WITH A GRAIN OF SALT
A Look at Artist BETTINA WERNER
By Chiara Spagnoli
Born in Milan, Italy, Bettina Werner, world-renowned artist and “Queen of Salt,” is now a new American. Citizenship was bestowed upon her for artistic merits, and she resides in the Financial District of New York City, where she is contributing to a new beginning with the cathartic power of her one of a kind salt artworks. She is the first artist to exclusively utilize salt as an artistic medium. I spoke with the artist, retracing with her, her artistic career.
Chiara Spagnoli: How did you become the Salt Queen?
Bettina Werner: I was named the Salt Queen resulting from my early interest and study in the art community. My involvement with the magic salt crystals began when I was a young student at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. I was fascinated with salt as a historically incredible natural element in the earth! When I discovered salt as the “fifth element”–for it’s importance in life like the other 4 elements: fire, earth, air, and water–it changed my whole life and focus.
My fellow artists, art collectors, and friends were very impressed with my devotion to salt as a new art medium. As a term of endearment, they knighted me “Queen of Salt.” I create various spectrums of unique salt crystal artworks: salt paintings, salt sculptures, salt installations, and functional art pieces including salt backgammon-sculptures, thirddimensional crystal salt table-sculptures, and jumbo cubes of dice-sculptures–all created to be inter-active with our daily living.
Salt crystals transform their inner reflective light into an elevated experience for the observer. I continue to pursue my own salt mission and research, with love and devotion, into the endless seaworld of radiant different salt crystal artworks.
CS: What response do you get from those who experience your unique salt creations?
BW: I hear the most interesting comments, especially when my art collectors invite guests to their social gatherings. Crystal salt artworks make interesting conversation pieces in their homes because they are something new, something unique that their guests have never seen before in the artworld. They are attracted by the radiance of the crystals, the bright colors, and the variations and the flow of the textured dynamics.
CS: How dear and important is this element to you in your daily life?
BW: It’s very important! I believe salt is more precious than gold! Scientists proclaim that our very life force is dependant upon the balance of salt in the very cells of our bodies. Philosophers continue to enlighten us with the mystery and the importance of salt. Homer said: “Salt belongs to the sphere of the divine and stands far above human.”
CS: Italians say “avere sale in zucca” (to have salt in your pumpkin head), the English expression “with a grain of salt” paraphrases the Latin “cum grano salis“–why do you think salt has become a synonym of intelligence and reasoning abilities?
BW: Since salt was used as a currency in human history, business people needed intelligence and reasoning abilities to earn their living! “Salt of the earth” is another expression which voices our respect, adoration, goodness, and fruit of creative intelligence.
CS: You are Italian born and recently became an American citizen. When and why did you decide to move to New York?
BW: I’m my family’s first generation in America. I arrived at age 24 alone with only salt on my skin. I was urged by my circle of intellectual friends in Italy to introduce my original new crystal salt artworks to the United States, in particular Manhattan, to give greater impetus to my art journey. Looking back I have to say that this was priceless advice.
CS: You’ve exhibited all around the globe and received feedback from the most prestigious newspapers in the world, is there a particular anecdote or memory of the people you encountered, that you would like to share in?
BW: The first encounter I recall was as result of walking my beloved dalmatian Tibino in Soho, where I lived since the 90s. We never missed an opening art reception together and we were well known as a couple! During one of these receptions, my handsome Tibino, attracted a most famous dog lover–it was one of the most important art dealers in the world: the legendary Leo Castelli! Whenever I entered his gallery, Mr. Castelli was usually hiding from the public, in the back of the gallery. Every time we walked in, he stopped everything to come straight to Tibino to pet him. He was saying that Tibino reminded him of his beloved dalmatian Patrick. He added that Patrick was irreplaceable. At that time I didn’t get it, until my companion Tibino was no longer with me. He is alive in my inner world and I outwardly share his dazzling soul in my “102 Salt Crystal Dalmatians Art Collection.”
CS: Tell me about your Foundation’s activity.
BW: The Foundation was created in 2002 to protect and conserve my cultural salt artwork invention. The Foundation also promotes the importance and education about salt, as well as to encourage other artists working with innovative art techniques who are utilizing new materials and media. The Foundation launched original creative contests where the contestants are inspired by salt to create music, literature, etc. The winner with the most innovative creation is then rewarded.
CS: Is there something you still haven’t attained as an artist and are pursuing?
BW: I would like to find the time to finish my book, to make a movie about the sacrifices and positive energies that it takes to become an empowered woman/artist in our times. I will start with the lack of family support, overcoming chauvinism, exploitation, envy, and betrayal. The long journey of effort and hard work required to complete our mission. I would like to share the joy of attainment and appreciation in fulfilling our life goals–the continued recognition and interest in my artworks. I would like to share my feelings of positive change and spiritual growth for our human welfare. It’s my sincere belief that we are at the beginning of the global transformation–of love and goodwill for every living creation on our beautiful “salty” blue & white planet!
CS: When and where can we see your artwork on display?
BW: You can see my artwork through September 28th 2013 at the Barrick Museum, in one of the most remarkable collections of contemporary art in America, the famous “Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Collection” in Las Vegas. In Italy–as a New York artist–I have been invited to represent the United States in Venice, at the prestigious international Art exhibition “OPEN 16″ during the Venice Film Festival 2013. The exhibition is on view through september 29th, 2013. I’ll be back in New York in October for my exhibition in Southampton during the Hamptons Film Festival. I’m showing my latest artwork created this summer in Water Mill titled “Filling the Hole of Betrayal in the Net of Light…”
CS: Tell me more about this painting
Upright triangle is spirit, divinity…according to ancient beliefs, an upright triangle, with one point at the top and two at the base, is a male and solar symbol representing spirit, divinity, fire, life, prosperity, and harmony. In contrast, the reversed triangle is female and lunar, representing mother earth, water, rain, and grace. Transform the betrayal into creativity.
In the end, when you reach that state of being healed, you will see how fortunate you are. As horrible as betrayal is, forgiveness belongs to those who know how to love in the first place. Life is full of ups and downs, but if you believe in yourself you will always come through with flying colours! And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really are unique and have worth. And you learn and learn…with every goodbye, you learn! Forget about who has jealousy for you, shine, be fabulously unique with your inner radiant light, support and nurture your talent!
Bettina Werner, “The Queen of Salt,” is an internationally acclaimed artist.
Photography by Gordon Eriksen & Cristiana Lopez
All Artwork © & by Bettina Werner
Design by Marie Havens
Bettina Werner Portrait, Photography by Gordon Eriksen
Artwork © & by Bettina Werner
Filling the hole of betrayal in the Net of Light…2013, 36 x 36 inches
Painting created with textured colorized salt technique invented by Bettina Werner in the early 80′s
© Bettina Werner 2013 All Rights Reserved
Private Collection, Southampton, NY
(L) Bettina Werner Portrait, Photography by Cristiana Lopez; (R) Artwork by Bettina Werner