BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- Artist Betty Bumgarner apologized for taking a few extra seconds to answer the doorbell, because, as she puts it, she’s no longer as spry as she used to be. But there is no sign of this slowdown when it comes to her artwork.
“I have dreams of new pieces,” Bumgarner said, “I’m working on it even then, in my sleep!”
Since becoming an artist, Bumgarner has produced too many pieces to count and has exhibited in many shows in Vermont, at Schenectady County Community College, and at various libraries around Schenectady County.
However, she didn’t discover her talent or her love her practice until later in life.
After she retired from a career as a classically trained pianist and piano teacher, Bumgarner began painting at the age of 60.
Looking back on her career, she said that she enjoyed teaching piano to younger students but she wasn’t suited to perform.
“I just grabbed the wrong ring off this merry go round,” Bumgarner said of her career choice, regretting that she didn’t discover her artistic talent until later.
Art began as a goal as an escape. Shortly after retiring, Bumgarner moved to Niskayuna from Columbia County to be closer to her daughter, Dale and her son Craig. She had lost her husband, Walter, several years previously and had no reason to stay in Columbia County.
Now, Dale and her family are minutes down the road and Bumgarner finds that they make up one of her most enthusiastic galleries.
“They come over and they’ll say, ‘oh, I really like this one. Can I take it?’ It’s gotten to the point where their homes are filled to the brim,” Bumgarner said.
But her work can also be seen all around town. Bumgarner had a few pieces featured at the Niskayuna Library in June and has a few shows coming up in the area as well.
“There’s one of the nice things about art. You can put it on the wall and walk away,” Bumgarner said, “You can choose to listen to the criticism or not.”
And criticism is one of Bumgarner’s favorite things to hear when it comes to her work.
There are a few first and second place ribbons strewn around her home studio from exhibits and art competitions she’s participated in, but when asked about the awards she dismisses them with a wave of her hand.
“Those don’t really mean anything. Now, if someone wants to talk with me about my work, now that means something,” Bumgarner said.
Watercolors were her main medium when she first started out.
“I’d taken a few art electives in college at American University, just something for fun,” Bumgarner said. But when she became serious about art, she took every workshop she could find, including many of Karen Rosasco’s.
“Karen Rosasco was one of the best teachers. She has since left the area but we’ve actually formed a group and we meet every month,” Bumgarner said.
Rosasco, during her teaching career, went from a representational artist, interested in painting scenes and objects as they may appear in the world, to being an abstract artist.
“She said that she just got tired of painting lighthouses and things like that and that wanted to do something completely different. So I went with her and began to do abstract too,” Bumgarner said.
Her subject matter consisted of mostly flowers and scenes she had viewed during her travels in Europe.
“I once read somewhere that writers should write what they know. So I figured I should paint what I knew and as a gardener, I knew flowers, knew what they looked like, how they moved,” Bumgarner said.
And she has kept that knowledge throughout her artistic career. But lately, she’s added a bit of cheek.
One of her latest pieces is a mixed media painting with a french newspaper featuring a McDonald’s ad.
“I just thought that was so funny. When people see the French language and then realize, ‘oh, it’s just McDonald’s,’” Bumgarner said. It’s a hint that not everything is as it first appears.