Meet Betty Kjelson, a 91-year-old artist living in our area. Originally from Nebraska, she earned a scholarship to the Albright School of Art in Buffalo, New York. She now lives with her son and daughter-in-law, Jay and Margee, as well as her majestic cat, Theo. She regularly works at her drawing board, and with her papermaking equipment in her fully functional artist studio that Jay and Margee designed for her. Age is of little consequence to Betty; she views the world from an artist’s point of view and carries her sketchbook with her everywhere to capture the scenes that grab her attention.
Betty has perfected the art of papermaking and has made her own papers upon which she creates her etchings and sculptures since the 1970s. The process is quite physical, and in 1990, she suffered severe burns while handling a vat of boiling water. True to her art, Betty depicted her pain in a book mural that graphically illustrates the pain from inception to healing. The art panels begin with a kaleidoscope of reds and yellows in a chaotic pattern that diminishes gradually until the colors transition to the blues and greens that reflect the peace of healing. Her book, Betty’s Book – A Journey from Pain to Recovery, is available at Art Connections Gallery, just off Trade Street in Winston-Salem.
“Art fulfills me,” Betty shared. “I try different art mediums and work on different subjects for a period of time. I’m still trying new techniques.” Some of her period focused pieces include plant life from her time in Hawaii, plays she’s attended, or musicians (‘painting to the music’ in her words). Betty is skilled at expressing the energy and movement of her subjects in her art, from the musician gliding his bow along the strings, the actors performing on stage, the ruggedness of an old shed she saw on the way home, or the quietness of the forest. Some of her work has a three-dimensional quality, such as the pulp painting of a forest. Her paper sculpture of Jay’s great-aunt Astrid wearing her unique hat has fascinated her six great-grandchildren for years.
You can view Betty’s artwork displayed and sold at Art Connections (629 Trade Street) as well as Muddy Creek Café, located at 5455 Bethania Road (off Reynolda Road). Enjoy the worldview from Betty’s eyes!