We had the good fortune of connecting with Beth Secor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Beth, why did you pursue a creative career?
I always was good at art, but this was something that my parents considered a great hobby but not a career choice. My parents were first generation college students, they grew up during the depression, and while very creative, they both ended up having medical careers. When it was time for me to go to college, I reluctantly followed my parents’ lead, majoring first in pre-veterinary medicine, which I utterly failed at, and then in environmental design, also known as pre-architecture. As part of our course work we had to take art classes, and I found myself taking art classes over and over again, not because I had failed them, but because I loved what I was doing. After three years at Texas A & M, I transferred to the University of Houston to major in Art, specifically printmaking, and then later in graduate school as a painting major. While my mother knew that I was switching college and majors, we did not tell my father until the day I moved into the dorm. This was 43 years ago, and I have never once regretted my decision to become an artist.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
During the past decade I have worked from nature, either directly or from photographs, at first paintings of trees, then animals, and very recently flowers. The paintings are very obsessive, lots of lines, lots of brushstrokes. . Sometimes it may take me an entire year to finish a single painting because I rework them over and over again. Ha, this is probably what sets me apart from most of the painters I know. The choice of my subjects most likely comes from my rural upbringing in Wharton, Texas, but the paintings are about so much more than the oak tree, the chicken, the sunflower or what ever I have chosen to paint, as while I am painting them, I emotionally dredge up whatever is taking place in my life, whether it be grief over the death of a loved one, frustration and anger directed toward the president, or agitation because my HOA billed me for something I already paid. Painting is very cathartic for me because it gives me an outlet for all these feelings When I was younger, I was more ambitious than I am now, I was in shows all the time, I constantly was creating new paintings, and I think at the time that helped to some degree propel me in my career. I worked hard and it was not easy, because I was raising a daughter on my own, and working a full time job or multiple part time jobs, And back then it was important to me to become “famous” and to be in as many shows as I possibly could. It still isn’t easy, I work full time, and there is the added exhaustion created by the pandemic, as my days as a college profession are spent less in the face to face class room, and more in an online environment, which as anyone who has stared at a computer too long can tell you, is so taxing and mentally exhausting. It is hard to come home and have the energy to paint, but I make it a point to paint some every single day, even if its only for 20 minutes, because as I mentioned earlier it’s cathartic, and it’s relaxing, it’s my form of meditation and prayer. Also now that I am in my 60’s I am nowhere near as ambitions as I was 30 years ago. I don’t care to be in a ton of shows, I don’t care if I am famous or not, all I care about is that I continue to grow and mature as an artist. I know some artists who are doing the same kind of work that they did 25, 30 years ago, and I never want to get into that kind of rut. I want my work to improve and evolve for years and years to come, until the day I keel over face down into a painting and die.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First I would tell them to wear a mask, and that they would have to follow me in their car, because of the pandemic. They couldn’t stay at my house either and they would have to get a hotel for the very same reasons. And while I am showing them the wonders of our city, I would make them stay at least six feet away from me. Then, after I made sure we were safe, I would take them to some of our fabulous parks, we would walk along Allen Parkway, then go to Memorial Park, the Arboretum, Midtown Park, Discovery Green, Hermann Park etc. I love that Houston has so many green spaces. Also I would go with them (in our separate cars of course) to The Orange Show and Smithers Park. We would get takeout to go, tamales at Berryhill in the Heights, Vietnamese from Kim Sum or Mai’s, there are so many amazing restaurants in Houston, we could just spend all our time (outdoors of course) eating take out.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people that deserve credit for the help, both emotional and otherwise that they have provided me with. The first person I want to thank is my daughter Claudia, her very presence throughout my life has made me want to be strive to be a better mother, artist and teacher. I think I would have given up years and years ago, if it wasn’t for my daughter. I want to thank Kerry Inman at Inman Gallery who has represented my work, and believed in me for over 28 years. I want to thank all the Houston nonprofit organizations I have worked with over the years including The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, DiverseWorks, Project Row Houses, the Aurora Picture Show, Lawndale Art Center, they not only provided me with employment and exhibition opportunities, but they also inspired me to broaden my vision of what art can be. I want to thank all of my friends over the years, I have been lucky beyond belief to have known so many smart, creative, funny, wonderful people. I would start naming them, but am so afraid I might accidentally leave someone out. I want to also thank the faculty, staff, and students at University of Houston Downtown, and at HCCC. Over the years my work with all these people have fueled my mind, and my imagination more so than they could ever imagine. I have learned more from students than I think I ever taught them.
Image credit Inman Gallery