As if dealing with sexism in the arts isn’t enough, older women face another ism that gets little attention, ageism. Older women artists continue to be overlooked, ignored or presumed past their prime or ability. Our objective is to bust the stereotypes and showcase the art life of women over 50, women whose passion and exploration in the arts is as vibrant and as exciting as ever.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sculptor Beth Holyoke

Beth Holyoke lives in what I call the Fish House. When Beth and her husband Andy moved into a new old house and were refurbishing it, one of the creative choices Beth made was to sculpt a ribbon of fish around the top of the outside walls and these aren't any old fish, these are ancient, archaeological fish.

porchAs Eco Activists, Beth and Andy have also built a bunch of Straw Bale Houses, houses that can last hundreds of years, are energy efficient and are cheap to maintain. Being an artist in everything, Beth ended up using the techniques she learned from building Straw Bale houses for building large sculptures.  The first one Beth and her art partner, Kaethe Seidl, made  together was a huge snake built over chicken wire sections filled with straw
and covered with straw bale earthen plaster.  Suzie, the snake curled around poles and reared up as a friendly greeter over the arts council gallery door for a year. 
Beth is a sculptor, working most often in clay. “It is a very rewarding medium and one that have I worked in many times in my life. 
I have also done pastel drawings, charcoal drawings, fiber work, both weaving, batik  and painted fabrics, clothing and wall pieces." Beth’s art has gone in many different directions. 
ceramic heads
She has taught art through the schools and different programs and led the YS Arts Council as President for many years. She also ran the Pot Shop for 2 years. Beth has given a lot to enrich the spirit of Yellow Springs. 
She is well known for her whimsical public sculptures in Yellow Springs. 

There is a wonderful you tube made by Susan Gartner that shows Beth creating her Springs sculpture. 

The Springs Sculpture graces the entrance to Yellow Springs in Bill Duncan Park on Dayton St.  
Beth has often created public sculptures as a team with her art partner Katharina Seidl.
At 3 Beth moved to YS.  During grade school she started taking art classes with teachers from the YS Arts Council.  Her favorite was a marionette class.“The marionettes were the real deal, not paper things.  The kids carved the wooden parts, got to cast hands and shoes, it was all very intricate. Afterwards they put on plays with them."   Later in her life Beth would make larger than life puppets of hometown heroes.  She even coordinated a funky, free flowing village parade that included them.
Getting down to the aging artist questions, we asked, “What’s the stereotype in your mind of an older woman?”   Beth answered in her thoughtful way: “The stereotype of the older woman in our society may be one of invisibility.  Older women are looked right through as if they don’t exist. This makes sense for a society that so highly prizes youth and all things related to youth.  Women especially who are objectified all through life as an object to be admired only for looks, when that part of a women changes, they are no longer to be admired and so they are overlooked.”

Beth continued  “But the good news is, this is NOT the only stereotype of the older woman. In some circles, older folks and particularly women are revered for their wisdom and experience in their fields and in life skills. Although this is a very much more positive approach, this doesn't quite fit either.  Any kind of stereotype is just wrong and does not truly express what an older woman could be.”  

Do you also have a stereotype of an older woman artist?  “Most of my ideas about older artists revolve around their incredible experience, and depth of perception, both intellectually and physically.”

Have you ever felt stereotyped because of your age? “I may have felt a little ageism when I attend workshops with predominantly younger artists. The perception of where they are in their careers and where I “should  be” may be hard to take sometime. Those who are open to new ideas and people do not usually taking this attitude, sometimes you just have to find them.”

Describe someone who busts that myth for you. “Ruth Duckworth a ceramics icon, working into her 90’s is one of my heroes.”

Is it different making art now that you are older?
“Yes, I would say that my art is different now but I don’t know if it’s because I am older or just because I have more confidence in myself and am confident in my skills."
“I just make what I want to make,regardless of external considerations such as what I have done before or what might sell best. Actually,this is always how I approached my work. “

“I feel there are some differences in my art, I believe I am willing to be more systematic and detailed in my work these days, This has been influenced by my work in earthen plaster and building houses. This work requires hours and hours of dedicated work and it has helped to slow my art work down and it has helped me give it the attention to detail that I think it deserves.

Thank you Beth for all you have given in time, art and spirit to Yellow Springs!

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Village Straw Bale Home can take the heat
Dayton City Paper New Grounded Exhibit

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