Born: Lancaster, New York, U.S.
Bethany Krull is a Living Legacy Artist at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Bethany Krull is a ceramicist and a teacher. Born in Lancaster, N.Y., she earned a BFA from the State University College at Buffalo in 2004 and an MFA from the School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2007.
Krull's work explores the complex relationships between humans and other species by envisioning creatures simultaneously adorable and nightmarish, living in absurd conditions that are alternately haunting and darkly humorous, presented with deadpan seriousness. In a 2011 statement published in the magazine Ceramics Now and its website, the artist observes:
“In today’s increasingly nature-deprived society our most intimate connection tends to be with plants and animals that we ourselves have drastically altered through the process of domestication. We have turned wild animals into docile and sweet natured pets as we have selected for tameness, helping the animal to evolve in a manner that has been most beneficial to us. We have removed these creatures from the wild to give us unconditional love and eliminate our loneliness, to amuse us, and to assist us in our day to day activities, but this comes at the expense of their own freedom to exist in their natural environment. Cats in today’s society, more often than not, live entire lives with their feet never once touching grass as they chase catnip-infused fabric mice and sleep in sunlit windowsills while the birds chattering outside remain just beyond their grasp. Although strong love and a desire to protect are at the heart of this captivity, the practice of keeping animals strictly indoors surely has its physical and psychological detriments. … It’s amazing to think that the drastic visual disparity between the Chihuahua and the Great Dane is due entirely to human intervention and selective breeding. … [N]o amount of love and affection lavished upon these creatures will erase the fact that the success of the relationship lies in our complete domination over all aspects of their existence.” 
Over the course of her career, Krull has worked primarily with clay, specifically with porcelain, a medium she prefers for her animal-themed sculptures because it “carries connotations of fragility and vulnerability but also preciousness,” she noted in a 2011 video interview. “My personal aesthetic is a very clean and pristine one. I gravitate toward tools that help me to erase any sign of my hand. I am trying to achieve a perfection of surface.” 
Krull’s work has been seen in solo exhibitions at Indigo Art (Buffalo), the Meadows Museum at Centenary College of Louisiana (Shreveport, La.); Mulry Fine Art (Palm Beach, Fla.); the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education (Rochester, N.Y.); and Dangenart Gallery, (Nashville, Tenn.), among other venues. She has also been featured in group shows throughout the U.S. as well as in South Korea and Ireland. Her appearance in the 2009 Arts in Crafts Media exhibition at the Burchfield Penney resulted in her winning the Langley H. Kenzie award, including a subsequent solo show at the museum. Krull has works in the permanent collections of the Burchfield Penney, the Meadows Museum, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Archie Bray Foundation (Helena, Mont.), among other galleries and museums, and has held numerous arts residencies around the country. In 2012, she was designated one of the Burchfield Penney’s first “Living Legacy” artists.
Krull has taught ceramics and sculpture at several universities and arts centers since 2005; as of 2013, she is teaching at Buffalo State College. She resides in Buffalo and is married to woodworker and furniture designer Jesse Walp.
For more information on the artist and her work, visit bethanykrull.com.
 Bethany Krull, artist’s statement, Ceramics Now, n.d., http://www.ceramicsnow.org/bethanykrull. (Accessed 08/29/2013)
 Bethany Krull, quoted in “Tools of the Trade” video interview, The Palm Beach Post website, 01/07/2011, http://clikhear.palmbeachpost.com/2011/series/tool-of-the-trade/sculptor-bethany-krull/. (Accessed 08/29/2013)
Listen or read Bethany Krull’s interview with Heather Gring of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, conducted on July 26, 2012. In it, Krull speaks about some of her early influences, including teachers she studied with, and the thought processes she goes through while making individual pieces and series of works. She discusses the role that environment plays in creating her work, and how and why the pieces she developed while living in Florida are different from those she has made in Western New York.
Although Krull has already gained a great deal of experience in her craft, she is still growing as an artist and offers great advice to young emerging artists.
Transcription of the Living Legacy Project interview with Bethany Krull
July 26, 2012
Transcribed by Cassandra Chu
HG: So Bethany, what inspired you to want to pursue a career in the arts?
BK: I don’t think I necessarily became inspired at a certain point, I think it was always sort of in me. I was always…I came from a really creative family. My grandfather was a woodworker and carpenter, and my mom was really artistic, my aunt was really artistic, and I was always most connected in school to my art teacher, so it was just something that I always did.
HG: When did you first begin to explore ceramics?
BK: I started taking ceramics in my junior year of high school, and that was it. I just…I’ve done it consistently since then, which is maybe like…I don’t know, twelve or thirteen years, something like that. I know, I can’t believe it. I feel really lucky that that was…you know, I know so many people that have, you know, sort of switched careers or switched educational paths, and I was always like very, very straight…ceramics. Tunnel vision ceramics.
HG: What were some of the first methods you worked in with ceramics?
BK: I think with clay, you always like…I mean you start with hand building, obviously, but then there’s this like, lure of the potter’s wheel, so you know, when I…when I got to Buff State, I was really focused on that and I did a lot of throwing and pottery, and you know, did the Allentown Art Festival and the Elmwood Art Festival with like shelves of pottery and maybe like one or two sculptures. But you know, towards the end of my undergrad, I started really moving towards the more sculptural aspect of it, and then you know, in grad school you end up being, you know, sort of pushed out of your comfort and so I moved even further into sculpture and changed a lot, but you know, now it’s pretty much strictly sculpture.
HG: Can you talk about where you went to school?
BK: My undergrad I got at Buffalo State College, which was amazing, and then I wasn’t quite ready to leave my Western New York nest, and so I ended up going to R.I.T., which put me in a lot of debt, which is one of the regrets that I have, you know, as an artist…I just never thought about money, and I still don’t really think about money so the debt isn’t even really real, but it’s huge, and it’s there, and it’s, you know, I wish someone would have…actually, my twin brother told me, he’s like, “So, okay, so you’re going to school and you’re gonna pay this much money, now how much are you going to make when you get out?” He’s like so business-y. And I’m like, whatever, who cares? You know, so…although the education was…was good, it…it is a regret to spend that much on an art education.
HG: If you could have done it differently, what do you think you…just off the top of your head?
BK: You know, I…I got into like every grad school that I applied for, so I should have gone to one that was less expensive, you know. But you know, at that point I just, you know, I just wasn’t ready to…to fly away, I guess. You know, and I did right after grad school and I just wish that I would have just, you know, had the foresight to do it earlier. But you know, I met my husband at R.I.T. so we always say that, we’re like, “Well, you know, we’re in massive debt, but hey, we found each other so that’s good.”
HG: That’s really important. Could you talk a little bit about what you experienced in a M.F.A. program? Like you mentioned that it pushed you outside of your comfort zone, like how did it do that?
BK: I think, you know, the one thing that I…that I always thought about, at least in my program, was that it was like, very formulaic, and I’ve heard this from other people too, that it’s like there’s a sense that, you know, it’s like, “Beat the student down,” you know, it was like very militaristic in my opinion, like you know, like, take your ego away, and then maybe like give you a few little morsels of confidence in what you’re doing and bring it back and you know, in some ways, you know, during the time, I hated it, I was like crying every day, like I was just…it was very, very difficult for me. But you know, looking back at it, I think it was a really, really good experience because, you know, if you look at my work going into grad school versus the work going out, I mean, it just leapt forward, you know, in a period of two years really quickly. Even though it was, like a super hard experience, like looking back, I feel like it was kind of essential to my development. You know, so it was really good and really bad and also, me and my husband will always say, like, well, anything that we do after grad school is easy, so that’s a good thing, like life is way easier now in comparison.
HG: That was the hardest it’s gonna be.
BK: Yeah, exactly.
HG: Have you had any influential mentors, either within your schooling at any point—high school, anything—or even influential artists that you really look to?
BK: As far as…I always look to like my early teachers as being my true mentors, because even now I can…I can kind of go back to them and they’re sort of still in my life, and Perry Smith was my first ceramics teacher, my high school teacher. Robert Wood was my teacher at Buff State, he’s amazing, you know I still look at him as my mentor because right now we’re colleagues—I’m teaching in his program—and then Carol Townsend, she was one of my first teachers at Buff State. And then, you know, when I was in the studio, when I was just like, a little freshman, you know, Scott Locey and Brett Coppins, they were both in the studio with me and they were super, super influential and I always felt like they took me under their wing and really helped to guide me and sort of show the way. As far as sculptors, I’m sort of enamored with the work of Beth Cavener Stichter. She does some really incredible clay sculpture, and she’s actually doing a lot to sort of elevate the perception of our field within like the larger contemporary world of sculpture, so she’s sort of my hero.
HG: Yeah, can you talk…you know, ceramics and ceramicists have been in an interesting position within the fine arts world. And it does seem that sometimes it is a bit of a struggle to get recognized for the quality of the fine art that you produce. Have you encountered that at all?
BK: I’ve never really…I don’t feel like I’ve ever encountered any discrimination, although there’s, you know, certainly places where I feel my work wouldn’t necessarily fit in. You know, I used to live in south Florida and the art scene in Miami is super…like super contemporary, conceptual sculpture and, you know, I could never really picture myself fitting in in that type of environment, but you know, also keeping up with what’s sort of going on. I feel like our field is getting its fifteen minutes, it’s coming up to that point right now, like it’s becoming more fashionable.
HG: Sounds like ceramicists’ lib.
BK: Yeah, and hopefully it’s, you know, more than fifteen minutes obviously, but you know, just sort of keeping tabs on, you know, say sculpture magazine. You know, for years, you never say anything that was clay in that magazine, and now you see it quite often, actually, so it’s kind of nice.
HG: That’s great. It must be a great time to be…
BK: Yeah, I think it is, and I think our field is also like moving way beyond its roots in craft, although, you know, I’m like really proud of that word and I, you know, I don’t prescribe to like anything other…you know, I make sculpture, but I’m a craftsman too, like, because I just have those roots and I think all of us in ceramics really have those roots but you know, there’s, you know, artists that are, you know, doing video and performance and still calling themselves ceramic artists, and so it’s like stretching its boundaries a lot, in a lot of ways.
HG: Western New York has really strong roots within the craft art movement. Do you think that influenced where you are now?
BK: You know, I don’t know, I feel like I always…I almost feel like I’m kind of naïve to like the larger world in some ways, so I never…I don’t know, I don’t think so. I mean maybe indirectly, I’m sure it did indirectly. I guess your teachers were influenced by things but like, I wouldn’t necessarily like be able to pinpoint anything specifically for myself.
HG: Awesome. Could you talk about the totality of your work? Like maybe what are some of the different stages you’ve gone through in your career, different themes you’ve seen?
BK: Well, I guess undergrad, you know, the sculpture that I was making was really formal, and I was working with like these seed forms and sort of thinking about like, layers and the unraveling of maybe you know, the human consciousness and sort of representing it through these like, seed forms that were like opening and unraveling and having very different textures and I think, you know, a lot of that was…at that point, I was very much working to like, teach my hands and to understand the medium, so like, conceptually, things were very, I want to say vague, or maybe not as important as the actual making. And then I went to grad school and was really kind of encouraged to, I guess reexamine my past and sort of…kind of understand like, where my motivations were coming from, and you know, realize that, you know, thinking back to my childhood, I think I was…I grew up in a very unique kind of situation, where, you know, my father—or my grandfather was a farmer and so we were like one of the first houses on our street in Lancaster and he, you know, he had cows and pigs and chickens so I had this, like, lifestyle of, like, running around outside and, you know, watching, you know, him milk the cows and you know, behead chickens and we would eat them for dinner, and like, all of this stuff which was, you know, like a really beautiful thing for a kid to grow up with, but also, as I was growing up, like we had hay fields that were all around our house and they got sold, and then suburb, like, developments got built in that area, so it went from being hay fields to being, like, tons of houses, and so as I went to school, I made all these friends that lived in these, like, little, you know, box…cookie-cutter houses that had, like, no backyards and just like a very different upbringing than what I had and so I started, you know, really thinking about that and sort of just equating it to like, our alienation from nature, which is happening in so many other aspects, and so my MFA exhibition was called, “Manifestations of Nature,” which was really based upon me sort of, like, collecting, like, these little beautiful objects and they tended to be really small and dead insects and, like, seeds, and like, these really beautiful forms that I always, like, that I felt were being overlooked, and so then I began to sort of study the form and kind of scale things up so they, you know, would be impossible to overlook, and just like, an effort to sort of bring the viewer closer to nature by, you know, displaying these jars, and putting each thing in like, a little…they had their own little jar and little stage and presenting them, like, sort of scientifically, to kind of evoke, like, “Okay, examine these things.” So that was my MFA, and then the next body of work that sort of evolved…I felt like I was making this work that was, like, really…it was very aesthetic. It was like, this is beautiful. This is a beautiful, natural form, you know, and I felt like, maybe it was a little, like, conceptually vapid, or something, like I was talking about alienation from nature, but it wasn’t…I guess I wanted it to be more…have like, a bigger impact or something, so I started thinking about, you know, in this collection I have all these, like, dead insects, right, and it’s really interesting…I don’t kill anything but you find…you find, like, a dead fly or something, or like, a dead beetle and they all like, they’re all on their backs, and they all, like, sort of fold their legs, like, really gracefully and they’re all sort of in the same position and so I started thinking about, like, the death of the insect by sort of, like, seeing all the…like how similarly these things all end up, you know, formally, I guess. And then, you know, thinking about the connotation that most insects have in our society, at least, as being a pest, but, like, how ecologically essential they are, and so then thinking about the insect as, like, a signal, for like, greater environmental devastation or something, so the body of work was called, “Signal,” and basically what it was was these, like, white porcelain insects, dead on their backs, and I ended up pouring out liquid, like, slip clay, which is like, really watery clay…pouring it out and then letting it crack, as it dried and cracked, just like the desert, so there were these sort of, like, desert landscapes with these dead insects that had, like, the quality of sun-bleached bone and so that was sort of my, you know, trying to…trying to, I guess, be…to be more…I don’t know what the word is overt about what I was saying…and that was “Signal,” and then…but then when I did that, I was like, “Oh, this is, like, way too didactic, like I don’t want to be, like, so…” I don’t know, you know what I mean. So then I was like, “Okay, let me reexamine this again,” and you know, I worked on that for a year, you know, I felt like every year I was sort of trying to change things up, and so after…after I finished with “Signal,” I was like, “Okay, so, like, I’m thinking about this alienation from nature and, you know, the fact that we think we’re, you know, as far as, like, our hierarchy…like, we have this hierarchy where we, like, you know, the human is at the top and everything else is below and, you know, thinking about how we’re, like, so disconnected, but then also thinking, like, “Wait a minute. We have this, like, super intimate connection with nature, but it’s with our pets, and then thinking about how it’s such a contrived thing, because we’ve…we’ve sculpted these creatures into, like, totally different things, you know. Like the wolf, through our selective breeding and genetic, kind of modifications become, like, the Chihuahua and the Great Dane, you know, and so that’s sort of where I’m at now with a body of work called, “Dominance and Affection,” and so just thinking about, you know, how much we love these creatures, that, like, are companions, but then there’s this overlying dominance, which is kind of central for the relationship to work, in a way.
HG: Awesome. That’s great, thank you. You just answered both of my questions, which was great.
BK: Oh, good.
HG: Could you talk a little bit…you touched on this a little, but could you talk about your creative process as you work with the clay and with the materials, like, do you…in different series that you’ve done, do you use different methods with the clay, or is that like, porcelain versus stoneware, or anything like that?
BK: You know, I think I’ve sort of tried every single method, like when I was doing “Manifestations of Nature,” and making these, like, sort of blown up versions of these specimens that I’ve collected. I did a lot of coil building with a low fire clay, and at that point, I was doing a lot of glaze research because I was trying to sort of emulate, you know, the surface that I was finding in the model, the natural specimen that I was looking at. And then when I…actually, the switch to porcelain happened because when I moved to that next body of work, “Signal,” I really wanted this, like, sun bleached bone, like, kind of time in harsh climate sort of surface, and so then I moved to porcelain and I was building those solid…and pretty much, that’s what I do now. I’ll build armatures and sculpt solid, and once the whole piece is finished, then I slowly cut it apart and open it up and then hollow out the interior, so that, you know, it’s like a quarter of an inch thick, and then put it back together and then hide all the seams, and then dry it really slow.
HG: That sounds incredible and intensely laborious.
BK: Yeah, it’s definitely a long process and, you know, the clay I’m using, I love it, it’s so beautiful, it’s so, so white, cause I don’t really use glaze. If I used glaze, it’s like, a very selective application of, like, clear, so maybe the eyes look shiny or, like, the fingernails, or you know, very selectively. So the clay has to be really white, but because it’s so white, it makes it really finicky, so it has to dry, like, for a long time, like I’ll finish a piece and it’ll dry for, like, over a month. I have to fire it really slowly and cool it really slowly just to sort of minimize the cracking that you get with porcelain. But I think the surface is worth it, you know, it’s…there’s definitely been a learning curve with that clay, you know, I certainly had, you know, a lot of pieces that cracked, a lot, you know, that weren’t salvageable, but it’s worth it now.
HG: The fact that you grew up in this region and stayed in this region and had this connection to the land, does that affect the art you create? Do you think you would make different art if you were living somewhere else?
BK: Well, I actually…I grew up here, but I left for about six years. When I was in south…absolutely, yes to that question, cause I went…I graduated from RIT and then I stayed at the Genesee Pottery and did a year-long residency there, and then me and my husband moved on to south Florida so we were living in West Palm Beach for two years and certainly, I mean I was making…actually I ended up, thinking about it now, I ended up going back to the manifestations of nature sort of realm of working because…I never really thought about this until now, but I had new things to collect, so I was, like, on the beach collecting shells and horseshoe crab molts and all these different insects I was seeing, so certainly it was affected by region, you know. Especially with, you know, the collection of these natural objects, so I’d say, yeah, it’s certainly influenced that. Now, I think, like, with the body of work that I’m working on now, it’s not so dependent upon, you know, specific things that I’m picking up out of the environment. I feel like it’s more of…my research is something that’s more like…I don’t want to say universal, but like, I feel like I’m looking at, you know, how we deal with companion animals in multiple countries, or you know, as like a society as a whole, not necessarily like, tied to one region really.
HG: So research is a huge part of your creative process; have you had any ideas that recede and you started to research and realized, “Oh, no, that’s not going anywhere,” or have your endeavors into research really just been a linear trajectory?
BK: I mean I can speak specifically to what I’m working on now, you know, I moved on to Florida, and you know, I have two cats myself, so we moved on to Florida and you know, when you’re in Rochester and Buffalo, you feel like you’re doing them a favor by keeping them inside because, “Oh, it’s so cold out and look at how comfy you are,” and whatever. So then we moved on to Florida and we were living in this neighborhood that had, like, so many stray cats, I mean, it’s beautiful down there. They eat lizards, they’re like, happy outside and so we had these two indoor cats that were like, you know, sitting in the windows, and you know, I remember we went to, like, some like, arcade or something, I don’t know what we were doing, but I won this little plastic frog, and I’m like, “Oh, here you go,” and I gave it to my cat and I’m like, oh, this is so fucked up, like these cats are chasing lizards and my cat is inside with a plastic frog, and I was like, this is horrible, so we ended up letting them outside, and so that’s when I started…that was, like, the sort of turn from you know, a different body of work to dominance and affection, and so at that point I was like, oh, I wanna explore this, like, relationship that we have with companion animals and pets, and so then I started looking for materials, you know, from that point on, and I came across this book called Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets, and it’s written by Yi-Fu Tuan and that was, like, super inspirational. I mean, he talks about kind of our need for domination, and he talks about, like, slaves, and he talks about, you know, how we want to control water through, you know, fountains and the interbreeding of goldfish, and all of these different things, so reading that book definitely spurred a lot of new things. Just recently, I finished a book called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, by Hal Herzog, which is, you know, speaks about, like, our…the distinctions between the perceptions that we have of certain animals, like, you know, animals that we consider to be pets that we love, animals that we consider to be pests that we hate, and then you know, animals that we eat, so like, how our perceptions of these specific animals change, and how we sort of deal with all these differing things within, you know, our like, total perception of nature or animals. So I do a lot of reading, but I also do a lot of just like, looking, like I’ll go to a pet store and be like, oh my god, like this, you know, bejeweled, you know, bodysuit for a dog or whatever, and I find that funny so maybe that will make its way into the work.
HG: Is there anything else you’d like to say about, like, what you hope to achieve with your art?
BK: You know, I mean, I definitely would like people, I guess, to sort of examine their own personal relationship with, you know, the natural world, I suppose, but like, you know, maybe…you know, I think about myself and how I sort of traverse through, like a museum or a gallery or something, and you know, I’m not one to linger on things that don’t interest me so, you know, it’d be nice if people you know, thought enough of the work to sit with it for a minute, you know, maybe think about it, look at it for longer than two seconds, that’d be nice.
HG: What are some things you’ve had to do to advance your career in the arts?
BK: I think doing the residencies has been really good, you know, like I said, I did a residency in Rochester and then I did…moved to Florida and did a residency in south Florida, where I met, you know, I met a lot of people in that scene, in the Miami scene, and you know, exposed myself to like, that whole region. Then I moved to…right outside of Philly, did another residency there, went to Montana for a while for another residency, so like, I feel like all of these, like, jumping around to these different regions and sort of getting to know kind of the artists in those areas, or you know, the collectors in those areas was really kind of…really essential as far as like, my exposure to like, the larger world. And then, you know, I applied to a lot of shows, you know, nationally and internationally, you know, I’ve introduced myself to, you know, different galleries, nationally, internationally, try to have a really good web presence by you know, having a good website and taking really good images of the work, but I mean, I do think, like, out of all of it, I think that the biggest thing is like…like I made, like a really strong commitment to my practice and to kind of furthering the evolution of the work, which I think is, like, the most important part of it, and not letting it become sidetracked for anything, and you know, it’s definitely…I don’t know anything else, but I know it’s a sacrifice, you know, like I don’t make money, I don’t…you know what I mean? There’s things that I…that I don’t do because I’m in the studio and they don’t necessarily feel like sacrifices to me but like, in comparison to like, you know, maybe other people that I know. You know, it’s like, twelve hours days is just, you know, it’s like (inaudible-24:35), you know, and so I think that the commitment to the practice is probably the biggest thing that I’ve done for my career.
HG: When you’ve reached out to galleries for perhaps representation or something like that, what does that look like?
BK: Yeah, I’ve done a lot of sort of just kind of finding a gallery that I think might be fitting or maybe there’s a show that I think is fitting for my work and just kind of approaching the person or the gallery directly. I’ve also sent packets out that, you know, kind of professional packets, you know, just with images or press or, you know, a resume and just try to expose myself to different galleries, which has resulted in, you know, shows and also rejection…I have to say that right now the…it seems that I’ve been…I’ve been lucky enough to have people contacting me lately, and a lot of that comes from just people that I know who have referred me or…I do realize how much it is who you know. I’m represented right now by the Blue Leaf Gallery I Dublin, and she’s actually taking me to a bunch of art fairs and doing a really good job with my work, and she found out about me through a woman in south Florida who I had shown with, so I think it’s a lot of other people who have worked with you vouching for your work, or your personality or your professionalism, so I think at this point, it’s…you know I still sort of reach out to certain galleries, and there’s a few that I’m still too chicken to reach out to, but you know, it just…I think just getting to a point where you’re confident in your work enough to just show it to somebody and hope they say yes, you know.
HG: For your career, do you feel it was valuable to leave the region?
BK: I think so, definitely. Absolutely. And even now, you know, I love Buffalo and I’ve been showing in Buffalo, but you have to be all over the place, especially today, so I think that…that leaving definitely helped me to establish myself in other places, and also to realize that, you know, you have to spread the work around, for sure. You know, the Internet makes that really easy, but there’s, you know…nothing can really replace somebody seeing it in person, so you know, I send work all over the place.
HG: As an artist, do you have needs of the community—whatever community you’re in, like needs that are fulfilled sometimes, or needs that aren’t fulfilled but would help forward in your career, and what are some of those needs?
BK: You know, I think the biggest thing that an artists needs is, you know, genuine appreciation coming from the community, you know whether that be them, you know, liking art enough to spend their disposable income on it and to be able to live with it in their own home and to find, you know, satisfaction in having…surrounding themselves with work, or you know, attending performances or events. I do think that, like, a public interest is really important for the artists’ career.
HG: With where you’re at now, what is going to help you advance your career—like, ideal situation?
BK: Oh my gosh, you know, like a slew of collectors knocking my door down, that would be it.
HG: It tends to be the one common denominator, right?
BK: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
HG: What advice do you have for emerging artists—for people maybe coming out of their undergraduate degrees, looking forward?
BK: I think the biggest thing is commitment to the work, for sure, because in lean times, I think it can be easy just to, like, forgo that kind of lifestyle because, you know, you have a job or you want to get…I think just staying fully committed to that path and sacrificing certain things in order to stay with that path is the most important thing. But then on top of that, you know, taking…making really good work and really always trying to push forward and to be innovative and then once you make really good work, take really good images of the work—they have to be, like, top-notch, professional—and you know, you have to have a web presence, you have to have a really good website, you have to apply for shows, you have to expose your work to, like, as big of an audience as possible and that’s actually, like, that’s a lot of commitment money-wise, you know. I remember I’ve applied for a million shows that are, like, thirty dollars apiece and you know, in the beginning, you get rejected from most of them, but you slowly start to build your resume and you have to think about it as an investment, and you know, working towards expose, and yeah, it’s a big commitment, but you know, staying with it and doing all you can to make it happen, I guess, you’ve got to work really hard, for sure.
HG: What have you…have you been able to support yourself with your art the whole time, since…since, I don’t know, since you were in your MFA program?
BK: Oh, certainly not solely my art. I mean I’ve been selling pretty consistently for a long time, but you know, it’s…I certainly have to supplement with, you know, teaching…you know, in every residency that I was at, I had a teaching job, whether it be, you know, teaching adults or teaching after school arts programs for kids, which I loved. I’ve certainly always supplemented in my earlier, like high school early, college days…I was a waitress, so you know, I’ve definitely worked right…you know, the whole time, always working. You know, cause you sell a piece for four thousand dollars, you only get two thousand, you know, and then you have to pay for shipping to the place. You know, it’s definitely…you know, I’m not self-sustaining on solely my artwork, and honestly I don’t necessarily…you know, even if I never am, I’m fine with that too, I mean I really love the teaching aspect of my life, so I think even if I was self-sustaining, I’d still want to do that.
HG: Do you have any advice for people who want to pursue teaching?
BK: For me, you know, it was…I never took any teaching courses. As far as my field goes, if you have your MFA you can teach. I just think as far as that goes, it’s more about, you know, taking the time to really understand what it is you’re doing. It took time for me to figure out how to actually, like, articulate some of the things that I want to share with the students, so I guess it’s just, like, being dedicated to, like, the pursuit of being a good teacher is really important too, because I mean you could be a great artist but if you can’t share it, then, like, you’re a great artist and then a shitty teacher and you know, I don’t want to do anything half-assed so I definitely spent a lot of time working that out too, so it’s just time and dedication and wanting to do it, I guess.
HG: Bethany, thank you so much for coming and participating in the Living Legacy Project at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center.
BK: Thank you.