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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Bettie Grace Miner

Bettie Miner

Smitty: I’m very excited about my next guest, one of the great artists in the business, and when I say artist, she has the stroke of a genius. Her name is very fitting; please welcome the lovely and so talented Ms Bettie Grace Miner. Bettie how are you?

Bettie Miner (BM): I’m doing great Smitty, how are you?

Smitty: I’m cool, thank you. Now, we met on the All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise…

BM: We sure did…

Smitty: But I feel like I’ve met you long ago.

BM: I think you did, I’m sure of it.

Smitty: Looking at your work, one of my firsts thoughts were, I’ve gotta’ meet this person, and I finally got the pleasure. It was such a wonderful feeling to see the work that you’ve done over the years, and, what it does for so many people, and I must say that, you have such a versatile approach to art, painting, and really bringing out the inner thoughts and feelings of the image.

BM: Oh thank you, that’s really kind of my goal; to really get inside my subject, to depict them as they are, it’s not really about me. It’s not about my style, it’s not about how I go about it, it’s really about what that person says, what that person says to me, or to the viewer. I’m trying to capture their soul, basically.

Smitty: I think you’ve certainly accomplished that. Where did this whole idea of painting and doing what you do, how did it evolve? Take me back to your discovery of this great gift that you have.

BM: I love that you’re calling it painting first of all, because most of them are not. Actually, we do photographs and the idea of them is to make them look like paintings. So, the fact that you believe that they are is a wonderful compliment actually. Most of my work, I will explain in a moment. I’ve actually started doing some painting recently, but most of my work is from a medium called, Polaroid SX70 Manipulation. These are actually Polaroid photographs that I take of various artists, either during live performances, in my studio, or maybe at their homes. And while the picture is developing, in just that few moments after I take the photo, and it comes out of the camera, there are just a few moments that this image is developing. The emulsion is soft in the film, and I’m actually able to play with the film with a tool, and just sort of mess with it while it’s developing. By the time I’m done with it, it looks like a painting, and you just have that few minutes, maybe three to five minutes while the photograph is developing to manipulate the emulsion. When it finishes and hardens, that’s it, the picture is done, and it looks like a painting. So, all of the work that you’ve seen over the past ten years, that I’ve done, has been through this process.

Smitty: Well you had me fooled. (Laughing)

BM: No, no, it’s funny I’m not really fooling people, because I’ve been telling people for years, “no, they’re not paintings, they are photographs, they just look like paintings.” However, what’s happened is, just very recently I’ve sort of come full circle. I started out painting, I was actually painting in more of an abstract style, when I got into this photography form that I’ve been doing, and recently I started painting again.

Smitty: Wow…

BM: And what I’ve been doing is taking photographs, digital photographs, actually even some of my older Polaroid photographs, and using them to actually make paintings. So… it’s really gonna’ get confusing now because some of the stuff really are paintings now. So that you know, you saw some of the ones I did recently of a wonderful jazz guy, that I just sent you today, I mean its, Baldwin “Smitty” Smith,

Smitty: (laughing)

BM: And you’ll see that one, that one is actually a painting.

BM: I’d like to treat the host of this interview, with something interesting.

smittySmitty:  (laughing) Well, you certainly did.

BM: Now you were asking how this all came about…

Smitty: Yes.

BM: Really, I’ve, all my life had a love of jazz, a love of blues also, and a lot of smooth jazz is really kind of a blending of blues and jazz, pop and rock, funk, and R&B. All of those things I love. So naturally I gravitated to the artists that perform that music. And truly that’s how I got started, I was a fan, I love the work, I love the music and wanted to interpret it, in my own way. And that’s how I accomplished it.

Smitty: It’s a very nice interpretation.

BM: Thank you!  And you asked how this all came about, which is really a funny and poetic story.  It really all started with Rick Braun.  He was the first jazz artist I ever photographed.  That photo would have never happened; in fact this entire collection wouldn’t have happened except for the fact that my creative partner and soul mate of 23 years, Randy Galligan, literally dragged me to a Rick Braun concert.  I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t like trumpet music, at least I didn’t until I heard Rick Braun.  Randy convinced me to go, dragged me kicking and screaming, even bought the tickets, and I agreed only because it was an outdoor venue, a winery where I could take some fine art photographs, thereby preventing the boredom that I was sure to suffer.  Naturally, the second Rick started to play I fell in love with his music. The photo I got of Rick that day was the very first in the collection and was responsible for me being offered my first jazz exhibit at the Hyatt in Newport Beach, California, which is where it all started.  When I released my limited edition book, I presented the first book to Rick Braun on stage, which seemed like the perfect acknowledgment to me.  And that’s where it all started.  So, thank you Randy – from anyone who has ever enjoyed my jazz collection!   

Smitty: You like to experiment.

BM: I do experiment, yes.

Smitty: I could feel that. Your creative abilities really are so evident when you’re experimenting, because, looking at your work, it’s very versatile, and you are not just limited to musicians, as far as your artwork. Because I know you’ve created a lot of great portraits and paintings of racecars, wild life, and animals too.

BM: Right, It’s funny that when you have a particular style, a particular eye, while it may or may not translate to certain subjects, it’s like, in my feeling. It’s that you can apply it to anything you love. It’s like; I think that everything I am is in my work. If you look at my work, you can see that I love wildlife, I love jazz, I love things that move fast, like racecars, and, if I can get a plane to sit long enough, actually a photo I did, I did Richard Elliot’s French fighter jet. It’s not on my website, but that was a blast. Things I love, I mean, those are the things that you work with. So, anything that you ever want to know about me is in my artwork. It’s all there.

Smitty: Yes, and it sounds like you really love your work. Talk about some of the more interesting projects that you’ve done over the past years. Perhaps those that were a challenge to you.

bettie with animalBM: Wow, the one that pops into my head has nothing to do with jazz; there were certainly a lot of those. I actually worked with an organization called Animazonia, a wildlife rescue organization here in southern California; it’s actually a very small group, but they rescue wild cats, lions, tigers, panthers, cougars, things like that, and I actually volunteered to go out and photograph their big cats for them to use that artwork to raise money to basically feed and to take care of these the big animals…With my art form, I love to get very close to my subjects, and with big wild cats, that’s kind of a hazardous thing to do.


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