Altered Art: Exploring The Freedom To Play



"The Presence of Absence" a portrait of a mermaid with shoes hangs in the hall leading into Beth Rimmer's studio.

Torn mulberry paper dipped in melted embossing powder, mica flakes, spray painted seaweed, yarns and threads make up the mermaid and her undersea world.

"If you like playing, altered art is the kind of art you would love doing," Rimmer said. "There are no rules. It can come out of or be anything you want to say. It seems to be a very woman-centered art which is kind of neat."

She likes doing torsos because they represent people.

"I found this box of pictures that stimulated me to do ‘Betty's Attic' because I have a lot of curiosity about my mother. When you are a teenager you don't really care about the person your parent is. There are all these questions I have and things about her I wish I knew."

Her mother died when she was 15.

Rimmer did not consciously choose the sheet music that adorns part of the torso, but said her mother liked music.

"My mother was raised in a very wealthy home where they had servants, so I tried to give it a Victorian look," she said.

A little book nestles in the torso's right hip, meant to be pulled out and opened.

Inside is a photo of Rimmer's mother flying an airplane.

"And I love this picture of her," Rimmer said, as she points out the oval gilt frame that surrounds a photo of Betty as a toddler with a huge grin. Rimmer placed it on the torso's navel.

"I love altered art because it is mixed media," she said. "You are not limited just by using pigments or paper, you get to use everything you can get your hands on."


This altered chest, and three other altered artworks by Beth Rimmer are featured in the current winter issue of Somerset Studio Gallery magazine.

She might use bubble wrap and make stamps to add texture to a background or her computer to design intricate stencils or alcohol ink to create Batiks on photo paper.

"I am a paper junkie, if you scrapbook at all you will understand and I could not live without my drill," she adds.

The studio looks southwest onto the Granite Dells so what was once a formal dining room, is now used on a daily basis.

A bare two foot tall artist's mannequin draped in a small feather boa looks out one window until Rimmer decides what she wants it to become.

Backed against another is a wild torso. Of it, Rimmer says, "I haven't finished the gypsy torso, or maybe I have, you can overkill, too."

Rimmer studied art history in college, but decided health care was a more realistic profession. She was a nurse for 30 years.

"I am still an obligated volunteer several days a week in my husband's office," she said.

Art found her again two years ago when chemotherapy treatments forced her to slow down and made her hands to shake.

She joined the altered art group at Paper and Metal Scrappers and found that shaking hands were not a barrier to creativity.

"It blew my mind when the magazines called. I haven't been doing this very long," she said.

But she finds peace in her work and is always looking for the next gift to create or new fun medium to add to her repertoire.


Name: Beth Rimmer

Medium: Altered Art

Magazine features: bi-annual Somerset Studio Gallery and Legacy, Scrapbooking and Heritage Art Redefined.

Advice to altered artists: There are some incredible artists in this town whose work I am in awe of and they haven't sent anything in (to magazines.) They should. I hope they will. Sharing is what art is all about. And we all like to share our ideas. Be true to your style.

Most proud of: Betty's Attic

Upcoming project: Room screens.

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