Tag Archives: Conceptual art

Beauty Betty Bingo: Still Developing


Several months ago I was invited to create a piece about my relationship with my mother for an exhibit curated by Esther Hong that opens Friday 9.4.15 at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art (IGCA) in Anchorage.  My old stomping grounds. How could I refuse. Grateful for the invitation. Grateful for the inspiration and creative direction.  Now what –?

Beauty Betty Bingo –that much I knew. Maybe a hand of euchre or two. Are those special cards or regular? I really didn’t know. Later my family laughed when I told them I went on Amazon trying to buy a Euchre deck. I checked Walgreens and CVS too.

It’s a Michigan thing.

Since January I have been working with natural linen, pieces of canvas, old and new photographs, negatives and discarded silk in the vein of a Primitive Seamstress.  I decided to continue with this materiality. Initially cutting and stitching all these disparate materials together as some kind of scroll. Attach them to an old wooden rolling pin. What about that vintage potato masher?  That might be cool. We ate a lot of potatoes growing up –I’ve been wanting to do scrolls with rolling pins for years. . .but alas it was not to be. A friend made a suggestion and the idea developed. Bingo! As it does. Literally. Art morphs.


 Somewhere in all this stitching my stepfather died. The family gathered.

There were decisions to make in the execution and later in the installation.  The negatives made it too stiff for rolling but not for hanging and so hang they will but by line or by chain or some cool miniature hardware that would make it look –well finished? I tend more toward the conceptual. Lots of undone and nothing exact so I let that go. Clips and clothespins.  Keep it simple. Keep it real.  The theme of a photograph still developing. Our relationship still developing.  Love you mom and so happy you’re still here and alive in the world.  The clothesline works to represent both the rural America of my childhood and the line where photographs are hung to dry in a darkroom.  So many metaphors.  Memories. The tangle of threads. A button. A live birth.  A game of cards. A gamble. Stitching a life together. Love. The beauty. All that laundry.


I hope you can make the opening –and if you do–Thank you!!

Brenda is a visual artist and occasional poet currently living in Santa Fe, NM.  Her piece: Beauty Betty Bingo: Still Developing is part of an invitational group exhibition opening at the IGCA this week in Anchorage, Alaska.

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The art of collage and the collage of art: words and such

I have company coming this week.  Family.  A sister who loves Santa Fe and me and a good time will be enjoyed.  Wine tasting and green chile and Ten Thousand Waves.  She is easy and fun and I love her too.  In my efforts to prepare I put off the deep cleaning for the art of collage.  A trip to Michaels 40% coupon in hand.  A trip through words from friends important enough to print.  A glance at a journal entry from 2004.  A glance around the room.  A meander across my thoughts.  Christmas lights burnt out except for one edge still tacked to the wall.  “To Do” ironing and hand washing draped over a chair.  Green chile stew warming on the stove.  An invitation an obligation and an RSVP. . .waffles remind me of Montana.  I will, and maybe, and yes, later by phone but I have a birthday party on the same day.  Still I thank you.  Would love to.  How to admit I am scared of the phone.  Of conversation. Don’t want to bother.  You or anyone. When is the best time –is there a best time or better than now?  Will I catch you off guard?  Will you be happy to hear from me?  Are you eating dinner?  Making love?  Out in the garden?  Busy?  Silly.  I’ve always been this way.  Who knew?  I take after my mother.  The first sentence apology.  Better now.  Really.  Email is good.  –but I long to hear your voice.  What will you whisper? 

Desert dust gathers every 5 minutes anyway but she doesn’t like spiders so I sweep beneath the radiators.  Twice.  And reach toward that dark corner where the claw foot tub bends away from the wall.  I’ve seen them there.  Below the soap dish.  No bother.  I wish to go to the place where the spiders spin philosophy, to sleep with Henry’s letter beneath my pillow.  We are children who have lost our freedoms, disassembled by an installation of men with guns at the International Airport. Emotion and logic are at odds. I feel the weight of solitude.  A collage poem from long ago.  It sounded wistful and everyone wondered “who is Henry” –?  But I am obsessed with the possibility of love and the arrival of spring and all that pungent longing like pregnancy.  Nature’s pink blossoms cause me to trip over the buzzing bees who have not arrived.  Swollen with the fragrance of pollen.  Ripe.  From yesterday.

My mother is in the hospital.  Again. Her artery clogged at 95% — we gather hope  like clouds.  Soft and buoyant to keep her afloat.  To keep her longer.  Longer.  Even a little bit.  Longer.  Like a ruler one upon the other the lengths suspended across the map.  One inch legend.  A strong blue line.  A river.  Meanders.  No one is ever ready for that kind of departure.  So I check for updates — keep the phone on through the night.  All is quiet.  Love gathers in places not visible. 

The studio hovers.  In the background. Tin and blue foam and wedding paraphernalia.  Papers and glue and cake stanchions (of all things) but it seems important.  I will make my mark.  It is Sunday.  Collage somehow seems cheap and shabby.  No matter the sun shines and the pansies did not freeze.  Flat line daydreaming rocks me to sleep.  The photos too flat send me to Michael’s where I feel more crafty than conceptual though I surrender myself to believe in my abilities.  That I will shine in the end.  Chaos will prevail in that way creativity tumbles forth to protect me from shame.  Like a waterfall.  Pour-over and plunge.  No diving.  White chiffon and game pieces bring it back to perspective.  No dust gathers at the kitchen sink.  And a journal entry as I rummage and reminisce from Baltimore:  . . .trying to plan my life around an arrival that may not happen. . .or a departure.  Not my mother’s but my own.  Beyond the border of permission.  This crab is poking outside her shell and no beach has she found.  

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Conceptual Underpinnings and I love text but I don’t text

Underpinning is defined as the material used for support of a structure and, through semantic change, has (be)come to encompass all abstract concepts that serve as a foundation.  I love the word “underpinning” –it could be gesso or panties or muscle or bone, scribbles or seed.  It could be a myriad of colors or as simple a white tablecloth pinned to a wall and entitled “May I please be excused?” –part of an installation I did once for a show called Family Secrets.  The reason I pine away at this is that I have an opportunity to participate in a show spawned from another.   A “deconstructed” exhibition examining the poetic intersection of words and image, or how that process occurred.  My conceptual underpinning still vivid inside my brain with only the leftover text and found objects scattered about my studio table.  Hmmm.  Does that count?  That I create the underpinnings after-the-fact?  In the concrete sense.  I am one to jump in with just a glimpse.  I was never good at maquettes in sculpture either and a failure in my sketchbook –full of words and lists and scribbles.  I carry my imagination in my heart –somewhat connected to the brain as a file system or sketchbook.  It is one part of my memory vividly intact.  My professor finally gave me his blessing, allowing me the freedom of skipping the “model” once he understood it existed somewhere in the context of the abstract.  Thank you Hugh.  I do scribble down ideas.  Mostly square or rectangular shapes with titles or random words — a list.  Ideas for a palette.  I am a writer first.  I suppose that is my underpinning.   And friends I don’t text though I use text. 


We Were Born

This painting “We Were Born” has an underpinning  I became embarrassed by after asking the opinion of my neighbor.  Not because of him but because I needed to reach out to know it was a disaster.  He loaned me books from the library and suggested I start with a vision.  I thought I had.  And so the underpinning rests beneath with its dark pods and disconnected message.  Perseverance or the conceptual underpinning of intuition eventually guided the painting into this beautiful palette.  What I wanted all along yet struggled (and it was a struggle) for weeks before giving in to what seemed to suddenly appear.   Like magic.  The soft blue greens.  A contrast between the play of red.  The grays I love. This my last oil on canvas before delving into the  mixed media work that has taken over the studio the past several months.  That led to Odes & Offerings and hopefully the “deconstructed” exhibition it spawned.  I want to go back.  Go bigger.  Oil on canvas.  Back to excavating shapes and color and a friendly composition.  Not so bottom heavy.  Play.  Conceptual underpinnings like grace.  One must believe in the vision however it finds you.  Wherever it leads.


Brenda Roper is currently an Artist in Residence at El Zaguan on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.  This painting “We Were Born” 48″x24″ oil on canvas is available for purchase.  To see other work by this artist or to arrange for a studio visit www.contemporaryartinsantafe.com

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