Who am I, and what am I trying to do here?

 

     photo-4   You know that awkward moment when a new acquaintance asks, “So who are you, and what do you?” (“what is that accent I detect?…what is that instrument you are carrying on your back?…”) I always feel shy talking about myself, so I thought I’d try putting a Blog in charge of Show and Tell. (A side benefit, of course, is that I’ll have to spell it out for myself first!….) It seemed most logical to set the action in The Studio, a place I keep coming back to over the years. Hence “BPLstudio blog”.

     I come from a long family tradition of Making Things. During childhood summers in Maine, when the fog rolled in, Mom laid in the supplies, and we compulsively sewed balsam pillow covers by the fireplace, wove glittery yardage on a four-harness sample loom, hooked rugs with colorful strips of cloth, cut lino blocks, beaded belts, covered wooden boxes with mosaics, printed with potatoes, built boats out of scraps of lumber and driftwood, practiced calligraphy on rolls of rice paper. Today, even as I begin my timid flirtation with Scanner, Computer, and Internet, I find myself reverting with great pleasure and nostalgia to the lowly needle and the running stitch…to the warp and weft in their simplest configuration….the hammer and nail and a few recycled bits of tin. I am looking for that childhood  spirit of playfulness, crossing from one medium to the next without undue concern about rules and boundries. My materials are humble, and ready at hand.

   My formal training includes a college summer spent at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, during which my eyes were opened to large canvases and loose brush strokes, not to mention the somewhat intimidating habits of the New York Artist! I majored in art at Smith College. I spent junior year in Paris, and enjoyed the extended European campus, a mere train or boat ride away from Greek temples, Siennese Madonnas, Gothic spires, Flemish altarpieces, Roman ruins.

   After graduating, I married Jacques, and we settled in Montreal, where I spent as much time as possible at the Visual Arts Center, discovering the joys of off-loom weaving. That eventually evolved into a passion for knitting machines, leading logically to constructing garments– sometimes combining knitting and weaving, sometimes pieced and stitched.

    When Jacques moved the family to Rome to take a position at the FAO, I left behind the looms and equipment, and picked up drawing and painting again. Italy is a good place to look at light and texture, not to mention colorful produce, and these became my regular themes. Temple University offered some good courses open to “locals”; we set up our easels unabashedly in front of the best view, and learned to ignore the commentary over our shoulders. The Art Workshop in Assisi provided summer inspiration and encouragement, and led to the opportunity to do some painting on majolica pottery in Deruta. Jody Klein’s mixed media workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, in Maine, and a mosaic course at Lignarius, in Rome, both  launched productive and interesting new periods.

   Now that Jacques has retired, we split our time between Umbria and Paris, with occasional forays into the rest of the world to check up on our friends and extended families.

   P.S. The funny accent is American. The instrument on my back is either a viola da gamba, or a renaissance lute.

   

11 Responses to “Who am I, and what am I trying to do here?”

  1. Dear, your bio is terrific – the product of a truly examined life. Maybe your blackl-and-white notebooks help fill in some blanks. I love having it here to keep me excited.

    xxxx

    La Mamma

    • Betsy Lahaussois Says:

      Honored visitor, I salute you, and thank you for your remarks, and also send you a big hug! I am damned impressed that you can find your way around here so easily! XXB

  2. Bella!

    I can immagine you back in Maine sitting around the fire with your wonderful mother and the whole family lying the good ground to your whole artistery life. You are in the most beautiful of settings and we all close friends love to come there and see you both and what is on for the moment in your studio and artmaking…….laughing teeth, ticking watches, scrabbling scripts, mosaics, striped scarves, little wooden caps, peperoncini on canvas or……….what s next!

    Love and hugs from Karin putting on a striped Betssweater in the Swedish cold the one that Remi once gave to Erik………..

  3. Jill Zifkin Says:

    Dear pal,
    I have thought of you so often. It suddenly occurred to me that I could catch up by tracking you down in cyberspace. Your work, as always, reflects your diverse background and a unique perspective.
    We will catch up one of these days. More to come. Running off to dinner to meet my NYC child. Love, Daub

  4. enid elliot Says:

    hi betsy and jill, gosh, the world of the internet is a wonderful place. rick and i were thinking of going to montreal and i thought of my visit there to see you and then wondered if you were still there…

    lovely to catch up in a funny way…

    hugs, enid

  5. Josie Hails Says:

    Hey Betsy,
    I am always inspired by your work..loved the trays! I am still sculpting thanks to you and have some great studio buddies that keep me motivated.
    Can’t wait to catch up in Paris very soon……..love to you both, Josie

  6. Lavinia Says:

    Betsy,

    I NEED your address!

  7. Marjorie Searl Says:

    Betsy, I am so looking forward to catching up with you next month. You may have been the first ‘real artist’ I knew, and I regret that I came so much later to my lifelong immersion in the visual arts, as we could have feasted (visually) together regularly in the Smith College Museum. But it’s not too late. I love your recent blog and look forward to reading the rest.

  8. doug hyde Says:

    Write!

  9. Brandy Ridout Says:

    Hi Betsy! I don’t know if you remember me but I used to work with Jacques at FAO. I’m going to be in Paris with my husband in September and wondered if you two would be around to meet up for a coffee.
    I was so excited to find you – I poked around your blog and love it! Your drawing a day project is ambitious, to say the least. i’ve heard of a photo a day, but that is simple in comparison 🙂
    Hope you are both well!

  10. Maggie Dufresne Says:

    Ciao Betsy! Here’s hoping that you remember me– we met at a Smith in Europe event many moons ago. I’m coordinating alums in Italy and just discovered that I don’t have a current email address for you so I’ll send you this note, hoping that you’re still staying on top of your fascinating blog and maybe can follow up with an email to me.
    A presto! Maggie

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