By Larisa Pilinsky
SPECIAL TO SENIOR LIFE
Betty Gold of Venice has been commissioned to construct a 15-foot abstract steel sculpture in homage to the California mission builder, Fray Junipero Serra. The sculpture will be situated outside the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Palma on the Island of Mallorca, where Serra was born in 1713, scheduled for completion in 2004.
A professional sculptor for more than a quarter century, Betty has works in many museums and more than 100 permanent installations and private collections throughout the world. Her outdoor pieces are constructed from welded steel, and painted with glossy enamel or left raw to rust to a velvety patina. She began her work in Texas in the 1960s, coming to Southern California in 1977. She opened her studio in Venice in 1985.
From her violinist father, Betty inherited a love of music and the mathematical structure behind music’s magic. From her mother, who owned a Montessori school for more than 30 years, Betty discovered the world of physical objects.
For years Betty built constructions alone, cutting, welding and grinding the heavy metal pieces. “Metal pieces about one to three feet tall were as big as I could afford to cut without a laser. My daughter, girlfriends and even the garbage man helped me move the pieces around.” It took her years to receive a special show in Aspen, Colorado. Several weeks passed without any results when she received an offer that would change her life.
“We would like you to build something really big,” said the collector Sidney Feldman. “We have a steel factory in California and have helped other artists before. Just make something beautiful about twelve feet tall.” Meanwhile, she was invited to have her first museum show in Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. Shortly after, she received another call from Sidney Feldman. “The Director of the Oakland Museum wants to have your sculpture in their permanent collection. But there is a catch. You’ll have to move to California.”
It was a difficult decision. “I lived in a beautiful place in the mountains. But I knew that my future had to be in a big city close to steel factories.” In 1977 Betty Gold moved to Los Angeles, creating new sculptures, giving lectures, and finding new friends. People responded to the precise power of her metal constructions.
“If someone buys it or just likes it and it goes to a home, gallery or museum, I consider myself lucky and excited as though it’s my first sold piece. If not … I wait. The art world is unpredictable: One day you have nothing and wonder if anybody is ever going to call you again. The next day you get a big commission to put your sculpture in front of a museum. And then years go by again and nobody remembers about you.”
Betty has been a regular visitor to Mallorca and has had previous commissions there. Maquettes of her work will be exhibited at the Walter N. Marks Center for the Arts, College of the Desert, Palm Desert, in late fall. Earlier this year Betty completed a piece which can be seen between the library and the theater on the campus of Pepperdine University in Malibu. On July 30, a 10- foot geometric, steel sculpture will be installed at the South Coast Botanic Garden, Palos Verdes. You can learn more about her life and work at www.bettygold.com.