In her latest series of gorgeously colored canvases, in which she takes the Silver Dollar plant as her motif, Betty Weiss brings together elemental shapes—floral ovals, stems, and leaves —with the mechanical grids that recall her earlier works, which emphasized the geometric order of the pictorial space.
Weiss’s canvases are organized into grids of different shades and hues to incorporate order and geometry, but on top of the grids, she layers repeating ovals and stylized leaves drawn from nature. Her compositions are an approach to capturing the rhythms of nature. For Weiss, the flat, oval seedpod of the Silver Dollar plant embodies the potential for life. “The Silver Dollar plant was the simplest way to deal with swathes of colors and treat the space in a complex sense," she says. She manages to reduce these natural forms to their most essential elements.
Weiss’s palette does not stay true to the nature of the plant, but is a means of abstraction: The floral elements are depicted in blue, red, green, black, and white, which reveals Weiss’s inspiration from pop and minimalist art. It is this choice of color that defines the vocabulary of the painting.
Weiss's early canvases were composed of architectural grids with clean, defined lines that provided a view into a complex, mechanistic world. The emphasis was on the geometric order of the pictorial space. Gradually, however, she loosened her grip on the strict grid format in an effort to distill the world around her into ever simpler and more fundamental forms.
The intention of Weiss’s art is to create visually interesting statements. As she says, “Concept notwithstanding, for me the merit of any piece of art is in its visual interest and the pleasure that it provides.”
Betty Weiss attended the Art Institute of Chicago and also studied at the La Escuela de Pintura y Escultura in Mexico, where she lived for a number of years and where she met her husband, Hector Perez. It was through Perez, a political activist, that she encountered the great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and Alfaro Siqueiros. Although she admired the grandiose scale and content of their works, she was most inspired by the vibrant colors and simple forms of the small-town haciendas that surrounded her—an influence that still informs her work today. In 1970, she moved to New York, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York under the direction of Robert Swain. Her graduate studies were conducted under Ray Parker, also at Hunter College. She lives and works in Long Island City, New York.
Weiss’s solo exhibitions include a 1987 showing at Galerie Leif Stahle in Paris, France. Since 1980, she has been included in numerous group exhibitions, mostly in New York