As a child, Betsy Alexander spent most of her time making art in the basement, or music in the living room. By the time she was 10 years old, it became obvious she would have to choose one or the other. There just did not seem to be enough time to be good at both. She decided that since she seemed to have fewer ideas in art, she would devote herself to composing.
Twenty-seven years later, Ms. Alexander met her soon-to-be husband, visual artist Burnell Yow! As lifetime collectors of glass and odd objects, both enjoyed going to flea markets, and Burnell enlisted Betsy in helping him pick up trash off the sidewalk for art projects. Around that time, AOL began mailing CDs to everyone on the planet (perhaps you’ve gotten a few yourself). Wasteful use of resources had always bothered Betsy, so she asked all her friends to save theirs for her, thinking one day she would make something out of them.
Then eleven years ago she decided to make an art journal for her mother’s 70th birthday. When it was finished, she realized how much she had enjoyed “returning to the basement” to make art. So she began to knit. The idea to use her collected photos of church signs and all those CDs to make art crosses soon followed. Then came a series of small paintings of Alaskan sunsets inspired by webcam photos. Photography, jewelry making, and assemblage art came next. Forty years after giving up art because she had few ideas, Betsy found she had more ideas than time. She also realized making art was a nice way to recharge from composing, teaching and performing music. As she states, “With art it is just you and the materials and the ideas, and when you are done you have a finished piece that you can enjoy anytime (no performers needed!) It is concrete and tangible, unlike the ephemeral art of music. ”
Betsy Alexander believes to be human is to create, and that everyone can be an artist or a composer. You just have to be willing to experiment, make mistakes and have fun doing it.
Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions. She is a member of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers and participates in the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours.
In reading your biography, I found that art making for me is eloquently described by you. It gave me a voice a new and best way to express myself. I was in my 30’s when I went to art school had never drawn or painted. I went to PAFA and was the first exchange student to the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. I had grown up in North Africa, Libya for most of my formative years. I learned to read and write Arabic and it so influenced my life that I became a cardiac nurse. I was enamoured by the calligraphy of the beating heart. But something very important was lacking. That was creativity. When I lost my first patient. I drove around for hours and the next day started making a quilt that was my tree of life.
At that time I worked in the cancer ward. I realize that death was something I didn’t know how to handle so I went and worked in an area of medicine where death could be an every day occurence . I wanted to desensitise myself from the trauma of loss.
My work is a lot about life and death.
I am no longer doing constructions. I haven’t the tools. Recently I decided to work abstractly needing the freedom to express myself in a more direct way.
i am so happy to know you for your generosity of spirit and creativity you do wonderful things all around you. I miss the Dumpster Divers….