A life long Rockford, IL resident, Betsy was born in 1965. Her parents worked as a schoolteacher and a lumber contractor. Recalling Betsy’s first time making art, her mother recounts how she inadvertently left a marker uncapped on the living room's coffee table. With it, toddler Betsy scribbled on the the marble tabletop. Betsy's Mom remembers how amazed she was with the accidental “drawing” and ran next door to her mother-in law’s house, exclaiming, “We have an artist here!” At 3, Betsy told her mother, in a calm and matter-of-fact way, that she was just her “earth mother” and that her real mother lived on another planet. Later that same year, her parents let Betsy stay up to watch the historic, first manned, Apollo moon landing. A few years later, Betsy’s family took an Airstream camper trip throughout the Northwest US and Western Canada, introducing her to First Nations, American Indian and Inuit artwork and people. Betsy attributes to that early encounter, her love of beads, and the power to incorporate mythological and spiritual understandings through art. To this day, she admires cultures where art is a sacred creation and acts to bridge the spiritual with the mundane. Betsy has been a professional artist for the past 23 years and co-owns Myth Gallery in New Orleans with her partner, R. Scott Long.
In the past several years, Betsy has revisited the genesis of her career, returning to paintings. The way in which she is tells her stories differs greatly from two dimensions to three dimensions. In this post we will look at some of her older paintings as well as hear in her words what inspired the newer works and how it worked through her as she created them.
"I believe art is a direct link to a universal reality. When creativity flows through an artist or someone is captivated by the experience of art, feelings of connection, grace, and instant understanding are part of that gift. The creative process is an awareness shift. It takes us into a realm of experience where we are greater than we know. There is so much magic swirling around all of life. We don’t always intellectually understand the solidarity of all living things on the planet from our varied perspectives, but if we open our hearts we can feel it. Art helps us become part of something larger and beyond our physical existence. It connects us on an energetic level and strengthens our insight into the unified consciousness of the planet as a whole.
Children with their vast capacity for wonderment weave tales of gossamer, create magic kingdoms, and pass through invisible portals to lands of untold enchantment. As we follow the Yellow Brick Road in quest of Emerald Cities, those portals become hidden to us, removing our access to the wonderland within. Creating art is a means to return to the looking glass and reenter the garden where flowers whisper and birds can talk. As my beaded characters emerge they carry with them tales from the other side of the mirror. I am grateful for the joy and astonishment experienced through this journey."
"Covid has been hard on all of us in different ways. Every single person on the planet has experienced loss through this, if they’ve experienced Covid in their area. I’ve had a really hard time engaging in my art during this time, and I know others have to, and I think it’s important to say that that’s okay. Because for so many people, art is our way that we touch our soul and we communicate and we learn and we process. It’s our refuge. And that’s a tough space to be in. When I’ve been trying to make pieces --and I don’t at all want to discount anything I’ve done--but anytime I’d try to start something, I’d have no confidence. I didn’t know what to do, and when I would start something I would undo it. My art is usually a refuge, and I don’t want to say it was like an enemy, but it wasn’t something I could connect into on a regular basis like normal. What I’m doing right now is beaded paintings. I was undoing a lot of my sculptural work which is a big process, but it’s a lot easier to do it with the paintings, so that’s maybe that’s a reason I’ve been focusing on these paintings."
They Came for Him, 13 x 17.5". Image: Larry Sanders
"They Came for Him is a story piece about the day our dog died three years ago, and the reason I wanted to tell this story is it was such a profound day on all these levels to at the point at the end of that day, Scott’s saying to me, “Betsy, we don’t need any more coincidences, this is too weird.” I wanted to have a memorial for Chaco the dog, but I also wanted to remember all of the layers of what happened that day. This painting doesn’t hit on every single thing that happened, there’s one element that’s not in here, but most of the strange marvelous things that happened that day are contained in this painting.
I’ve noticed that when animals and loved ones pass, there’s a lot of magic around those times. It’s like birth as well as death. I haven’t had children, but I resonate with the idea that as we move from one realm to another, there’s a lot of magic that happens. That really helps us realize there’s a plan to it all, or that we’re connected and supported. My dog Chaco had liver cancer, and there were multiple coincidences the day we put him to rest. The vet was coming that afternoon to put him down, so we took Chaco to the local park off leash for the last time. I thought he was sniffing out morel mushrooms to show me, but he led us down a little path where there was a hidden stash of marijuana and a pipe next to a tree, as you can see in the painting. I thought, okay, maybe he was showing me what I was supposed to do! We take the little case and we go home, where the vet meets us to put him down. As it happened, in my mind’s eye, I saw past dogs that were his friends coming to get him out of the sky. And so that’s what this is in part of the painting. We had let Chaco lie on the cool concrete floor of the garage because he was breathing heavily and had wanted to rest somewhere comfortable. I had been holding him in the garage that morning before he died, as he was breathing hard. While there I got this flash in my head of elephants.
When I was in my early 20s, I went to a past life regression therapist. In one of my past lives, I was a young man in India and I was extremely thin and sinewy and connected to the natural environment. In that incarnation, the therapist had us go to our most profound moment in our lives in that lifetime. I was in a branch in a tree and there was a stampede of elephants that went underneath the branches. I'm like, oh, that I would think that would be everyday for this guy, but I guess that was pretty profound. The therapist led me through my death and I moved through the roof of a hut, went up into the sky, other stars came and met me and those were my ancestors. So I'd always remembered that but never really thought anything about it in my present life. I realized at that moment as I was kneeling down next to Chaco that he was the elephant. And I realized I had a relationship with an elephant that was beyond just a wild elephant in that incarnation. So I was just kind of like, whoa, that's a trip. That night, we're sitting there and I had some packages I had received in the mail that day, and I'm opening the first package and it's a stuffed elephant. I had forgotten that I had bought an elephant because I was modifying Steiff stuffed animals for a while. So, this whole day was just one thing after another and I wanted to remember it. When art can do that, when art can help connect us, be a bridge or a conduit to those parts of us that are beyond us, where we came and from where we're going to: that's what I get the biggest buzz off of my art."
To Learn More about Choco's Passing & Tribute:
Read about The Crows, Huginn & Muninn, in our Blog Post "The Birds, Initiation of Air"
Voyageur, 8 x 5.5". Image: Larry Sanders.
Chaco, Juneau, & Bodhi...
Womb, 7.75 x 5. Image: Larry Sanders.
Here a fawn is safely nestled in a womb as the outside world hurls red arrows at her. Roots and flowers keep the forest present in her life as the stars in the night star speak to the wonder of existence. Betsy befriended a fawn she saw just after it was born. A curious soul, the fawn always lagged behind her mother and sibling as Betsy approached throughout the year. After one hunting season this fawn's young sibling was killed and left by an irresponsible hunter on Betsy's mom's property. Womb is an expression of trying to keep a friend and deer safe in a world where that just isn't possible.
Fear of Flight & Flight Lessons
There are two pieces in the Inner Earthling series, they both represent different sides of the same theme.
The Fear of Flight is about the fear of becoming and the disconnection that fear creates from the inherent power of love. Here the figure is hesitant as she clings to her life underground, knowing that she must surface to the magic that awaits above ground into the love and fear that journey entails. Faeries, stags, aliens, and other creatures inhabit the worlds the figure moves through. The crystals become the energy of the womb, which we must leave in order to thrive and grow.
Flight Lessons is about overcoming fear through faith and openly inviting with gratitude the energy of love that surrounds us all to assist. Here the figure is open to the discovery of magic in life and with open arms excepts her journey as it moves from the comfort of the Inner Earth to the exposed world above ground. Unicorns, in addition to the other creatures featured intros work & in The Fear of Flight, inhabit the worlds the figure moves through. The crystals become the energy of the womb, which we must leave in order to thrive and grow. There are two pieces in the Inner Earthling series, they both represent different sides of the same theme. Two sides that move back and forth in the duality inherent in change.
The frames on these pieces were handcrafted in Rockford, IL by Jeremy Klonicki and were fashioned out of old organ wood from a long gone church that was located in Rockford. The piece is protected with UV blocking glass.
BEADED PAINTINGS IN PRIVATE COLLECTIONS
These beaded paintings by Betsy Youngquist are an example of the work Betsy was creating when she started her adult creative journey decades ago. Under the beads there is a complete painting in acrylic inks on watercolor board. Betsy uses the painting as a color guide for her bead application. Once the painting is completed, the beads, stones, and other mixed media materials are added using glue. An acrylic clear coat finishes the work. The narrative content in these pieces becomes a personal snapshot of a moment in the artist's life using a a menagerie of characters and symbols.
Framed Prints are Available of They Came for Him, Fear of Flight, & Flight Lessons
Read More of Betsy's Interview with The Museum of Beadwork Here