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Artist Anna Betbeze comes to Mills

Artist Anna Betbeze visits Mills College. (Nora Roth)
Artist Anna Betbeze visits Mills College. (Nora Roth)

Anna Betbeze, artist and professor at Yale, recently spoke at the Art Lecture Series at the Mills College Art Museum on Oct. 1. A large projector showed pictures of Betbeze’s work with wool flokati carpets, which she transformed through different mediums.

Betbeze was born in 1980 in Georgia. She received her BFA from the University of Georgia in 2003 and her MFA in painting and printmaking from the Yale School of Art in 2006. Her work has been shown in galleries like the Kate Werble Gallery in New York and at the Jenny Jaskkey Gallery in Philadelphia.

Six years ago, Betbeze began working with large and flokati carpets,  a thick and shaggy material made of wool. Inspired by Impressionist paintings, Betbeze uses paints and dyes on the rugs to create a vibrant assortment of colors. When exhibited, her carpets are hung on a wall,  many of them around 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide or even larger.

Betbeze continues to find new ways to distress the carpet. In fact, Betbeze found that as her work with the carpets continued that their transformation became more and more out of her control.

When a flood soaked her dyed carpets, Betbeze liked the effect it had so much that she began to submerge all her pieces. Soaking her carpets eventually led them to rot, allowing her to tear holes in the carpet. She also began placing burning coals on the rugs to burn away spots.

Other pieces Betbeze would dip in plaster, making them monotone and firm.

Beteze began to bury the works she viewed as failures underground. Digging them up three years later, she saw the altered colors and decomposing material of the buried carpets now as successful works. Betbeze sees the destruction of the carpets as central to her work.

Currently inspired by Baroque sculpture, Betbeze is planning on making almost pedestal-like stands for the carpets made of memory foam.

One audience member,  Leila Weefur, a first year graduate student, was interested in hearing about Betbeze’s creative process; many students asked about her distressing techniques and some perceived her digging-up of the carpets as a “resurrection.”

Another first year graduate student, Jacqueline Norheim, enjoyed the photographs of Betbeze’s work.

“I like the intersection of extreme saturation and completely grotesque material,” Norheim said. “The color battled the grossness of the rug.”

More information about Betbeze’s work can be found on the Kate Werble Gallery website.