draping the cheese cloth across everything.

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