Betty Woodman. Painting in Three Dimensions

Betty Woodman working on Polka Dot Skirt (2011) at Shark’s Ink, Lyons, Colorado.
artist working in their studio with brightliy colored pieces hanging in her studio
Betty Woodman working on Polka Dot Skirt (2011) at Shark’s Ink, Lyons, Colorado. Photo by Bud Shark. Courtesy of Shark’s Ink, Lyons, Colorado.

Though she practiced ceramics throughout her artistic career, Betty Woodman might likewise be characterized as a painter. Vivid splashes of color decorate her clay vessels, known for their large scale and winged appendages. But as the artist explained, “what I’m dealing with is as much painting as it is sculpture.”1 Her works are a marriage of surface and form, wherein paint moves to respond to the geometries of the ceramic vessel and its shape extends the painted picture. Expanding on notions of the still life and her woodblock collages, Woodman pulls the vase from the painting’s surface. As art critic Arthur Danto described, “as if the pitcher was not transcribed but transformed, as if expressive drawing of the Cubist still life and the splashy color of the Fauve still life were transferred back to reality, so that the new still life obviates the need to paint it.”2

  1. Betty Woodman, in Charles Woodman, Betty Woodman: Thinking Out Loud, filmed in New York, April 1990, video, 19:31 minutes, available at ↩︎

  2. Arthur C. Danto, “The Vase as Form and Subject: Craft and Meaning in the Work of Betty Woodman,” in Betty Woodman(Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1996), 16. ↩︎