Thinking of Inness, Whistler, eternal twilight and night music
My sensibilities were hatched in the Northwest where dew, mist, and coastal fog hang like mysterious skeins between you and the world. Form is not crisp; it’s blotted. Edges bleed, boundaries blur. Light is silver and refulgent. The aesthetic temperament is mercurial. Urban landscapes are rarified, and nature is sacred.
Now I spend part of the year in my husband’s hometown, Columbus, Georgia. To move locations from the dewy Northwest to the sunny South comes with a welcomed aperture adjustment as I open to the light. My studio here is flooded with natural light. It sits out back in the yard of my husband’s childhood home where we now live in the winters. There’s a quality here I tap into. It’s about the light, the color, the people. Relationship and kindness are valued highest. At first I thought I’d be a fish out of water here. I mean, I’m kind of a feisty feminist and very independent. But I’ve fallen in love with this place that doesn’t care to be rarified, a place that enfolds the Civil War, forgotten industrial landscapes, abandoned mills, ancestral roots, plantations, patriarchy, racial strife, and daddy’s girls, along with a new generation trying to push things forward. The work I do has to do with movement and rhythms found in classical western music as well as the natural world. The music is in me, and I paint about it wherever I am. But the information in Southern light activates my paintings in a way that imbues them with a likened buoyancy, weightlessness, and transparency.
Eby embraces big themes, and her work is pervaded by spirituality and sublimity, as are the paintings of Anselm Kiefer and Cy Twombly, two artists she much admires. Metaphysically inclined, Eby’s art attempts to transubstantiate paint, to make paint capture the sensory, sensual experience of meditation and be a vehicle for contemplation. Eby expressed a hope that her paintings might provide an entry into an alternate state of consciousness—and through the passionate conviction of subjective vision the universal might be breached. A gifted classical pianist, she often cites music as a source of inspiration. It is the pulse of the music and the immediacy of its effect—like the alternating surges of the sea and the rhythms of the world and the universe—that most informs her work, and she eloquently compares a rubato to a “quiet like the Sufi dervish who finds stillness in motion.” Her marks, too, are notational and seem to be marking time, each mark a trace, a remnant, signifying a moment in time’s unstoppable passage, like a musical composition. Eby’s point of view has much in common with the mystics and the romantics, where life—with all its joys and tragedies—is in thrall to nature and nature is triumphant, grandly summarized in the sonorously cadenced, biblical last lines of Melville’sMoby Dick:
Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.
–Excerpt from Lily Wei’s Metaphysics and Metamorphoses: The Paintings of Betsy Eby
Ten Things I Can’t Do Without
- My talented, romantic, mischievous, husband, Bo
- My painting practice
- My Steinway B and most late 19th and early 20th century music
- Green tea
- My amazing girlfriends
- My stable family
- Nature and vistas
Savannah: SCAD Museum. SCAD’s expanded museum opened October 2011. Exhibitions: Jane Alexander, Ralph Pucci, Sigalit Landau.
On our way to Savannah we drive through an alley of live oaks. In Savannah, the Telfair Museum, the Telfair’s Jepson Center for Contemporary Art, and SCAD Museum.
Driving from Charleston through Beaufort, we stop to visit a friend who lives on a beautiful plantation, after lunch at Low Country Produce. He has an exquisite collection of American paintings and it was a treat to see. Nearby, Ruins of the old Sheldon Church.