The Lionheart Five: An Interview with Betsy Podlach
Five questions we ask every Lionheart Gallery artist.
Betsy Podlach was born and raised in Bedford, NY, before her artistic evolution took her from Harvard University, where she was a National Merit Scholar and a Watson Scholar, to stints as a visiting artist in Umbria, Italy. Podlach’s work fascinates and is both figurative and expressionistic. The artist has an uncanny knack for hinting at her subject’s inner life, while engaging the viewer in speculation. She notes that “Each person is incredible. All of us have a rich inner life existing simultaneously with our outward appearance. We have profound thoughts; some we keep to ourselves, we are intelligent as well as sensual and vulnerable. I don’t consciously plan what I want to say, but over time, the things I believe in are reflected in my art.”
1) Name one of your most defining moments as an
Betsy Podlach: When I was twenty-three and my boyfriend was nineteen, he paid for both of us to spend three months studying with Nicholas Carone in Umbria, Italy. It was the first time I could focus purely on painting, without having to work at a job four nights a week. It was also an incredible situation. Everything was paid for and for the first time I did not have to worry about money at all. I had two studios: one at the monastery where I could help myself to homemade honey, wine, and coffee as I worked through the night, and one a short distance away where I painted with day light. Three amazing meals a day were prepared for our small group. I had a used, but beautiful red Italian racing bike I got for a song, and there was a huge swimming pool three steep hills down from the monastery where we stayed that I would bike all the way down to, swim, and bike all the way back up again. I got to paint day and night and learn from one of the best painters and teachers alive at the time. I had the chance to immerse myself in Italian art and Italian light, had a wonderful male model, and relished every moment of it.
Betsy Podlach and Nicholas Carone
I can’t pick a favorite work of Nick’s because I think of his paintings as an entire body of work, encompassing both abstraction and figurative and in many pieces the intersection of the two—that is one of the things so vital about his trajectory. That, and that his paintings, drawings, and sculptures are so gorgeous.
Works by Nicholas Carone
Another defining moment for me was this past winter, when the New York Times published a feature article on my solo show at The Lionheart Gallery, and the feature writer Douglas Clement truly understood my work and explained it in words. I was so happy to know that my work truly said what I had so long hoped it did.
2) Do you collect anything?
BP: I have a small art collection of which I am extremely proud. Every piece is very small—they are mostly drawings and most are by wonderful painters I am very close to, one or two are from artists I know but not as well—and every piece is fantastic. I also collect linens, fabric, and ribbon.
From Betsy Podlach’s collection: works by Eyal Danieli and Deirdre Swords
3) If you could choose anyone—and we mean anyone—whom would you pick as a mentor?
BP: Titian. He is one of the best painters in the use of oil paint. His sense of color is bold, daring, and somehow still perfectly balanced. His figures, especially the women, are beautiful, appear to be intelligent, aware, alive, and real women. He is an expressionist and a classicist. Titian lived to be ninety years old, had a rich and exciting life, and painted some of his best work when he was in his eighties—that is a successful life. I admire and love the paintings of Jackson Pollack as well, but I imagine Titian would be more forthcoming as a mentor.
Titian, Venus Blindfolding Cupid, c. 1565, Oil on canvas, 118x185 cm, courtesy of Galleria Borghese, Rome
4) What's the most
indispensable item in your studio?
BP: Black coffee.
5) Tell us about one piece of art in this show. Describe your inspiration, your process, and what it means to you.
BP: The Ballgown.
The woman is aware that her shoulders look really good in this outfit—she chose the strapless dress with the gloves for this reason, but she is not at the moment of the painting thinking about that. She is thinking about and focused on something else. She is a bit of a tom-boy, but can be glamorous too, but still is who she is inside. She thinks deeply about many issues, can be tough but also elegant.
imaginary subject of this painting seemed to guide me to the right dress for
her: she had many different ones at different times, and she guided me to the
exact length where the gloves should reach on her arm. She was very opinionated
and it was fun to work with her.