Betsy Eby seeks rhythm and lyricism in the natural world, which she translates into luminous abstract paintings. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, Eby has a poetic and personal relationship with nature, shaped by coastal fog and mysterious, diffused light. An accomplished classical pianist, she also spends three hours each day at the piano, a discipline that instills her painting practice with a melodic cadence.

Eby works in the alchemical and ancient medium of encaustic. She heats and layers pigmented beeswax and resin in a practice inspired by classical antiquity, Asian landscape painting, and her own musical training. Through this seductive layering process, the passage of time is visible. Compositional depth is created as forms play on the surface and recede into obscurity. The patterns and forms Eby depicts are familiar—flowers, birds in flight, crashing waves. Her meditative practice distills these to create spaces that speak to the infinite and timeless.

The rhythms Eby finds in nature are echoed in her own seasonal migration with her husband, Bo Bartlett, between Wheaton Island, Maine and Columbus, Georgia. In Georgia, they are deeply connected with their community through their work with the Bo Bartlett Center at Columbus State University. Away from mountains and ocean, Eby explores the richness of the light, and settles into the gentle and languid way of Southern life. Yet, she remains keenly aware of the edges defined by the friction and cultural tension of competing beliefs related to race, religion, class, and education.

In Maine, they are interconnected with and subservient to the forces of the ocean. With only the open Atlantic Ocean between Wheaton Island and Portugal, storms can be sudden and severe. Through daily meditation and observation of nature, Eby aims to tap into the energy found in living things, free of ideology and material connection. She feels a particular kinship with songbirds and their instinctive migrations, as they exist wholly outside of the politics and power that cause so much anger and suffering in the world. This perennial shift in habitat provides a contrast that allows Eby to continually observe and reevaluate her relationship to community and environment, and the relationship of society with nature as a whole.

Eby’s practice is guided by the idea that the health of our environment is a mirror to the health of our collective conscience. Weather patterns are often devastating in their extremity, echoing the divisiveness and restlessness in politics and ideology. In many ways, human life has fallen out of harmony with the earth’s rhythms, a fact Eby recognizes but does not decry. “Every living thing has a frequency. We can choose to craft our frequency through thought and action.” This optimism is evident in the warm, otherworldly glow found throughout her body of work, even amidst turbulent or tumultuous scenes. At a time when it is easy to assume the worst in the world, Eby reminds us that harmony can be sought and achieved.

-Maggie Downing