Bettina Matzkuhn has worked in fibre for over 30 years with an emphasis on embroidery and fabric collage. She holds a BFA in Visual Arts and an MA in Liberal Studies from Simon Fraser University. In the 1980s she animated and directed three award-winning films using textiles for the National Film Board of Canada and an interest in narrative continues to inform her work. She explores personal and social narratives about history, geography and the natural world, using a wide variety of textile techniques, materials and presentations. She exhibits her work across Canada and internationally, writes professionally on the arts, volunteers, lectures and teaches.
Fibre interests her as a language of visual narrative. Textile has a long history of inscribing social and personal stories. Her work is a part of this continuum. The various fibres and the range of stitches form a vocabulary, a language she has used since childhood. She uses this language to articulate her own preoccupations: her ambivalence around her German heritage, the turmoil of illness and divorce, an admiration for the maritime community and the constant degradation of the natural world. She also tells simple tales of companionship depicting local life and adventures. She has sought input from other disciplines: a sailmaker, a meteorologist, a naturalist and keeps cluttered sketchbooks full of research that informs the work. Much of her work is two-dimensional, but she has also recently explored sculptural work, pieces that are interactive, and digital animation. The form the work takes reflects its theme and she wants the viewer to be surprised, engaged and compelled to look more closely.
Bettina grew up around sail-boats on BC’s coast, and has hiked in many corners of Canada, hence a love of charts and maps. They allow her to experience disorientation, anxiety, longing, and memory. She is attracted to maps because like embroidery, they depend on extremes. The opulent surfaces of textiles reflects how she sees the minute flora on the ground, but also the grand sweeps of mountains and weather. Bettina's geographies are made of thread and metaphor.