Betsy Huete

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April 5th 2013


Nostalgia is a fraught place. Most of us dismiss it as a sentimental headspace where we can fantasize about the past, projecting idealized versions of it onto our lives, creating an insatiable sense of longing. It’s easy to forget that nostalgia is more than just the flowery happy place in our minds, however: it’s also a trigger for manipulation, suppression, even for galvanizing action.

I am attracted to nostalgia, that may be true, but more so, I am compelled by the rhetoric that engrains it into peoples’ memories. Whether it be women authors writing about girls’ friendships, or women writing about love, queer literature, the feeling of a place, or even the state of a gallery or museum, words matter—they are the tools that push and pull us in various directions, that soothe us, that create a sense of urgency, that lead us forward, that ultimately permit us to be complicit with oppression. Therefore, I mine books such as romance novels, art historical texts, and children’s fiction, sifting through found language, constructing fractured prose poems and disjunctive critical analyses entirely from appropriated language. I am not interested in social or institutional critique, nor am I interested in romantic notions of the past; rather, I want to tease out the rhetoric that conjoins the two.

In addition to constructing fully appropriated stories, poems, and critical texts, I am also a sculptor. I actually use my writings as jumping off points to work with materials and think of the sculptures as pieces of writing in themselves. Employing grand shifts of scale, disparate materials, vertical thrusts, light, ambient noise, line, and other formal concerns, I materially translate my writings line by line, combining and arranging objects with the intent of engendering new meanings and fresh associations. And by translate, I do not mean literally. For instance, a line in my poem “Simple Rituals” (from my recent book Romance Novel) states: “With the number of actors living at least part-time in Wyoming, the simple ritual was what he needed as he scanned the yard for missing children.” I don’t import actors from Wyoming and round up a bunch of missing persons and stick them in my artwork. I do, however, dissect each line and make intuitive material decisions based on what they say. I then work within those constrictions, letting sculptures organically develop from the bank of materials I’ve selected.

I write critically as well, and consider that an equally important component of my studio practice. It isn’t enough for artworks to be made, only to sit passively in a gallery as we drink free wine and talk around them. They ought to generate dialogue and incite debate, which is why I am passionate about attending to pieces and writing about them as thoughtfully as possible. So for the past couple of years, I have been writing mostly short-form reviews for Houston-area art blog The Great God Pan is Dead as well as Texas and Southern California online publication Glasstire.