Beth Ann Watt, Goddess Artist

Beth-Anne Watt, Goddess Artist<P>
©2002 by Sandra Brandenburg<P>

In the little town of Cobb Mountain, Beth Ann Watt looks out from her deck over 3,000 acres of State Forest.  I stood before a huge painting in her studio -- it would have taken up an entire wall in her little house  -- and I felt I was lost in another time and dimension.  I was pulled into the swirling, teeming emotions of her painting.  The shapes were fluid, `organic', she called them.<P>
"After looking at my paintings, and realizing what I was doing, I saw that a lot of my paintings have shapes that are very similar to the organs in our own bodies.  What I do ... what I'm actually trying to do in the painting I showed you, is to go inside and find out what's going on with me.  Somehow, in my paintings, it comes across as the literal insides of my body.  They're very female in their nature.  There's a certain amount of sensuality and a lot of passion. They're not overtly sexual because that is not my purpose.<P>
"A lot of my paintings have `in utero' kinds of shapes in them.  The painting that I call `Lilith's Mom' is about my daughter, and I think it portrays the birth of Lilith, my daughter.  There's a fetal shape in there because motherhood is very important to me.  It's made a really strong impression on my subconscious as well as my conscious mind."<P>
The emotions and colors are intense.  One is reminded of burgundy velvet and sparkling emerald teardrops.  The emotions are so adult that it's not easy to imagine the artist as a little girl tentatively picking up her first paintbrush, but everyone has to begin somewhere.<P>
"When I was in elementary school they had a fifth grade chorus; there were only two of us who sang so poorly that we were not allowed to sing in that chorus.  We were required to do arts and crafts while the rest of the class was singing.  I think that's what started it.  My punishment, or my banishment, actually turned out to be my reward.  Now I paint to music, because I love music.  I can't sing but I do appreciate it, especially classical music."<P>
Her family did not encourage her artistic bent as she grew up; she was expected to do something a great deal more academic.  Her father is a doctor and her mother is a nurse, and they wanted to see her go in a direction where they had known success and fulfillment.  In the end, she did just that, but the road has been roundabout.<P>
"I got married, quit school, and became an artists' model at The University of Texas and that was what really piqued my interest in art.  I got so into it that there were teachers who would leave me with their instructions and I would teach the class and model at the same time!  They didn't even have to come to work.  Not all the teachers, certainly, but I had one in particular who spent about six weeks doing just that.  I think I gave him a nice vacation, and it was a really good experience for me.<P>
"We moved to San Francisco.  You're probably familiar with the sixties.  I got pretty wild and it was in 1970 that I bottomed out and decided I had to do something with my life.  That's when I went to the San Francisco Art Institute.  I left the Art Institute in 1973 and my husband and I moved to Bolinas in Marin in 1974.  I wasn't really doing much painting, but I got involved in my daughter's school where I became an art teacher there."<P>
She liked teaching art, but the marriage eventually broke up and she moved to Sonoma County and enrolled in Sonoma State University, taking the Art History she'd missed along the way.  She needed to put bread on the table, which is why her parents finally got their wish.  "When I moved to Sonoma, I found myself drawn towards the beautiful grounds of what is now known as Sonoma Development Center.  I learned that I could be trained as a psychiatric technician, and be employed at this facility.  I have achieved a great deal of satisfaction during the past 18 years at S.D.C.  I'm now a supervisor for a group of 26 adults with developmental disabilities.  I love my job, and wish I could spend more time painting.  But both of these things, both painting and working in a `helping profession', have really helped me grow."<P>
Her work has been called reminiscent of Georgia O'Keefe.  "When I went to the Art Institute I started painting immediately.  I didn't know anybody there; I just wanted to paint.  I wanted to relieve myself from some of the emotional pain and I wanted to explore something that I was really excited about.  After studying figure painting and drawing, I started going into the more abstract.  It felt really good and I was starting to get responses from some of the students.  People started coming up to me and saying `Oh, that looks like Georgia O'Keefe'.  I had never studied art history so I didn't know who Georgia O'Keefe was.  Somebody else came up to me and said, `Those are really organic,' and I thought they meant like health food.<P>
"Luckily for me, Georgia O'Keefe was having an opening at the San Francisco Museum of Art that Fall.  I went and was really impressed.  Since then, I think I've developed a style that's even more like hers, with my own emotional agenda coming through!  I feel a real connection to her and I'm sorry that I never got to meet her.  She passed away not that long ago.  She was very prolific and her talent was obvious."<P>
Watt has taken her art even more into the realm of her nursing work recently.  She designed a large mural (with fellow artist Patrick McMurtry) for one of the residential care units.  There was such a strong appreciation for the mural, that she is now attempting what she terms 'Sensory Stimulation Areas' using black lights, flashing lights and music-sensitive light boxes.  She has now completed an entire room as a diorama.<P>
About her work she told us, "I am truly blessed to have two vocations in life -- working with the disabled, and Art.  And now, I am able to combine them."<P>
Her goal is to make all the lights and kinetic sculptures accessible to even the most disabled patients, possibly by use of remote control devices. <P>
This article provided by <a href="http://www.mediocom/net">MedioCom</a>.