For years, my paintings have examined the politics and structural implications of surveillance in the digital age and how painting, photography and technology can be combined to create new visual experiences that foster this dialog. I worked with surveillance video and isolated ambiguous frames that allowed the viewer to fill out the narrative and suppose what had passed and imagine what was about to happen. These isolated images were then painted using an automated technique I developed that allowed me to further isolate the relationship between the viewer and the work.
I examine voyeurism and issues of personal privacy in an age of ubiquitous cameras and video recorders. In all of my work I have been less interested in the image itself and more interested in the relationship between the viewer and the work. For these paintings, I developed a process of drilling small 1/16″ or 1/8″ holes in the back of acrylic mirrors and fill these holes with acrylic paint to create images. The holes are rounded bottom and drilled to exactly 1/2 their diameter. When viewed on the face, the mirror reflects and makes each paint-filled hole look like a tiny suspended ball floating halfway between the viewer and the reflection. Although it is a very time consuming and complicated process that involves complex industrial processes and custom developed software, the resulting image creates a unique three-way relationship between the viewer, the image, and the viewing environment that is ideal for examining the subject of voyeurism and personal privacy.
For this body of work, I have been using images shot around beaches and swimming pools where the people gathering are typically very exposed physically and many types of personal interactions occur. The images are photographic representations of scenes we typically may catch glimpses of, watch for a moment and walk on, or possibly watch for a moment too long depending on the situation. The point-of-view is always enough of a distance that it is obvious that the viewer is not a participant but rather an observer or watcher.
As a painter and observer, I am interested in the layers of interactions; between the viewer and the image, the image and its relationship to the environment, and between the viewer and their viewing environment. In these paintings, the mirror background engages the surrounding environment and makes the reflection of the space around it. As the viewer moves around the piece, the reflections shift altering the viewing experience. Depending on the viewing angle, the viewers perception oscillates between the image, the reflection of the viewer, and the surrounding reflected environment creating a complex viewing experience that forces many of the important issues around personal privacy in this age.
William Betts had a career in tech industries where he established proficiency in computer language and programing. From this, he uses complex industrial processes to create paintings that reflect the possibilities for an analog medium in a digital age. Betts uses his own source material (photographs/videos) as data sets to be examined, sampled, re-contextualized, manipulated and represented. He is typically less interested in content and more concerned with the structural and social aspects of the image.
William Betts was born and raised in New York City, resided in Houston Texas, Miami FL and is currently based in rural Connecticut and Mexico. In 1991, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, Studio Art-Cum Laude from Arizona State University, William Betts has exhibited throughout North America and Europe and in the 2019 Biennale De La Habana, Cuba. His artwork has been featured in the group exhibition, Rasterfahndung (Tracing the Grid), Kunstmuseum, in Stuttgart, Germany, in the Arlington Museum of Art, The University of Texas, The Salt Lake City Art Center, The University of Wisconsin, Eau-Claire, and the Albuquerque Museum. His selected Bibliography includes The Creators Project (video interview), June 2016; Politician, Københagen, Photo Essay, March 28, 2016; Kinetic, Art from Polsinelli Art Collection, Privately Published 2015; Victoria Machmudov, Under övervakningsradarn, Konstperspektiv, Sweden, June, 2014 and Rasterfahndung (Tracing the Grid), Kunstmuseum Stuttgar (Show Catalog). He was named New American Painting Annual Prize winner in 2011 and featured in issues #60, #72, #84, and #96.