Annette Bezor was one of South Australia’s great contemporary artists and I was deeply saddened to learn of her passing recently.
For the second issue of Aspire magazine, I featured Annette in the regular Creative Spaces section. Each issue, we featured a different South Australian creative and published them in their own words discussing their life, work and process. I had only met Annette briefly a few months before – at a launch for a range of cushions that featured her beautiful works (I always wished I could afford one!). I had long been a fan of her art and had gingerly asked if I could feature her in the mag and was thrilled when she agreed.
Fast forward to a stinking hot day in early 2014. I made my way to her home and studio – my second visit, the first had been briefer, to discuss the article and photos. On that second day, we talked for hours, sitting on her thrift store couch – she confessed she preferred having furniture she didn’t care too much about, so she could replace it without sentiment – sipping herbal tea and avoiding the heat outside.
She graciously delved into her long career and life, discussing traumatic experiences as a young woman, heartbreak in mid-life, the joys and disillusionments of the art world, the beauty and tragedy of caring for her elderly mother, the forging of her feminism and of course, her art.
“When I was younger, I wanted to paint beautiful things so people would stand there long enough to really look at it. That was when it was really important that I say something, but now I think if people look at them and all they see is the beauty, then that’s fine by me.”
For those unfamiliar, she is famous for her ‘big heads’ – large canvases of iconic women, distorted and/or concealed. There’s so much more to her art than her most well-known pieces, of course, but they are well known for a reason. Beautiful yet slightly disturbing, her women often return your gaze back on you, forcing you to examine your own perceptions and how women are represented in popular culture. As her work progressed, she became more interested in colour and abstract work that didn’t need to have a narrative.
Back at my desk, I struggled with condensing our conversation into an article. I had a large word count but it still felt like I couldn’t do her justice. I think my first draft was at least twice as long as what could fit on the pages.
It’s the hardest thing about telling someone’s story – how to capture the essence of the person you’ve known so briefly yet delved so deep with? In this case, how to capture Annette’s spark? That’s what stood out to me. She didn’t enjoy the spotlight – she described herself as “an extraverted introvert” – but one-on-one she was intelligent, witty, deeply honest and a generous interviewee. She had a bright, and I suspect mischievous, spark that drove her and touched those she came in contact with. I honoured her trust in me by doing my best to capture her in that article.
Click on the image below to see it in full.
I stayed in touch with Annette for a while via emails and txts. We attempted to find time in our busy schedules to catch up, but a few months after I interviewed her my personal life went pear-shaped and we never quite got around to it. Yet she has never been far from my thoughts and I have always treasured that brief time we spent together.
Wherever you are now, Annette, I hope you can see the beautiful effect you had on people and know that you won’t be forgotten.