Bettye Hamblen Turner has always been fascinated with horses and they are a theme running through her work. She was attracted by their shape and movement from a very early age and studied equine anatomy, herd behaviour and the horse’s role in human history.
She works as a sculptor primarily using steel and sometimes combined with found or discarded objects. Bettye seeks to express the interface of the frontier with the urban and the past with the present. She believes that it is the movement and the dignity of horses that reflects the merging of the old and the new.
As a child she was always involved with animals including rabbits, goats, a pony and even a raccoon! She also experienced hunting with her father and brothers. She credits her mother for encouraging her interest in art.
The family moved to San Angelo just before Bettye started junior high and she quickly became fascinated by the horses of West Texas. She learned to ride both English and Western style and worked on a ranch owned by a family friend. She soon had her own horse and her desire to depict the horse in some form or other became something of an obsession.
Bettye went on to study art in college with her focus being on painting and design. She found working in two dimensions to be frustrating and limiting. She eventually decided to dedicate her time to sculpture and bought an ideal house and workshop specifically for that purpose.
The Metal Bull is located in Johnson City and is one of a series of sculptures by the artist created from recycled car and motorcycle parts. This is the fifth in the Texas Longhorn Bull collection, titled “Palladin”.
The bull was created from stainless steel and chrome auto parts using both hot and cold bending. Hamblen employs highly skilled welding techniques to help prevent corrosion of the joints over time. At the same time, the carbon steel is allowed to rust so that the sculpture changes through the years.
More recently, Bettye has returned to horses as the source of inspiration for her work. Mimi and Sophia are both in private collections, made from steel and copper with a carbon steel base.
Miracelli (above) took about 16 months to create and measures 27” x 23” made from stainless steel and copper. Bettye is very keen to avoid waste and prides herself on recycling old and discarded materials that would otherwise go to waste. She regards herself very much as an eco-artist.