Trees and Stones Can Teach You that which You Can Never Learn from Masters

BETSY HICKOK
Trees and Stones Can Teach You that which You Can Never Learn from Masters, pressed leaf and paper, 12'' x 12'', 2006

Of herself, Betsy writes, "After receiving a B.A. degree in English at Middlebury College in VT (and teaching English for three years at a private school in Massachusetts where, I kid you not, Uma Thurman was one of my students), I moved to Iowa City in 1987 to pursue an M.F.A. in poetry from the Writers' Workshop, which I completed in 1990.  I worked for many years at ACT and NCS—now Pearson—and have been a writer/editor at The University of Iowa Foundation since 2000.  When I'm not working, I spend many weekends making art and participating in art fairs.  I am also a jazz singer with one CD I made with some of Iowa's most amazing jazz players—the fabulous Dan Knight (piano) and the incredible Craig Dove (bass).  I have performed in the Iowa Jazz Festival and on many local stages.  For ten years, I was part of the infamous band, Too Much Yang.  Finally, I do still write poetry, and I have a book-length manuscript of poems just aching to be published.  I have grown to love Iowa City and Coralville and am finally learning how to garden.  I live in Coralville with my sweetie, Hans, and my (fluffy, spoiled) feline furball-and-chain, Nikita."

About her work, Betsy writes, "What can I say?  I am from Vermont.  I love leaves.  I started making art from pressed leaves years ago, as a fun project with my stepdaughters.  My partner, Hans Olson, is an amazing oil landscape painter who has sold his work at art fairs and in galleries for years.  I started accompanying him to art shows, then decided I would also start making and selling art pieces myself.  Why should he have all the fun and glory?  My work seems simple, and is relatively, except that over several years, I have come to know which types of leaves will dry best and keep their color—even which trees in Iowa City produce the best leaf colors in the fall!  I hand-pick each leaf from the tree (no, seriously!) and dry layers and layers of these "perfect" leaves during what I call my "harvest season" in October/November.  This year, I am also drying spring/summer leaves to add more greens to my work.  It is surprising how much the shades and textures of leaves vary, even on a single tree.  In putting my pieces together, I pay attention to the scale, color, and shapes of the leaves together—and then I try to create simple backgrounds with the paper and frames that bring out the leaves' natural beauty.  It is amazing how some background colors will make the leaves "sing"!  I have been thrilled at how many people respond to this work.  It is really nature's artwork—I just try to capture it and show it at its best."

This page was first displayed
on July 31, 2008

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