Blue Spiral 1 (BS1) presents the work of Bethanne Hill on display in the Small Format Gallery through Friday, February 26. Hill’s brightly colored narrative paintings reference both traditional southern folk and Australian Aboriginal art and transform rural landscapes into fanciful scenes of animals at play, imbuing flora and fauna with spiritual mystery.
“2021 is all about celebrating John Cram and the 30-year success of the gallery,” says Candace Reilly, BS1 assistant director and curator. “Bethanne’s work epitomizes many of John’s artistic preferences as she draws on the rich historic tradition of southern folk art with her brightly colored, whimsical paintings.”
Hill’s work is inspired by stories she grew up hearing from her parents, who were born in the 1920s and raised on farms in Ohio, as well as by the rural landscapes from her own childhood in Alabama. Though a true folk artist is self-taught and Hill has an extensive art education, she often uses the word “folk” when describing her work as this provides a starting point for discussing the liberties she takes with scale and perspective.
Her process typically begins with a very loose underdrawing on wood or paper, which she later refines and fills in with colors, layering and making changes as she goes. She prefers acrylics because they dry fast and allow her to come back in relatively quickly and make adjustments.
“I usually work on many paintings of various sizes at once, which lets me mix and use up colors as well as stay engaged as I move around,” says Hill. “And it allows the natural flow of a body of work that all relates.”
Several pieces in the exhibit were created during the COVID-19 lockdown. That Horse Has Left the Barn embodies Hill’s frustration at the country’s slow response to the virus threat. 19 Corvid is a play on the virus name and the crows (of the family known as corvids) and bats she has been painting for years.
“As an artist, I’m typically happy to isolate, but the overall effect during the pandemic was anxiety-producing,” says Hill. “Painting has always been my medicine, especially during the last year.”
Blue Spiral 1 Gallery is located at 38 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville. Hours are Sunday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit BlueSpiral1.com or call 828.251.0202. Follow Bethanne Hill on Facebook @ Bethanne Hill Painting and Illustration, Instagram and TikTok @BethanneHill, and on her website at TheBethanneHill.com.