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Betty Beaumont, "Teddy Bear Island", 1973.
Betty Beaumont, "Teddy Bear Island", plastic cables around a recently submerged Island obscured by the building of a dam, 1973

Betty Beaumont

Teddy Bear Island

15 feet below water surface
Plastic cable
1 submerged island

West Hill Pond, Connecticut

The rejection of linear histories based on the desire to maintain a status quo; suspicion of traditional materials used to reify the status quo of the arts; and investigation of the impact art has on its audience by appealing to human activities that occur outside the gallery and museum are all questions called into conceit by both Betty Beaumont and postmodern thought. Much postmodernism evolved with the serious questioning developed around conceptual works such as Beaumont's: the rejection of linear histories based on the desire to maintain a status quo; suspicion of traditional materials used to reify status quo of the arts; and investigating the impact art has on its audience by appealing to human activities that occur outside the gallery and museum. Public and site-specific works mark a moment in history, time and space, re-locating an active idea from an enclosed, circumscribed art world into an open field where the challenge is to understand your own and often Other position within. Removing the work from the validating space of the gallery was less of a heroic gesture for Beaumont than it was a personal rumination on the moral responsibility within a greater social praxis.

While using these contemporary art "strategies" Beaumont began her earth "performances" in 1973. In her first underwater project at West Hill Pond in Connecticut, Beaumont rimmed, with plastic cables, the recently submerged "Teddy Bear Island" which was plunged into obscurity by the building of a dam to create a reservoir. This work rejects the then popular notion of dam building by locating the island and its ecology lost by flooding. In an effort to "re-connect" this lost site one thousand feet of loose cable, a human-made umbilical cord, floated in a memory-trace on the surface of the shifting water. These cables became the conceptual demarcation of that lost land. In using underwater photography to image this work Beaumont tries, in the murky depths, to fathom an "underwater conscious," by mimicking a weightlessness from a cultural past and floating, as in a dream, in an unknown realm. The fragmentary nature of the work with its unframed space addresses the cumulative past of the location, delineating and mourns what was taken away,and thus returning a valence of consciousness and a slow process of a physical and social distancing from our past.

Beaumont adds to the Earth's history through the creation of momentary and sometimes lasting marks. These works are a subtle and sympathetic reordering of natural phenomena, admitting them into a conceptual and physical examination.

-Marilu Knode, Betty Beaumont. Changing Landscapes; Art in an Expanded Field, 1989.

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