"The Joshua Tree"
William Betts, "The Joshua Tree," California, 1958.
Memory, September 9 to October 10, Jennifer Kostuik Gallery, Vancouver
BY: Helena Wadsley
Family photo albums were once filled with grainy snapshots of holidays and birthdays taken with Instamatic cameras. The difference that technology has brought us is that, now, everything is captured within the camera. William Betts, a Texas-based artist, buys Kodachrome slides on eBay and transforms them into highly pixilated images that, while recalling digital technology, are meticulously hand-made. His is a DIY process that is a reminder of the assets of a slower, more contemplative process. For the works in his Memory series, Betts, drills tiny holes into the back of a mirrored surface, and fills them with paint in a simplified colour scheme. Much like a television or printer would use pixels of colour that create an optical blending — for example, a blue dot next to yellow would appear green. Betts uses the system to achieve a high degree of illusion. The results, depending on the subject and the colours, can be nostalgic, like his beach scenes, or voyeuristic, like the image of a couple disappearing into the woods. The mirrored surface invites the viewer to be part of the image, blurring the boundary between personal and collective memory.