Bettina Hubby: An Embraceable Retrospective
Written by Genie Davis
Artist Bettina Hubby has just completed a beautiful, potent online exhibition that serves as a retrospective of her work. Embraceable features Hubby’s works from 2011-2020. The works are both visually, emotionally, and cognitively resonant, featuring what Hubby describes as “power poses, aspirational language, positive visualization alternatives, and subliminal signaling.” While the works themselves are filled with a kind of motivating, impactful joy, the show also has an additional impact of practical giving, with her HubbyCo donating 20% of all sales to Care.org.
Hubby describes the show as being prompted by the current “political, social and ecological state of the world.” With that in mind, she looked to her own art-making history “for joy as a counteraction to the chaos.” She looked for works that amused, uplifted, and made “lemonade from lemons throughout my timeline.” Because of the pandemic itself, she created the retrospective series to help herself and others online. She notes “It is the first ‘retrospective’ I’ve ever had. It’s somewhat cheeky for an artist to put on her own retrospective. I enjoyed utilizing this strange time in history to do something irreverent,” she adds, while at the same time offering a curatorial focus, and embracing both its challenge and execution.
“The images I chose include power poses that have been proven to alter brain chemistry and to enhance feelings of strength and confidence; mantras of love, laughter, and forgiveness to retrain the brain; and bombastic visualizations to steer the subconscious to preferred realties. I also included humorous works that explore the freedom of expression and self-portraits that place me in the jubilant company of animals.”
These selections were made in part due to scientific studies, she relates, which focus on the ways in which the mind can work to “train the brain to loosen the grip on the well-worn pathways of worry, doubt and fear. Through the upheavals of late, we are surrounded by mayhem and toxic media messages. I’d encourage everyone, myself included, to be more vigilant than ever with self-care, and what it is that we focus on each day,” Hubby says. “Through my art, I have been enveloping myself with the things I want my brain to see and think, and as a result feel more strengthened to face the challenges of our time.”
There is a lot of positive power in each of the works. Two of my personal favorites are text based: written in red, “Hubby’s Ho’oponopono,” from her 2020 Autosuggestion Texts series. Gouache on linen covered panel, the work repeatedly and meditatively says “I’m sorry please forgive me thank you I love you” in continuous text top to bottom. Similarly, her “LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION,” in rainbow colored pencil on linen, is a beautiful, soul soothing work makes the viewer – seriously – feel better just from seeing it. Her lenticular “Jumping with Cats” is a wondrous leap of faith and pure pleasure, featuring female and felines.
Hubby says she shifts mediums depending on the concept she works with. “The idea comes in, and then I search for what medium will best serve to express that idea best. I have my tool-kit of favorites, such as collage (digital and analog), photography, and drawing. Currently, I am engaged with a virtual reality piece about reimagining the White House as what it was originally meant to be: The People’s House.” Additionally for her last major solo show, she returned to painting “…the image of the works came through already done in my mind as neon paintings on linen.”
The virtual format for Embraceable, without any confinements of space, proceeded differently in terms of curation for Hubby. “The content of the show had to flow on a digital page instead of being split into rooms. There was no relation to architecture, light, or viewer’s positioning. The venue was flattened, and the works related to each other in horizontal and vertical planes.”
Hubby adds “When I was first thinking of the idea it was when galleries really were closed and Online Viewing Rooms became the only venue for works traditionally seen indoors on a wall.”
She was impressed by the inventiveness and resiliency of the artists and gallerists adapting to doing so. “There is a democratization of viewing, and also showing, work online.” As to the works she chose to include in her own exhibition, she says “I was able to pull from works that are sold, works that have never been shown before, and works that are unframed. The complexities and expense of installation was absent.” While she enjoyed the freedom in doing so, she describes herself as glad to return to the seeing work in person by appointment in galleries and outdoor spaces.
Embraceable is a carefully laid-out exhibition, moving fluidly among mediums; with contextual continuity that makes for absorbing reading. She’s described the works as moving from abstraction to message over the course of her career, and the powerfulness of that transition, its encompassing nature, is easy to see and enjoy.
Hubby chose Care.org as her charitable beneficiary “because of their mission for social justice and defeating poverty with a particular emphasis on girls and women.” She is delighted to have the “privilege” of giving back consistently. “With establishing a fixed percentage that goes to charity, it cements gifting into my consciousness,” she asserts.
Embraceable is indeed that.