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April 27, 2009 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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Bette and Bea

Recently, the Thistle Hall gallery displayed the artwork of the late Bea Arthur and her partner, the late Bette Armstrong. Their collaborative oeuvres span a variety of genres, including impressionistic landscapes, floral still-lifes, depictions of pets.

The artworks sell for incredibly low prices, between $10-50. Hung alongside the artworks are photographs of the couple collected in a scrap-book fashion, pasted then lamenated onto sheets of A3 paper, with captions written by hand. At the back of the room a home made video of Bette’s 90th birthday celebration is playing, with friends recalling how they met the pair. Overall, the exhibition radiates a sense of intimacy and informality, echoing the relationship of Bette and Bea, which is ultimately what this exhibition—titled “Bette and Bea; glimpses into their 57 year relationship”—is all about.

As a lesbian couple, Bea and Bette’s desire to live independently together fostered what would become a lifelong investment in promoting employment opportunities for women and improvements in their pay and conditions. They were also passionate activists in the gay and lesbian rights movement of the early 1980s. These paintings not only reflect moments shared during the span of their relationship, but perhaps more importantly, as they were created primarily during retirement, represent the achievement of the financial security that permits retirement in the first place. Their art, which til recently has remained in storage, continues to stand for a belief in the capabilities of women and lesbian relationships. Proceeds from the sale of their paintings go toward the Armstrong and Arthur Charitable Trust for Lesbians.

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