Printmaker Bethia Brehmer’s Wisconsin youth has stayed with her through her changes of venues from Sheboygan to Madison, to Amherst, Massachusetts and Cape Cod, where she’s lived for decades. Her vegetarian, pacifist parents took her on walks through the woods instilling in her a desire for peace, harmony and nature. She’s a world traveler who lived in Ghana, and has visited India, China, Bali and Europe. Her passion is to connect people to nature through art (she loves that “ART is in eARTh”). But her work is not just about the natural world. It also encompasses a mandala-like symbology, as well as quoting from other artists and cultures, to create a unique runic consciousness, (imbued with a wee tinge ofAubrey Beardsley). And it is not all peace and love; sometimes the political speaks, as in a piece she did of America as Shiva, or when she imprints clocks with messages about running out of time to save the planet.
Brehmer studied art as a kid, eventually getting her MFA at the University of Wisconsin where she was selected as the illustrator for the botany department, creating etchings for Dr. John Thompson’s definitive book, “Arctic Lichens.” Looking at them through a microscope taught her to perceive the circular which she says, “became symbolic to me of the roundness of Earth.”
Rebelling against the “in” thing at the time — Abstract Expressionism, she admired the realism of Andrew Wyeth, and Albrecht Durer, and reveled in the exactitude of printmaking and etching. “At first it was confusing, because everything is done backwards,” she said. But then she loved the materials: the zinc plates, the copper metal on which the acid resist substance was spread; scraping through it to create a picture, putting the plate into acid, cleaning off and exposing something on which ink was placed to stay in the grooves and be pressed into a print. She still uses a 24 by 48-inch electric press designed by one of her professors.