Betty Woodman was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1930. Woodman’s study at The School for American Craftsmen at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, was from 1948-1950. She began teaching at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1979, and was made Professor Emeritus in 1998. Woodman currently lives and works in New York City and Antella, Italy. Her husband is the artist George Woodman. Her daughter, Francesca Woodman (1958–1981) has become an influential, much exhibited and written about photographer. Their son Charles was born in 1955 and became Associate Professor of Electronic Art at the University of Cincinnati.
The work of Betty Woodman has been shown around the world in exhibitions in France, Italy, Holland and Japan. The Metropolitan Museum, New York presented a retrospective of Woodman’s work in June 2006.
Betty Woodman is internationally recognized as one of the most important ceramic artists working today. Through her inventive use of color and form and her expert blend of a wide range of influences, she creates exuberant and captivating ceramic sculpture. Employing many forms, from fragmented wall vases to bronze benches to pillow pitchers, she presents a delightful gathering of influences and traditions. Woodman has traveled extensively, finding inspiration in cultures around the world. Artist and writer Jeff Perrone has described Woodman’s remarkable ability to draw on many sources: As a body of work, her ‘style’ is an ever-changing constellation of ceramic styles. This ceramic eclecticism is an implicit critique of modernist “purity”, the leveling of variety and difference. But Woodman’s eclecticism, her pluralism is not a scrambling or confusion of systems. It is the selection of what is best from various styles; it requires more care, more orderliness to be an eclectic than to apply a single standard or adhere to a single model. For Woodman, this eclectic gathering is an essential part of her process: Things emerge in my studio from a seen image or experience that gets recalled in whatever work I am doing. The work becomes a conduit of the memory of a painting, a landscape, architecture, or some other visual stimulus. Once it starts to manifest itself in my art, the topic and subject then gets further researched in books, visits to museums, or by another trip. Drawing no boundaries between traditions of fine art and craft, Woodman takes elements from the rich heritage of each and makes them her own. She uses the motif of the vase and the vessel repeatedly, allowing it to enrich her exploration of formal and painterly traditions: The centrality of the vase in my work is certainly a reference to a global perspective on art history and production.The container is a universal symbol - it holds and pours all fluids, stores foods, and contains everything from our final remains to flowers. The vase motif connects what I do to all aspects of art. I can mix the motifs of a classic Greek vase on one side of a triptych with the details of a Japanese print on the other all conveyed with a palette based on the hues of a recollected Hindu temple. Professor of philosophy and writer Arthur Danto agrees about the solvency of the vase form in Woodman’s work: Woodman’s vases project the use with which their meaning is connected, but at the same time declare their affinity with the Modernist art to which they owe their visual interest and originality. To live with one of Woodman’s pieces is to connect oneself with both sets of meanings - the eternal human meanings of the vase as subject, and the historical meanings of the vase as form. Betty Woodman passed away in Italy on January, 2 2018.
*All remarks by Betty Woodman are drawn from an interview with curator Patterson Sims, published by the Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey, for the exhibition Two Bronze Benches and Four "Ceramic Pictures" of Korean Paintings (November 23, 2002 - April 13, 2003)
(text: source Frank Lloyd Gallery).
Pictures: Portrait (source: Garth Clark); Betty Woodman in her studio; Betty Woodman at elder age (source_Homage, Garth Clark CFile Daily 09-01-2018); Portrait 2012 (source: Meulensteen Gallery New York); ceramic installation Lindos, 1989 (coll. Stedelijk Museum, 's-Hertogenbosch / The Netherlands); pillow pitcher with titel Camillia, 1982 (coll. Stedelijk Museum, 's-Hertogenbosch / The Netherlands).
Curator’s statement (MAD, New York, 2012)
"The pillow pitcher is one of Betty Woodman's signature forms. This vessel references the traditional Etruscan ewer, known for its embellished handles and colorful, highly decorative (either brushed-on or dripped) glazes. Although her work often takes vessel forms (a pitcher, bowl, plate, or cup), the concepts go far beyond functionality, with the bold painterly brushwork of the glazing and the historical references as the focus. Her pillow pitchers continue in a long tradition of ceramic vessels, while her innovations with the forms make her work sculptural. Betty Woodman's invention of the pillow pitcher form is an example of her interest in exploring the contemporary potential of classical ceramic shapes, and in the painterly use of brilliant glazes."
Handled pitcher with a large pouring lip and a body in the shape of a cushion. The handle is flat and wide, and attaches at the middle of the body and at the top of the spout. The vessel is painted in shades of hunter green, deep yellow, and eggplant purple, with dripping glazes in geometric patterns and abstract shapes.
pitcher, bowl, plate, or cup), the concepts go far beyond functionality, with the bold painterly brushwork of the glazing and the historical references as the focus. Her pillow pitchers continue in a long tradition of ceramic vessels, while her innovations with the forms make her work sculptural. Betty Woodman's invention of the pillow pitcher form is an example of her interest in exploring the contemporary potential of classical ceramic shapes, and in the painterly use of brilliant glazes.
- Glueck, Grace, Betty Woodman, Turning the Humble Vase Into High Art , 2006.
- Cooper, Emmanuel, Contemporary Ceramics, London 2009.
- Clark, Garth, Milestone / Garth Clark remembers Betty Woodman 1930-2018, in: CFile Daily , 8-1-2018.