Interview with Zachary Betts

Betts Zachary Sculpture

Betts Zachary, The Look Back

Zachary Betts is an artist currently living and working in Austin, TX. Betts’ work, a carefully reorganized consideration of the objects and spaces around us, is precise yet ineffably mortal, demanding time and careful looking in order for its intricacies and relationships to unfold. He was generous enough to talk about the nature of his present sculptures, the shifts in his work over time, and how the logic of casting has made its way into his current way of making.

Betts Zachary Sculpture

Betts Zachary, Brokensky Mirror.

Gracelee Lawrence: I describe your work as related to the objects that house and hold bodies (from architecture to furniture) that have been altered and skewed to the point of a mere vague connection with its point of origin- an amalgamation of hazily recognizable traits materially altered and suffused with a sense of sureness. How do you feel about this statement and what would you add or redact?

Zachary Betts: I find myself very pleased with your statement and I thank you kindly. I would go a step further to say that the work does not only find itself in a place of housing or holding bodies, but the forms are also reminiscent of objects we have once used and relied on – designed by us for us. Something like a non-slip bath mat or a bed lever is inherently tied to the binary of human/object. The object is formed and exists only in regards to its ergonomic relationship with the human body. Yet, once removed from its intended environments and function, it begins to lose its human conditioning that initially defines it. Once freed, these objects immediately seem to lose their obvious connections, giving them license to take on new meaning.

Betts Zachary Sculpture

Betts Zachary, GG (WA)

GL: Over the past year I’ve been in the privileged position to watch your process morph from largely site responsive installations to autonomous objects. Although your present sculptures are certainly holding themselves individually, they also have a sense of exchange with the objects around them, regardless of the space in which they inhabit. Do you think of your installations in the same way as these new objects? How do you see them as related, if at all?

ZB: I do think there is a similarity between the two ways of working. I believe the grouping of autonomous objects successfully holds an energy that floats from one form to another, eventually co-opting them into a partnership. Somewhere in the stillness of viewing, a strange familiarity with these objects exists. It is more felt than understood, an unspoken and purely intuited connection that reveals a different side to what is already known. I think it is here that the viewer begins to peek into the potentials of these objects.   

Betts Zachary Sculpture

Betts Zachary, Busyness.

GL: In recent conversations we’ve spoken about the presence of labor in a sculpture, particularly the way in which cast objects functions versus a reductive object. Your work incorporates both- how do you see these ways of working functioning in terms of the sterility, messiness, or touched nature of your sculptures?

ZB: Casting is the fundamental process of replicating the form of an object using a mold, but it also suggests something cast of or cast out, cast aside or cast adrift – waste products. The forms I find myself drawn to, now defined by what is left over, are overlooked or forgotten objects that live below the radar of human creators. They occasionally show traces of wear and tear or even long years of use. They are sometimes unpleasant, worn-out objects on which the habits of unknown persons have left their imprint – depictions of the human body in its functions and through the traces it leaves behind on objects of daily life. The casting process makes the quotidian cast-off more original, more like an object to be cherished or worshiped. It lies somewhere between the value of the artifact and the banality of the commonplace.

To see more of Betts’ work, please visit zacharybetts.com

By Gracelee Lawrence

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