Betty Woodman's residency at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy, 1995: From the Archives...

L to R: Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #15,” 1995. 59.5 x 74.5 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper / Album of snapshots Betty took while a resident at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy / Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #17,” 1995. 37 x 88 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper / Installation view "Betty Woodman,” Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1996.

Betty Woodman’s month-long residency at the Bellagio Study Center in 1995 on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship provided her the time and space to begin a formally complex, mixed-media “drawing” practice which continued for the rest of her life, later influencing her iconic painted canvas and ceramic wall works.

Pursuing drawing (a “diversion” in her work) enabled her to further develop what had begun as preparatory drawings for elaborate ceramic wall installations including Il Giardino di Pinto and Balustrade relief vases. As she wrote in her proposal: “It would be a wonderful opportunity to have a month to work in a non-clay (non-dusty!) studio—to be totally immersed in the this project. I’m sure the physical setting, with a view of an actual balustrade forming and separating the lake and land, and the stimulating companionship of the other scholars will be conducive and inspiring to working.”

"The first night there, I was awakened by the clamor of fireworks exploding over the lake. It seemed to be a welcome for me,” she later wrote of the experience. "The next morning, I was introduced to various other fellows and then taken to my lakeside studio, formerly a boathouse. What a perfect place! The constantly changing colors of the lake seen from the window and the washed pastels of the buildings provided the inspiration for my palette of colors. In all I made about 20 large drawings, each roughly 5 x 6 feet, working happily and intensely every day. It was sort of like holding my breath because I was so excited and involved in what I was doing.”

Several of these large-scale drawings featured prominently in her solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam the following year, shown in dialogue with the ceramic works which originally sparked this line of working.

Click on the image above for a complete gallery view and details.