The eclectic exhibit “Processing Self,” opening this weekend at Second Sight Studio, is the first in a series of out-of-town artists working in residency and showing at the Franklinton home-turned-studio-and-gallery this summer. Julia Betts is a Pennsylvania native who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh this spring. She will be followed by Dana Harper and Gabe Kenney, both MFA graduates from Penn State University.
While staying at Second Sight, Betts will expand her installation “Detritus,” a large ground piece created through countless hours of work. Betts takes self-portraits (either in a costume she created or of a tight shot on her own body to create different shades) and prints thousands of each. She then wets and rolls the stacks of photographs and shreds them using a cheese grater to create the particles.
“I photograph a certain area to create an orange, or a certain area to get pink. The gray is from areas with a lot of shadow,” Betts said standing over the meticulously arranged, 40-plus-square-foot piece inside Second Sight.
“Detritus” is an abstract representation of self-portraiture, like much of Betts’ work. She focuses on herself, presented in unconventional means.
“I’m very interested in playing with the body as [both] the boundary and connection between you and other people,” Betts said.
Other self-portrait works include “Skin Blurs,” a collection of costumes (dresses, sleeves or smaller gloves and masks that will serve as installation pieces) and large photographs of Betts in the costumes. Betts’ visual distortion of her body also aids in the series’ creation.
“I create a blur with the smudge tool in Photoshop and take that blur, paint it and turn it into a costume,” Betts said. “I was pulling at the boundaries of the body to extend it out into space. It’s about the body going through different translations.”
“Sticky Pixels” is a group of photographs focusing on the perception of inanimate objects rather than the body. Betts took old clothing and covered it in cross-hatched Scotch tape lines, resulting in the images looking pixelated.
Photo by Meghan Ralston