When I saw my first Beth Lipman piece, it was at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Twas called the Laid Table. Upon entering the Kahler addition of the museum, past the classic gallery, there it stood, an all black circular wooden table, set with all glass objects. These objects were blown in the shapes of vases, fruit, and other decorations used to set a table for the wealthy with class. I stopped and observed this piece longer than any other piece that day. As an art historian I was blown away (no pun intended) - for I knew that many artist's rite of passage was that they had to paint one or more still life works. This universal task was a measure of the practicing artist’s current skill level. Here I stood, in awe, in front of what could arguably be called a modern day masterpiece, and in that moment I felt I had found a treasure. I felt this way, because if this still-life was a measurement to where she was in her craft, I recognized her as a master of it. I recently had the extreme pleasure of sitting down with Lipman to talk with her about where she came from, how she fell in the love with art, her involvement in the world, and much more. It was an enlightening conversation, with a lot of take aways for artists looking to continue to push the bar of creativity and entrepreneurship.
Beth Lipman was born in Philadelphia, but grew up mostly in Pennsylvania. As you may know, the Philadelphia Eagles just recently won the Super Bowl. So…go Philly. Her mother was a self-taught artist and had a studio in their basement. When Beth was in third grade, her mother was focused on making products for regional companies. Lipman’s mother would make toleware for the company and Beth would help with the process. She would sand and paint boxes, and when she got older her mother taught her to mix paints. It was in these moments that she found her love for art, at a very young age. In high school she went to a summer program called the Horizons New England Crafts Program. She took her first glass blowing class there and hated how hard the process was…for about a month. But by the end of summer, she was able to create the most elementary bowl, and she was hooked. She believed that she could one day make something even better.
Lipman went on to study glass and fibers at Tyler School of Arts, in Philadelphia, and briefly at Mass Arts, in Boston - lastly she studied abroad in Rome! All this took place during the late 80’s and early 90’s. The interesting thing about studying during this time for Lipman was that the craft movement was started in the 60’s. This meant that it was still very new to the United States during her studies. Her class was learning from some of the founders of the movement, or with people who were students of the founders! Imagine being able to learn the art of sfumato from DaVinci himself! Some would say Beth Lipman and her peers were pioneers in their studies and practicing, for the information on the material and how to use it was somewhat scarce, at the time.
While working on her BFA, she was partnered with Snyder-man Works Gallery. This event was her first gallery showing and she did not disappoint. One of her first glass pieces was a business suit shell. It was the base of a suit with blown arms, all bolted together and clinging from a hanger in Snyder-man Works front gallery window. There was a fear of the glass suit buckling while on display, which created this tension for the viewer and for her. Lipman has enjoyed embracing this tension ever since. Another early piece she created was a love seat made of glass. It had to be built on site and again she fully embraced the possibility of the glass chair imploding under its’ own weight. She said beautifully “If it buckles from its own weight, that’s the art, and if it holds up, that’s the object.” The chair piece actually held up, and was acquired by a museum! “Material aspects are often metaphorical for life process, so you don’t always have to try to heal something or make it perfect.” Lipman says. In her process she often considers in what way the object has to exist and what needs to be added to make sure it can continue to do so.
If you haven’t seen one of her works yet, a couple pieces from her are housed at the Milwaukee Art Museum. One is called The Laid Table, that I spoke of in the beginning of this article. The other is a part of the Chipstone gallery collection Neo. The piece is titled Secretary with Chipmunk. It’s currently on the second floor of MAM. To learn more about it check out this website link: https://www.bethlipman.com/secretary-with-chipmunk/. Both are equally stunning. Beth recalls her experience working with the Chipstone Foundation as the creme de la creme of opportunities for her. She loved the curators, and how well the organization performed as a collective. After completing her project with them, she confidently stated that the piece was one of her best works ever completed, hands down. When asked about her artistic processes, business, as well as creative, she wisely professed “there is no point A to point B process.” What she meant by this is that all artists must find their own way. But, she was able to share two major tips about being a successful artist, that none should underestimate. She says that one must definitely build relationships. Lipman emphasizes that this can take time and that is alright. There is no need to rush professional relationships. The second is that you must never lose focus of your practice and making your own work. You must create and grow so that you have something to produce when the time comes. “The art to marketing ratio is cyclical. You need time to spend with your work, and then get your work to galleries and museums.” Beth states.
Wondering what Beth Lipman is doing now? Well you guessed it! She has many projects queued up for 2018. She’ll be completing a few private commissions by the end of this year, along with traveling to Australia National University to give artist talks, and much more! Also, there are a number of places that you can currently find Beth Lipman’s work. Her works can be found on display at our very own Milwaukee Art Museum, the Weismann Art Museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art, the John and Mable Ringling Museum…the list goes on and on. Luckily, Lipman has a website where you can learn more about her work and where it is currently being displayed. Visit bethlipman.com for more info. Beth Lipman is one of the great artists of our time. Her dedication to her craft and skill has born us wonderful works to be inspired by for years to come. Beth Lipman, the Art Shore thanks you. We wish you all the best in wherever your craft carries you next.
Written By: Jerrod Johnson
Edited By: Bethany Price Johnson
The Art Shore LLC does not take credit for any photos used in this article.