Bebe Beard
Installation View, 2011, HallSpace


Bebe Beard
Installation View, 2011, HallSpace


Bebe Beard
LYTTEOT Totem #4, detail, 2011
feathers, eps foam, projected video
76 x 31 x 21 inches


Bebe Beard
LYTTEOT Totem #5, detail, 2011
feathers, eps foam, electric motor
72 x 42 x 19 inches


Bebe Beard
LYTTEOT Video Sequence #3, 2011
video still
animation and audio by Lou Cohen


Bebe Beard
LYTTEOT #7, detail, 2011
feathers, tempera on board
24 x 20 x 4 inches

Bebe Beard

Love You 'Till the End of Time
by Francine Koslow Miller, Ph.D

Beard's new work generated from an extended stay on Maine's Monhegan Island in the winter of 2009-2010. While contemplating the beauty of the small island, Beard began to take note of the environmental dangers of the lightweight petroleum-based EPS foam littering what is still widely regarded as a quaint and pristine island. Fascinated with and frightened by the strange intrinsic beauty posed by the hazards of a variety of cellular chunks of EPS, Beard began collecting – like sea-glass – a variety of pieces of the material. She produced a sketchbook full of delicate pencil and charcoal drawings of broken pieces and individual cells of EPS. These lyrical portraits inspired a lively, poignant, and sensuous combination of mixed media works that feature red tempera renditions of the EPS cells. Some images are simply studded with broken pieces of EPS; others are garlanded with intricate patterns of pristine white feathers. Beard – who in 1996 and then again in 2002 – has incorporated feathers into her artwork, here lovingly transforms these mixed media drawings by meticulously inserting pure white goose feathers. The resultant feathered and red tempera works contain intricate semi-abstract, semi-figurative patterns. Some conjure up images of elegant flora and fauna spotted with dried blood. Others evoke imaginary fields of feathered softness. Although one may be tempted to interpret these powerful works as evocative epitaphs for avian victims of our environmental pollution, the work solidly straddles "abstraction and a place where one might find a narrative."1

And Beard is not done yet. After collecting a variety of shaped EPS packaging ranging from fishermen's squid coolers, to fruit packing boxes, shipping boxes for glassware, television and computer packing, the artist arranged them into seven free-standing sculptures titled individually Totems I through VII. Graced with large and small feathers – giving an impression of angelic purity and flight – they have an intuitive and dynamic balance of geometric forms and whiteness. These reconfigured found objects are in part contemporary homages from Beard to two great women sculptors – Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson. Like Bourgeois' anthropomorphic early wooden totems, Beard's EPS Totem sculptures are arranged in staggered relational groupings. Tipping her hat to Louise Nevelson's monochromed wood sculptures, Beard's Totems are likewise made from piecing together found and cast-off mundane objects and transforming them into neutral monuments.

Uniting all the elements of Love You 'Till the End of Time are three evocative and hypnotic video projections made in collaboration with composer Lou Cohen. Kinetic and kaleidoscopic layers of natural goose feathers, running water, ocean foam, and ocean scum are combined with close-ups of rust-red drawings on paper and EPS cells. Working with time, movement and scale and with composer Lou Cohen's computer-based music, Beard creates an orchestrated water ballet of synchronized mirrored images. In the video, small pieces of the EPS are animated, creating a precarious balance with the images of clean flowing water. The juxtapositions of debris with dramatic images of breaking waves highlight the unstable nature of our ecosystems in beautiful and elegiac ways. One video is projected in small scale inside Totem #4. Another is writ large through the grouping of Totems #1 through #3 onto the wall beyond. A third video is presented on a flat-screen TV fitted with headphones to amplify and focus on Cohen's emotionally dramatic electronic music.