A Powerful Force: Bethany Eden on Her Vision in 'Cleanse'

Water—a force to be reckoned with, and lest not forget humanity’s lifeline. Despite water’s integral purpose of supporting life, however, the multi-dimensional element has also given way to inspiration, support and renewal for many. For Bay Area artist, Bethany Eden, water inspired her latest art series “Cleanse”.

We sat down with Eden at Zukowski Collective, an art gallery in Pacifica, where we discussed her attraction to water and also discussed the conceptual meaning of water within her art installation. Upon arrival Eden showed us her twenty watercolor paintings. She kept a close distance and allowed us to truly take in the paintings. After admiring the beautiful collection, we began our conversation.

We started the conversation by asking Eden her inspiration behind “Cleanse” and quickly discovered that Eden has very close ties to her faith. In fact, her spiritual practice was a huge inspiring factor. “Water is a symbol of God,” said Eden, “it’s this big unknowable expansive force that is spreading and surrounding each woman throughout my work.”

The common denominator in all twenty of Eden’s painting  is that she conceptualized twenty women surrendering themselves into a body of water. The inspiration behind this is that the women are being accepted for their true selves. For this reason, Eden painted her subjects without clothing— this mighty force of water is taking them in.

When acceptance occurs, renewal and change happen, which is where the name ‘cleanse’ was inspired from.
— Bethany Eden
The artist statement on display at Eden’s Pacifica show.

The artist statement on display at Eden’s Pacifica show.

The project took Eden a year to complete and throughout this year she spent a fair amount of time in water. She said that allowing herself to experience the multiple ways that water can hold the human body really helped her “with the creative rut”. Because of the time Eden spent in water she was able to better conceptualize the women she painted.

Eden was born and raised in Texas where she was exposed to art through her father’s career as an artist. Her love for watercolors didn’t sprout until she was in college. Initially she was attending school for interior design, but after a single class in watercolor she was hooked. Now, Eden almost exclusively only paints with watercolor.

“The nature of water is very calming, and painting with it almost has a mind of its own,” said Eden. “A lot of these paintings I put on a layer then I come back in an hour or two and it’s dried in all these different ways like it decided the shape it wanted to take.”

We asked Eden what her favorite painting from her collection was and she quickly pointed to “Still”. Ironically, after our conversation she shared that creating “Still” was one of her most challenging paintings. She explained that the first time she completed the painting was with acrylic, but was completely dissatisfied with the way it turned out. She had to paint over it twice before she was pleased with the outcome. Now, when Eden looks back at her “Still” painting, she sees the layers that were added and feels that they are a metaphor for her own life.

Watercolor allows Eden to incorporate layers to her paintings, which is a functionality she appreciates. It gives her the opportunity to look back at the multiple layers that were added and retrospect on the different moments that occurred when creating that particular piece. Eden also explained that she sees a little of herself in every woman that she conceptualized for “Cleanse.”

“I wanted to share the diversity of women,” she explained. “And we can all share this similar experience of wanting to be accepted even though we come from different backgrounds.”

// Bethany Eden’s show ‘Cleanse’ is currently on display at the Zukowski Collective, located at 1905 Palmetto Avenue, Pacifica. bethanyeden.com; Photography by Aimee Youm.


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