From April 6 2015-July 14 2015 Betty Ann Lampman participated in The 100 Day Project.
In October 2015 The Martin Bachelor Gallery hosted an art show to celebrate the resulting work.
The installation comprised 100 portraits painted from still photos from a documentary on performance artist Marina Abramovic who sat motionless six days a week for three months staring into peoples’ eyes.
I haven’t seen the film because, well, it sounds creepy as hell.
The art show, however, was amazing.
This interview took place November 21, 2015 at night.
CM-Did you hear about the recent scandal with Marina Abramovic’s HUSBAND???
BA-Yes! I don’t know much about it.
CM-Is he claiming that that The Artist is Present performance was his idea?
BA-No. I don’t think it was about that particular performance. It was something to do with… you know they had a contract, she was supposed to pay him a certain amount for each contribution but he was claiming that she hadn’t been paying him- that she’d only paid him four times in the last 16 years.
I can’t remember exactly. He had some other grievances, and she said, “NO! Not true!”
They did do a lot of things together. They performed together for 10 years.
CM-So he feels he’s OWED?
BA-Well I guess he legally is owed. Because they had a contract. He’s saying that she hasn’t fulfilled the terms of the contract.
CM-I’m guessing they broke up?
BA-Yes! Did you hear about the break up?
BA-Well, while they were together they had had this idea that they wanted to do a performance where they would each start on either end of the Great Wall of China, walk it, and meet in the middle. But China wouldn’t give them the permission for years. By the time China said yes they were breaking up.
So they did it anyway but he, by that time… or during that time, got his Chinese guide pregnant!
I’m not sure of the order of everything, but I guess you could say it was bittersweet.
CM- Betty-Ann YOU are married to another artist (Performance artist and accordionist David P. Smith) How’s that?
BA-Pure hell. (laughs)
CM- I notice you have your own studio. Does he have his own studio?
BA-Well he’s got the music room downstairs!
CM-That’s key, right?
BA-Oh yes! That was actually the big motivating factor for me in moving to a different house- not to have separate spaces, because we each had kind of a little crappy room in the basement at (the) Walnut (Street house.) Our computer was in the basement. He would sit upstairs playing the accordion, and you know he pounds with his foot; it wasn’t the accordion, it was the pounding!
And so, I started to dream of a place where he would be downstairs.
That’s all I wanted. (laughs)
CM-So after the 100 Day Project- you kept going? With lady singers!
BA-Well no! After the 100 Day Project I didn’t do anything for two months!
I had some arranging to do, and was trying to get a show– but that’s no excuse, I could have been painting. But I was a bit ‘What do I do now? How do I follow that?’ Because when I started it, I saw the 100 day challenge online. I thought, ‘I should do that because that’ll give me a kick in the ass to get back into painting!’ Not just artwork, but painting in particular. Ever since I left art school I’ve done collage and stuff, but never fully got back into painting. And so I just started it with that in mind. Then I realized, whoa these things take too long! This is going to be hard to do everyday! I want to somehow find a way to make them go faster, but that never happened. And then part of the thing is that you’re supposed to post it on social media and so I was doing that on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Then people started watching and commenting, and it grew to this huge thing. When it was over it had gotten so much attention that I was a little bit “Ah!I don’t know what to do now!”
I’d had the idea to paint musicians for years, but I think I always hesitated because it sort of seems cliche. You always see illustrators’ paintings of musicians, and you always think “oh, it’s so corny.” But I just did it anyway because I love music too, so I started doing them. I’ll go back to them as soon as I finish these collages. (points at work bench)
IT’S NOT OVER!
But no it wasn’t immediate it took me a couple of months to…
CM-Well you couldn’t tell! It seemed like you were all “Yup! Had the art show guess I’ll just keep ‘er going!”
BA-Good! No one noticed The Lapse!
CM-No one noticed The Lapse!
CM-So how do you make those beautiful smoky backgrounds on the portraits? Is that ink?
CM-So do you turn them upside down to drip out or….?
BA-It’s basically putting down water first, for the outside parts anyway, and then you just add ink. There’s a big element of not knowing how it’s going to go or where it’s going to go– which I like– but then controlling it somewhat. I don’t just let it go wherever it wants! But there is a lot of unknown– stuff you can’t control– which I like.
CM-So your art show at the Martin Bachelor Gallery- (whispers) did you sell a lot?
BA-No. I sold three. And the three that sold were all paintings of known people: the two of Marina Abromovic sold, and Bjork.
CM-(in a totally non-journalistic outburst) Known people! Same as in music. It’s why people do cover songs! Like the audience is thinking, “I KNOW that song. You’re doing a good job!” Like that’s Bjork! I know what she looks like and that painting looks like her so you must be a good painter!
When it’s unfamiliar, people don’t know how to judge it.
BA-That night at the opening I also sold two of the lady singers– to friends, of course. Autumn bought Nina (Simone) and Sarah Rhude bought Amy (Winehouse).
I thought, ‘Well, Victoria has a conservative art crowd, maybe it would be better in a bigger city where people have more money to throw around– where they’re a bit more adventuresome? But in Victoria I thought, Okay all the ones that sold are known faces so maybe people don’t want to have portraits of intense crying strangers hanging on their wall! (laughs)
Apparently a lot of people came out. According to Martin Bachelor, the show got a lot of positive feedback, but not a lot of sales. But also pricing that shit? I dunno. I even put the price down from what people had told me I should, but nobody– or very few people I know– can afford to buy that. But, at the same time, I’m not gonna sell it for $200. It’s hard.
CM-And so do you have another show? Are they going to go to other cities?
BA-That is as yet unknown.
There were supposed to be shows in Montreal and Toronto, which I took as gospel truth. I told everybody in the world that this was going to happen, but the gal that was going to (and might still) show them was opening two galleries at once— in Montreal and Toronto— so maybe she’s a little overwhelmed, and was just like “UHGH, It’s not gonna happen in March/April like I thought. It’ll happen but I just don’t know when.”
If it happens great, but I’m not gonna count on it.
I don’t know how the art world works.
People are always asking if I’m gonna get shows. “You should try to get shows! You should get shows!” But I just kind of want to be in my studio.
CM-Yeah, you want to make art!
BA- This is the first time in my life that I’ve had the time to actually devote to making art work, or actually anything, so my feeling is not to get the shows, though I suppose I should if I wanted to have a “career”.
Do you know Danny Dokken?
BA-He is opening a gallery in Trounce Alley, and I’m going to be part of that gallery.
So that’s why I started again with the collages.
I went to a show of Tim Hoey’s stuff at Phillip’s last spring and there was a painting of (husband) David that Tim had done and it was already sold! And I thought, ‘That’s weird!’ And this was before I’d met Danny, and I bought one. I went up to Tim, and while I was paying him I said, “WHO bought David?” And he said, “My old friend Danny.” I felt bad afterwards because I kept saying “That’s so WEIRD! WHO would buy that?! Who would buy DAVID?” Until finally Tim went, “Uh someone who thinks its a good painting?!”
CM- Yeah it’s funny that the famous, the known things sell. That totally makes sense. It’s a little depressing.
BA-It is. And well I don’t even know this but I’m assuming that in a bigger city…
CM- (totally cutting her off) I don’t even KNOW! NO! In a bigger city…Okay. Look how it worked here- your two friends bought them! That’s what would happen in New York or whatever. It doesn’t really change like that.
BA-No, but I’m just assuming that if you were in a bigger centre with more people, more people with money, more people with adventurous spirits…
CM-(sotto voce) I don’t know if that exists.
BA-Oh. It’s a utopian ideal?
CM- I don’t know. With MUSIC in bigger cities, no one wants to be the first to applaud because no one’s actually from there, and they’re all trying to be cool. It’s actually WORSE in big cities. That’s why I intentionally stick to the small places. I like to be the only band in town.
BA-That’s really sad.
CM-Sorry! No wait! There totally is a magical big city out there where adventurous people buy art!
BA-Well, I guess I got that idea because the woman who was opening those galleries in Montreal and Toronto thought the pieces should be worth more. I got this idea that maybe people were more…
CM-Well I’m from here so maybe my perspective is all punk-rock and twisted. Tim Hoey sold all those abstracts to rich people in Calgary, and came back here and bought a house! He’s not scared of success.
BA-According to him, his success is now because of his name. Because he’s been doing it long enough, and that does make a huge difference.
BA-And I’m not ‘A Name’ really because I haven’t been doing art consistently. I mean, I’ve been doing art but I haven’t been out there not the way I’m ‘Out There’ now.
I’m Out There on Facebook!
CM-I want to take a picture of your Please Do Not Disturb Sign!
BA-I never use it now. I used to make a big deal of it because people would just walk in here!
CM-So… what’s next?
CM-A New Year!
BA-I’m just going to keep taking advantage of the fact that I have this time. Who knows what’s going to happen? I might have to get a job at the corner store. I have to get over the guilt.
CM-Guilt is a powerful motivator!
CM-If you weren’t guilty you’d be watching Netflix all day instead of painting.
BA-When I was working four days a week, I had one day that was supposed to be my ‘Art Day’.
I don’t think I EVER made art on that day.
CM-You need more than one day.
CM-I mean, you need one whole day to get mentally prepared.
BA-For me there was a lot of guilt. I was just like, “I can’t” and probably all kinds of “I don’t deserve this” all kinds of bullshit.
But I’m trying to fight it. (pep-talking herself) “This is your chance. Try to do it, would you? Dummy!”
Trounce Alley Gallery is at 616 Trounce Alley.
self-portrait by B.A. Lampman