By Jeff Maisey
Losses and Linkages is Betsy DiJulio’s first-ever solo show as a visual artist. It runs September 16 through October 21 at Norfolk Arts’ Offsite Gallery on the first floor of the World Trade Center building. The gallery describes the exhibit this way: “In this body of deeply metaphorical work, Betsy DiJulio shares her reflections on universal themes through the lens of what has been lost, what has been found, and what has been irrevocably changed in the first year following her husband’s untimely death. Working with a vocabulary of objects, mid-century modern architecture, patterns, silhouettes, and figures, DiJulio explores a broad range of overlapping and intersecting concepts: presence, absence, grief, healing, identity, isolation, home, community, and more.”
Betsy DiJulio serves as an art teacher at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach. She is also Veer Magazine’s resident art critic. I sat down with her at Cracker’s over the course of an hour, vegetarian tapas and a glass of wine to discuss her very personal exhibition.
What can you tell our readers about the work in this show? There are so many personal overtones, aren’t there?
Yes. I applied for a show with the Offsite Gallery last summer before Joe passed away, and was granted the show two weeks after he passed away. They told me at the time if I wanted to go a different direction than what my application said by all means pursue it. But I said I’d stick with my original idea. What did I know? So, yeah, it went in a very different direction.
This show is called Losses and Linkages. It’s all about what’s been lost and what’s been found; what’s been gained; what’s been reinvented. It’s all very metaphorical and symbolic. There’ll be plenty of wall text to give people insight into what was going on, and hopefully the work will speak for itself.
How did you express “loss” in your artwork?
One of the pieces that has been vexing me just because of the technical aspects of it is I found three of his (Joe’s) shirts. I gave most of his clothing away instantly. Everyone is different, but I didn’t want to be one of those widows that 10 years from now his closet looked just like it did when he passed away. All of that was donated to people who could use it. I found three shirts that had never been out of their wrappers. I wanted to do something with those. I created these clear acrylic boxes that they’ll be encased in. I drew three figurative self-portraits of me in three different stages through body language of retreating into myself and them opening up to the rest of the world. So it’s triptych. Those images of me are drawn in ink and they’re going to be printed on the boxes. It’ll hang as a triptych.
It’s really poignant because the shirts are almost enshrouded inside these boxes. I’m just sort of overlaid on top of them.
It’s interesting that this show comes nearly one year after his passing. Is the show itself symbolic of you moving on?
Yeah, that’s really perceptive.
They had asked if I had a particular timeframe when I applied. I chose September just because it is the kickoff of the arts season. I wanted to take advantage of that momentum, but the opening date, coincidentally, is the day after what would have been our 26th wedding anniversary. It’s very poignant. I don’t think I realized how significant the first anniversary would be until it got here and sort of knocked me sideways.
I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have really dug in deep and turned completely inward to work on these pieces over the summer, which is a really transitional period for me. I think it’s coming at the perfect time. It’s right at the beginning of school and about the time I’m being forced, by nature of being a teacher, to look outside myself. I think I may have done enough deep, inner reflection to the point where any more wouldn’t be healthy.
I think it’s time to let that go.
What pieces in this show demonstrates you letting go and moving forward? Are there any indications of your future?
That’s a great question. I think a lot of it does that. When I got to the end of summer it became more about an emerging identity as a woman, as a feminine entity and as someone who very much wants to partner again.
For example, I’ve got this alter ego I worked with previously and they’re both mid-century women. They’re silhouettes. The earlier iconic woman was more prim and proper looking. The one that grew out of that is a bit sexier and a bit more confident in a more assertive way. You’ll see those two juxtaposed with each other and standing on their own.
WANT TO SEE?
Betsy DiJulio: Losses and Linkages
Opening reception: September 16 6-8pm, artist talk at 7pm. Free and open to the public.
Exhibition: September 16 – October 21, 2016
The Norfolk Arts, Offsite Gallery
757-664-6854 / Gallery hours: M-F 8:30am-5:30pm.