Retired Morningside University Theater Professor Finds New Outlet for Her Art | Siouxland life
For artist Betty Skewis-Arnett, the whole world is a stage.
You can tell by the way the vibrant colors stand out in his abstract expressionist paintings, as if it were a costume worn during a play production.
This is also evident in the way she aggregates her work on the studio walls of the downtown Art Sux gallery as if they were to be seen from the perspective of an attentive audience.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that Skewis-Arnett spent over 30 years as a theater professor at Morningside University, teaching voice and acting in addition to directing theatrical productions.
Coming from a family of artists, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Theater with a minor in Fine Arts at Morningside. Her Masters of Fine Arts in Costume Design is from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
While she had been involved in it all her life, it wasn’t until she retired from full-time teaching in 2017 that Skewis-Arnett decided to become a painter.
“I am at a point in my life where I can finally have time to buckle up and paint everyday,” she said. “Welcome to my second act.”
ACT TWO OF AN ARTISTIC LIFE
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“In many ways I was lucky,” Skewis-Arnett explained. “Although not all of my family were artists, there was still an appreciation of the arts. Those parents of mine who were artists became actors and puppeteers and wonderful things like that.”
“I come from a very welcoming family,” she added. “No one ever asked me ‘what are you really going to do with your life?’ question.”
AN EXTROVERT INTROVERT THAT WANTS TO TEST WATERS
Throughout his educational career, Skewis-Arnett taught students to stretch artistically.
“Personally, I’ve always considered myself a bit of an introvert,” she said. “But I can be extrovert when I should be.”
Change has therefore always been a possibility for Skewis-Arnett. Retirement gave him the opportunity to “get out” of some artistic movements.
As expected for a woman who started her career studying costume design, she was drawn to abstract art.
“I love to use bright colors with a lot of different textures,” said Skewis-Arnett. “With color and texture, I can create movement. It’s the theater in me. I love the action.”
Although she has done some landscape paintings, she prefers to keep them very expressionist.
“I am by no means a realistic painter,” said Skewis-Arnett. “You can call me an abstract expressionist.”
THE PLEASURES OF RETURNING
The more she painted, the more confident she became.
Initially, Skewis-Arnett presented his oil paintings in a solo exhibition in Morningside. She then branched out, exhibiting works at Vangarde Arts as well as the Witter Gallery in Storm Lake, Iowa.
However, her favorite place has always been with Art SUX.
“At Morningside, everyone knew who I was,” Skewis-Arnett said. “At Art SUX, I was a stranger. I loved it.”
THERE ARE NO OPENING NIGHTS IN PAINTING
One thing that wasn’t easy for Skewis-Arnett was learning when to stop.
“In the theater, there is only one opening night and when a show closes, it’s over,” she said. “With painting, there is no final end.”
This is why Skewis-Arnett has learned to move away from a painting.
“If you sit for too long you will be obsessed with something and it never seems to work,” she explains. “It’s OK to add something the next day. Or you can say, yes, that’s enough. When you try too hard, it shows.”
Although Skewis-Arnett still teaches occasionally at Morningside, she appreciates the creative outlet that painting offers.
“You are never too old to try new things or you are never too old to have new dreams,” she said. “I want my second act to be as fulfilling as the first.”