Summer Remembered

Summer
© Betty Butler, Firefly Garden, Digital Collage, 2021

Before we face colder weather, I would like to recall last summer by describing this new digital collage. I was inspired one July evening by a multitude of beautiful lights among the flowers. Not only were the patterns intriguing, but I have also since learned that these flashes function as the insects’ mating language. How could I portray these fireflies’ dancing lights in an art form, I wondered? Well, first I took several photographs of hosta flowers. Then, almost by accident, the line-work in my digital painting morphed into an image resembling lights in motion. Therefore, I was satisfied that I had captured this magical scene. 

Summer Exhibition at Envision Gallery

Summer

The gallery was searching for work that embodied the essence of summer.

© Betty Butler, Playful Blossoms, Digital Collage, 2021

I am honored to have been selected for Envision Arts online gallery, based in Dallas, Texas, titled Summer II. One of my chosen works is featured above. The gallery was searching for work that embodied the essence of summer, be it subject matter, color, or feeling. It’s a contemporary show, with artists from various US states and Moscow, Russia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Barcelona, Spain. Although the exhibition went online in June 2021, you can view the show here in the gallery’s archive.

London Gallery Exhibits Colour

I am very pleased to be accepted into the online exhibition, Colour, July 15 – August 14, 2021, Tebbs Contemporary Art Gallery, London UK. My chosen works are pictured at the very top.

Check out the fast-paced video catalog of the many vivid artworks. I also had the opportunity to be interviewed for the exhibition on ZOOM. After a short talk about my work, guest viewers had some provocative questions for me. For example, one participant asked if I consciously chose to retain my painterly style when I shifted from canvas to digital art. I answered that painting had certainly informed the digital work to come.

One good question from another participant was how I obtained my photographs, i.e., the internet? I answered no, I took them myself, as to avoid copy right conflicts. I have taken many photos of natural subjects close to home and others on travel overseas.

Continuing with this topic, I explained that some of the photographs, such as the seahorses, were posed close-ups. With Photoshop, I silhouetted the shapes and filled them with color. I expressed that one benefit of digital collage is that an artist can use a poignant shot in various places in different works.

Someone asked about my artistic path, and I described my journey from fine arts to graphic design and back again, noting that I had learned different things from both disciplines.

It was quite an interesting experience chatting with and answering questions of artists across the globe.

At the very top are my five works chosen for the exhibition at Tebbs Contemporary Art Gallery. Clockwise: Australian Fires, Shelter in Place, Colorful Seahorses, Kangaroo Escape, I Can’t Breathe.

Joyful Blossoms

joyful blossoms
(c) Betty Butler, Joyful Blossoms, Digital Collage, 2021

These chive blossoms were the perfect subject for my new collage series because I love color, pattern, and oval shapes. I was intrigued by the sense of whimsy these botanicals demonstrated as they sprung from the earth. In addition, the flowers are environmentally friendly, attracting bumblebees. They are even edible, adding a mild garlic flavor to food. Finally, to complement the beauty of these florals, I added green and purple graphic elements.

For me, this colorful cluster represents the joy of spring and summer coming forth. At the same time, they are analogous to our new path; the need for social distance is lessening, and people are gathering again.

A Cautionary Tale

joyful blossoms
(c) Betty Butler, Lurking, Digital Collage, 2020

Yet, let other countries tell a cautionary tale. Early in 2021, the government of India imposed few restrictions on crowds because they thought the virus had peaked. Then the latest COVID-19 Delta variant appeared, and illness increased rapidly. It is more contagious and affects younger people in more significant numbers than the original virus. Of course, many counties also lack access to the vaccines that we have.

Lurking (above) is also composed of purple and green colors but has a more somber tone and feel. I created it in October 2020, when we were in the thick of the pandemic. This image blends thistle foliage with a portrayal of the coronavirus. These spiky, intertwining plants could be symbolic of a place where the virus still lurks among us.

Bold and Colorful

https://bettybutler.net
(c) Betty Butler Fiery Winter, Digital Collage, 2021

I am pleased to be among the artists accepted into the online exhibition Bold and Colorful, hosted by Exhibition Without Walls. The curator states that “with our world being so negative, we thought that we would like to brighten up things a little by having an exhibition that was upbeat in terms of images as well as audio. The title “Bold and Colorful” speaks to this as well.”

One of my accepted images is Fiery Winter (top.) I infused a snowy, hilly scene with glowing yellow, red and purple, while the trees remain a dark, bold black. One of my viewers commented that the yellow emanating from the houses gave her hope in a time of darkness.

Colorful Tulips

Soon, spring will be here, and like tulips blooming, I am feeling the hope of people coming together again…

Bold and Colorful
(c) Betty Butler, Tulip Calligraphy, Digital Collage, 2021

I created a new digital collage with the concept of bold and colorful in mind. To do this, I blended pink tulips with a strong calligraphic-like line drawing. Soon, spring will be here, and like tulips blooming, I am feeling the hope of people coming together again, as more of us have access to the vaccine and COVID-19 rates go down.

A COVID Winter

COVID Winter
(c) Betty Butler, A COVID Winter, Digital Collage, 2021

A COVID Winter (above) invokes innocent children and parents having fun, sledding in the park. And yet, this digital collage addresses the pandemic from early 2021, where the virus, although invisible, is never out of sight. Although we are hoping for swifter action in the future, the vaccine roll-out up until now has been slow.

Another aspect of this image is reflected in the silhouetted figures. Some are distinct, and others faded, reminding us of those friends and loved ones we have lost during this crisis.

Shelter in Place

COVID Winter
(c) Betty Butler, Shelter in Place, Digital Collage, 2021

At first, I was just having fun with this image, placing glowing color in and on top of a snowy, hilly scene. Then I realized that this collage also included a single home and its one shed. So, although upbeat, the image reminded me that many of us are still sheltering at home (if we are able.) Our homes have become our offices, schools for our children, recreation centers, and more. In many cases, we can’t travel or shop for fear of catching the virus. Many people have felt a growing sense of isolation.

On the other hand, I am amazed at how inventive people have become about gathering virtually and wonder how many of these new practices will become part of the new normal for the future?

Exhibiting in Rome: Art in the Time of COVID

I am honored to be exhibiting in Rome, Italy: Art in the Time of COVID, the Effects of the Pandemic During Lock-down. This group exhibition is taking place at the Bauhaus Home Gallery, December 5 – 11, 2020.

I did not create these following digital collages with a sense of joy, but rather an urgency to express my concern about a plight that has engulfed people across the entire world. I Can’t Breathe (vertical image below,) speaks to a collision between the crises of the murder of George Floyd and the US reaching 100,000 COVID-19 deaths. Six months later, the number of lost souls has climbed to 282,000. Even though a vaccine is on the horizon, far more deaths will inevitably occur.

Selected Images

Exhibiting in Rome
(c) Betty Butler, The Shadow, Digital Collage, 11×14 in., 2020
Exhibiting in Rome
(c) Betty Butler, I Can’t Breathe, Digital Collage, 14×11 in., 2020

Exhibiting in Rome
(c) Betty Butler, Escape Plan, Digital Collage, 11×14 in., 2020

Unbelievable 2020

(c) Betty Butler Escape Plan, Digital Collage, 2020

Unbelievable 2020. This year we witnessed more than 200,000 deaths in the United States resulting from COVID-19. We also experienced police violence, protest and civil unrest, the worst California wildfires on record, and a president attempting to win an election with lies, deceit, and probable chaos yet to come.

Of course, my art has been influenced by some of these events. Escape Plan (above) started as a high contrast photograph of a street scene in NYC (from my time at The Cooper Union School of Art, 1973.)  The street, probably an alleyway, shows buildings with fire-escapes and barbed wire smack down the middle. Then I added silhouettes of people, the virus, and digital painting. The fire escape in the image alludes to a hopeful escape plan from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Of course, at this moment, there is none in sight, except for the practical measures of social distancing and mask-wearing. The president lies (or down-plays) the truth of COVID-19, so his base is reluctant to put these measures into place. Remarkably, mask-wearing has become politicized. In this image, there are only people traumatized by the barbed wire and looming disease.

California Fires

(c) Betty Butler, Fire Escape, Digital Collage, 2020

I created Escaping the Fire as a reaction to the devastating Australian fires of 2019-2020. Yet, the devastation continues in the western United States. Roughly 100 million acres of land have burned, making 2020 the largest wildfire season in California’s history. The intensity of the fires has been increased by drying and heating from human-induced climate change.[5][6]

With all of these dire events upon us, I still believe we will come out more resilient and creative on the other side.

Two crises collide, “I Can’t Breathe”

I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, I Can’t Breath, Digital Painting, 2020

Ideas for I Can’t Breathe (above) came to me as I heard George Floyd’s last words, which echoed the words of seriously ill and dying COVID-19 patients. Visually, I envisioned unwarranted police violence, multiplying virus particles, facial masks, and a general sense of chaos.

In Minneapolis, MN, Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, four police officers snuffed out a black man’s life. Two days later, on May 27, the US reached a death toll of 100,000 persons from COVID-19. Concurrently, young people, black, white, and brown (mostly wearing masks), took to the streets protesting for justice. Finally, protests continued, until one, then the other three officers were charged with some degree of murder. The President could not help himself but make things worse. He ordered the United States military to tear gas a peaceful crowd of protesters in DC, so he could walk to a nearby church and hold up a bible (upside down) for a photo-op. The nation-wide and world-wide protests continue.

COVID-19 continues to spread

US states have reopened their businesses at different rates. Meanwhile, since Memorial Day, there has been a spike in virus spread and hospitalizations in some states. Let’s hope for a more unified approach to social distancing, mask-wearing, and testing in the future.

Exhibition in the Canary Islands, Spain

I was honored to have three of my prints juried into an international exhibition entitled Lost at Lacuna Festivals, Canary Islands, Spain. The theme could include lost culture, language, and traditions. My three chosen works referenced the Australian fires of 2019-2020, and the loss of life and environment. Then the curators informed the artists that the exhibition Lost was almost lost because of the pandemic. Soon, they found a solution and asked the artists for permission to show their work in an online festival.

The Lacuna Festivals will take place online from June 26 – July 31, 2020.

I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, Australian Fires, Digital Collage, 2020
(c) Betty Butler, Kangaroo Escape, Digital Collage, 2020
I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, Escaping the Fire, Digital Collage, 2020

COVID-19 and the Australian fires

Australian Fires
(c) Betty Butler, Kangaroo Escape, Digital Collage, 2020
Australian Fires
(c) Betty Butler, Escaping the Fire, Digital Collage, 2020

It is hard to believe that it was only in January of this year that the world finally took notice of the 2019-2020 Australian fires. They had been devastating to the country’s environment and tragically caused human deaths and homelessness. However, the situation also pulled at our heartstrings. The world has witnessed the burning and suffering of Australia’s beautiful and rare animals. Scientists estimate one billion have died. In January, I was moved to create these digital collages relating to the inferno’s effect on human and animal life.

A hotter planet

Yet, by March, the world had turned its attention to a crisis that no one could ignore, the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the two catastrophes could be related by one glaring issue: global warming. Recent studies have confirmed that Australia’s wildfires have now been linked to climate change. Drought and Climate-influenced temperatures raised the wildfire risk by 30 percent.

Concerning the Corona Virus, of course, modern travel can quickly spread a pandemic from continent to continent. Moreover, pandemics like this are expected to rise as the climate changes. Illnesses carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and other animals, will likely increase on a hotter planet. In addition, when humans cramp and stress animals in tight cages, a viral crossover from species to species can occur. This is especially true in wet markets, which create a toxic mix of animal fluids and human beings. These viruses may have been coexisting within the animal species for many years, but people carry no immunity to them.

It seems like the global community is learning painfully, not to wait too long to address a problem like a pandemic. We are seeing how quickly illness and death can mount up in a short amount of time. I hope our world community can learn from this and take corrective steps for our climate NOW. A tipping point for the earth could come sooner than we think.

Berlin exhibition March 2020

Berlin art exhit March 2020
(c) Betty Butler, Through the Desert, Digital Collage, 2019

I am honored that my print, Through the Desert (above), is included in the exhibition, i am. an immigrant., slated for March 2020 at The Institut fur Alles Mogliche, (The Institute for Everything), Berlin, Germany. Sixteen artists from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Canada, Berlin, Amsterdam, Israel, and Romania will explore the demographic changes that affect global and local politics, economies, and day to day life. History forewarns what can happen when hate, fear, and a sense of threat grows between people coming from different cultures, who now share space. This group exhibition is a place to explore these clashes of culture. Although, Through the Desert, is from my climate change series, droughts, floods, and fires are clearly contributing to the issue human migration.

For the Love of Art II, Dallas, Texas

Art of the Seasons

Gladioli Drawing I, 2019 (left), has been selected for the online exhibition, FOR THE LOVE OF ART II, Envision Arts, Dallas, Texas, on display through February 29, 2020. In addition to Americans, artists from Norway, Taiwan, Poland, United Kingdom, Portugal, Japan, and Greece are included. The jurors were seeking images regarding love and relationships, as well as the color red.