b. 1930 — d. 2018
The Estate of Betty Woodman
I wanted to make functional objects that would better lives by virtue of the pleasure of beauty. I was very interested in the whole issue of keeping craft traditions alive. I should add that the loss of control when the object that you’ve just made is put inside a kiln and you don’t know how it will turn out is a big part of the magic that I love. — Betty Woodman
An icon of postwar American art, Betty Woodman (1930—2018) elegantly synthesized musings on history, gender, labor and domesticity to produce dynamic and exuberantly colorful painted ceramics. Animated by the medium’s unpredictable nature, Woodman’s oeuvre is characterized by a ceaseless experimentation with structure, functionality and archetype. As her career progressed, Woodman’s vessels expanded into joyful installations which took the form of ceramic wall configurations, as well as imagined dwellings of some of her art historical predecessors—including the Italian Renaissance painter Fra Angelico and the post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard—which combined her decades-long ceramics practice with both single and multi-paneled painted canvases. Woodman also found inspiration in the saturated light of Antella, Italy, where she spent much of her adult life, as well as in the landscapes of Boulder, Colorado. She also lived and worked in New York.
Woodman made history in 2006 as the first living woman artist to have a retrospective, The Art of Betty Woodman, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Since then, the artist has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions globally, including Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (U.K.) in 2016; Betty Woodman at the Museo Marino Marini, Florence (IT) in 2016; Betty Woodman: Places, Spaces & Things at the Gardiner Museum, Toronto (CA) in 2011; Betty Woodman: Roman Fresco/Pleasures and Places at the American Academy in Rome (IT) in 2010; and Somewhere Between Denver and Naples at the Denver Art Museum (CO) in 2006, among others. The artist is currently included in Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950 - 2019, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (NY) until February 2022. This spring, Woodman’s work will also be included in two museum exhibitions: Hard/Cover at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (PA) in April; and Craft Front & Center at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (NY) in May.
The artist’s work is in many prestigious public collections, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MA); the Brooklyn Museum of Art (NY); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (CA); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY); the Museum of Modern Art (NY); the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY); the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (NL), among many others internationally.
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