Betsy Foster, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the months of February and March 2020, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Betsy some questions about her work and studio practice:
Q: Tell us about your background.
I’m from Henrietta, New York (about 35 minutes west of Clifton Springs). I’ve been making artwork for around 15 years now!
In 2011 I graduated with my BFA from Alfred University, and in 2019 I graduated with my MFA from The Ohio State University. My concentration for both fine art degrees was ceramics.
I just moved back to the western New York area this past summer when I finished my Master’s. In addition to my studio practice I teach as an adjunct instructor at SUNY Fredonia.
Q: How would you describe your work?
My practice revolves around the manipulation of ceramic material and carrying out repetitive actions to accumulate multiples. I am drawn to the tactility of clay, of leaving marks in the surface whether they be my fingerprints or that of a tool. The surfaces of my ceramic sculptures and paintings are usually abstracted patterns like grids, lattices, or polka dots stretched or overlapped. I change these patterns on the surfaces to create something different each time.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Nearly every ceramic form I build starts out as a series of sketches done in my studio, a sort of planning process. Two-dimensional sketches become three-dimensional form. I sketch the piece again after it is completed, continuing that cycle of sketching and building, each time abstracting and changing the form, pushing against its specificity. My sketches originate from fuzzy thoughts, or flashes of memories steeped in nostalgia. I’m tapping into these feelings as I explore how my paintings, sketches, and ceramic forms can exist together.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
For my time in the residency, I want to explore the relationship between my paintings and ceramic forms. Having gone the better part of this year without a kiln, I’ve been creating paintings with freeform abstract swatches of color. My work from early 2019 and late 2018 dealt with purposefully distorting patterns across a surface, but with access to a kiln once again I am interested to see how my time working solely in paint has influenced how I glaze ceramic forms. My plan is to create ceramic pieces that have painting counterparts. Being back where I was born and raised in Rochester, NY for the first time in many years has everything steeped in nostalgia. I plan on tapping into these feelings as I explore how my paintings and ceramic forms can exist together, merging surface textures and colors, as sources obscure and abstract in the back-and-forth of two-dimensional paintings/sketches to three-dimensional ceramic forms.
Q: Do you collect artwork?
Besides work from a variety of mediums from friends of mine, I have a collection of ceramic cups, mugs, and plates. As someone in the ceramic community who used to solely create pottery, I have a huge appreciation for handmade cups, mugs, plates, etc. With a few exceptions, I only use handmade ceramic to eat off of! I have gotten most of it from The Clay Studio’s gallery, they are located in Philadelphia (but you can also order online!) NCECA, the annual ceramic conference, is also a place I’ve picked up a few of my favorite pieces. For me, there is a sensitivity, a contemplation, and an awareness present while using handmade objects every day.
Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I want to say my hands, but I think that’s too cliché. I’m going to say a banding wheel. When building ceramic pieces, I need to be on all sides of it and being able to spin the piece around on something has probably saved my body from aches and pains! Alternatively, for bigger work a dolly from the hardware store (so I can put a large wooden board on wheels to move around) has definitely been a life saver!
Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
I would say anywhere that I’m traveling where I haven’t been before. If I’m in a new city I usually make a quick stop at a museum or gallery. I frequently drive around for concerts, and I love to make an overnight trip so I can pop into a museum in the morning before a drive back to give me a lot to reflect on during the drive. My more recent favorite was The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. A second runner up response would be the museum I used to work at – The Philadelphia Museum of Art. They have such an amazingly huge collection that they rotate frequently so if you stop in, a lot of the galleries are different than that last time you were there.
Q: What’s next for you?
I’d like to get a kiln to establish my own studio here in western New York so I can continue to create ceramic pieces in my studio practice. And I’m hoping to continue teaching!