Beth Hatton last spoke to us in 2008 about her exhibition Baseline, about the remnant grasslands of Lake George. SInce then she has participated in many exhibitions combining new works with pieces exhibited before in a different context.
Beth arrived in Australia in 1976 and soon became concerned with environmental issues. She developed a series of rugs that used kangaroo and wool offcuts to highlight the plight of native animals.
The curator of A Red World, Wangaratta Art Gallery, June-July, 2008, asked for her woven rugs for the show. She showed Extinct & Endangered Species, 2002 with three pelt shapes reflecting the pelts stored in museums of endangered, native animals. It was bought by the Wangaratta gallery. Beth’s rugs have a very fine, red weft and are woven with shaft switching.
Ever Present Past at Narek Galleries, 2012 had more of the grass pieces from the Baseline show exhibited with works of a painter and artist who makes tool shapes pasted with city images.
In the That’s not how you make porridge, at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, 2012, many of the works were everyday objects, some functional, but they were not real, eg Beth’s convict shoe was made of wallaby grass, cassurina seeds, scotch thistle sewn with linen thread. The Goulburn gallery bought her 1910 shotgun made of grass. Many of her pieces are made with grasses that were introduced and have since become weeds. She told the story of the joy that was felt when a thistle bloom was found in 1860 in Australia. WIthin 20 years thistles had become a pest.
For the Memory of Trees, at Parramatta Heritage Centre (PDF) 2012 she made an axe of prunings from the Heritage Centre and mounted acacia roots on an old tripod that was probably used to survey roads south of Sydney.
Beth regularly exhibits with the Fibre Four: Liz Gemmell, Beth Hatton, Irene Manion, Barbara Rogers. The two 2.5 m long kangaroo offcut rugs she made for the show at the Barometer Gallery, Paddington, May-June 2012 were bought by the Tamworth Gallery.
In their Shadows exhibition in July 2014, they took advantage of the shadows cast by the many windows of the Barometer Gallery. Kathleen Burney joined the Fibre Four for this exhibition. Beth created Thongline, a series of 9 thongs set in a line, with each thong made from a different weed all of which grow in Sydney. The idea was a bit of fun, but they are beautiful and the shadows were very effective.
Beth often very tightly stitches the fibres while they are still green. Otherwise, she briefly soaks materials, especially branches to make them pliable.
How long do you expect them to last? The Museum of Economic Botany, in Adelaide, has specimens that have survived in cedar cupboards since 1881. She stores her pieces in boxes with the article stitched to box. This keeps them still, dry, out of the sunshine and damp. Beth hasn’t seen any insects on her works and hasn’t sprayed them.