Teddy Bear Island
15 feet below water surface
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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