● By Style
Photo by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
The day Betsy Christ first picked up a chunk of wood attempting to carve it, she knew it was meant to be.
Her free form art began to flow to reveal a splintered masterpiece. Although she had dabbled in music growing up, Betsy, the executive director of special education at the El Dorado County Office of Education had never considered herself an artist. Working with a Native American shaman at the time, Betsy originally carved figurines for meditation and stress relief. Twenty years later, the professional sculptor and photographer continues creating art because she loves it and considers it fun and relaxing. “My day job can be quite stressful,” Betsy explains. “It was a nice release to come home and work on the stone because it didn’t yell at me or give me a hard time, and did exactly what I wanted it to do.”
Starting with wood, Betsy soon turned to other mediums since arthritis and six subsequent hand surgeries made it too difficult to work with the stiff and unyielding material. Betsy now carves her whimsical and impressionistic animals and wildlife using soapstone and alabaster. As many sculptors have described, she looks for the spiritual essence of the stone, releasing what is inside and simply carving away what it is not.
When a break from stone was needed, Betsy picked up a camera and joyfully discovered her talent for photography. “It fits well into my passion for travel as now I can go all over the world and take pictures of what I love: wildlife and nature scenes,” she says. “I like to see what Mother Nature has for us out there and in turn, make something that people want to display in their homes and offices.”
Having shown her work at local galleries such as Gold Country Artists Gallery and Gallery El Dorado, Betsy now sells her pieces exclusively through Red Door and More in Cameron Park. Although she’s a member of the Placerville Arts Association and donates a piece to the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce’s Education Council every year, she does not promote her art at her day job, being very careful to keep her two lives separate. “Art gives me a sense of calm in a world that isn’t and has brought a great balance to my life,” Betsy shares. “My photography is similar in spirit to my carving, as you are capturing the essence that sometimes the eye can’t see.”
A New York native raised in southern California, Betsy now produces from her home studio in Camino, where she also teaches beginning artist lessons in soapstone carving. Moving to the area after earning her doctorate from UC Berkeley, Betsy doesn’t envision having any other home base to return to from her many travels. “Placerville is just a little town in the middle of nowhere and it’s got a great little art scene,” Betsy says. “Every time I go into a gallery I’m amazed by the incredible talent and diversity of art; it’s really fun to watch.”