About the Artist:
Agnes de Bethune is primarily a painter, who divides her time between studios in New Jersey and Rhode Island. She has exhibited work in and around New York since the early ‘90s.
“ I come from a background in which self-promotion is considered not only undesirable but quite vulgar and actually ill-advised. That said, having grown up in a household of twelve, I understand the necessity of a clamorous bid for attention. This website represents a compromise. I hope the viewer will find something of value in it.
The work in this website represents my studio practice from teenage to the present, a span of more than fifty years as of this writing. I suppose this is a suitable time to look back and see how my life as an artist has progressed. With age comes the opportunity to sort it out, take stock and make new decisions. It is not something my younger self was capable of doing. Time becomes an even greater constraint as it no longer seems endless. I know now what I won't waste it on anymore, and there is an urgency to avoid distractions and get straight to the point. But even after half a century, it's hard to discern that path in practice, because the practice is what leads the enterprise. It's the very thing that is unpredictable, despite decades of increasing "skill," method and presumably, the ability to make good choices.
Without the talent, training or mental energy of a philospher or a mathematician, I explore existence with the means I do have. Making art is a way to depict realities that words cannot—a sort of ricercar of the ineffable.
Many of my works' titles are given in retrospect, as the original impetus for the work is often revealed only after completion This is not unlike analysis of dreams: the untangling of an unconscious thread after the ideas are made manifest in their visual representation.
The work that seems the most carefully controlled, say, for instance, the flower paintings or the realistic still-lifes, are more of an unconscious minefield than the overtly expressionistic, impulsive fast sketches and abstractions. During the necessarily long course of their facture arise innumerable moments of sheer psychic dilemma. But the one couldn't exist without the other; hence the extreme variety in this oeuvre.
The second of ten children, I began as a very young artist in the workshop of an aunt who made religious art, and so learned the rudiments of studio practice from childhood. Certain skills were transmitted through example, instruction, and tasks as a studio assistant: cleaning brushes, cutting stencils, painting the size for gilding halos on the heads of saints. Being an artist was something of a preordained condition which grew stronger as I went my own way in life. But these early lessons continue to guide my daily work.
After leaving high school, I barely managed two semesters of college, one of which was in an art school. The most valuable class there was purely technical: an introduction to painting materials. The rest of the curriculum seemed a bit of a muddle and was not worth the money I was struggling to gather together. So I left school and found work as a graphic designer, which made good use of the skills I had already developed.
Due to my rather restricted and provincial educational experiences, it took me a long time to consider the validity of abstraction, although that would hardly seem the case, looking over this gathering of work, because I was making abstract paintings in teenage, without any model or guide. I still feel a nagging sense that I have to justify this kind of imagery in some way, either through a title or a rationale, when in fact, it generally springs forth sui generis and becomes a beacon in otherwise dark territory. It is its own thing and I can only evaluate it on the basis of its impact on me. I have no criteria to judge its merit otherwise. Formal values are meaningless to me. My judgment is strictly intuitive.
During my twenties, I moved back and forth across the country several times until finally arriving in New York, in partnership with my future (and present) husband, a California artist, Tom O'Flynn (www.thomasoflynn.com). We shared a loft in Chinatown for a few years until the rental situation became untenable, prompting us to purchase an urban ruin across the river in Jersey City. As of this writing, we are still there, but recent gentrification will most likely result in our moving out of the city, to another studio in Rhode Island, where we have spent the past several summers.
I suppose I share with all artists, the anxiety about not being able to get it all; to capture it, record, it, describe it, transmit some evanescent fragment of it, and perhaps most important, to understand what it is."
Download résumé HERE (30KB pdf)
When inquiring about the availability of works either for exhibition or
for purchase, please refer to the Catalog Number to avoid confusion.
Some of the original work in the Collection of the Artist is available for sale.
In addition, where noted with a black dot ( • ) the work is also available as a
fine art digital print. Depending on the image, the print edition may be limited.