Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeta Betinski.
Elizabeta, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I landed in LA in 1999 from Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, via a brief stint in Washington State where I spent my undergraduate college days. My first years in LA were spent working for local artists in Venice, primarily the infamous OG of street art, Robbie Conal. In 2003 I opened a gallery, Overtones, in the shadow of the 405 Fwy, on the edge of Culver City. I knew I had no ambitions to be a dealer which almost from the start meant that Overtones would have an expiration date but it actually ended up lasting a lot longer than I expected.
Over a 7 year period, the gallery presented over 70 national and international artists in 44 exhibitions. While running the gallery (mostly as a one-woman-band), I also took any opportunity that presented itself to curate exhibitions outside of the expected confines of a gallery’s white-box environment. This interest in how art functions in the “real world” is still a passion of mine and it fueled my interest in curating exhibitions at the Los Angeles International Airport and serving as an Executive Director of the inaugural Desert X, a site-specific biennial that launched in the California desert in 2017.
Upon closing Overtones in 2010, I took some time to feed my own creativity and went back to school graduating in the summer of 2012 with an MFA in Creative Writing. My work on my first book, Tattoo, was interrupted in the fall of 2014 when my proposal for a collateral exhibition at the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy was accepted to take official part in the 2015 iteration of what is still the largest international art happening of its kind, the infamous La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition, titled “We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles” premiered at the Venice Biennale in May 2015 and, for the first time on this international stage, presented the work of some of the most inventive artists living and working in Los Angeles.
The exhibition received great reviews and close to 100,000 visitors, becoming the first large project of bardoLA, a nonprofit arts organization I founded to serve as a vehicle for the international exchange of arts and culture. While my work on Desert X in 2016-2017 meant a hiatus for bardoLA, the organization is now again preparing to produce another international art project. And, yes, I’m also back to writing and getting Tattoo ready for publication.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been anything but a smooth road but the struggles have been worth it as they are always opportunities to grow and extend myself beyond imaginary limitations.
International projects are tricky in many ways – from logistics to financing to various personalities that are a part of any given adventure. Over time I’ve been able to build up my stamina so that I don’t even see struggles as a problem – they are now simply an invitation to get more creative on the journey.
As a writer, I constantly encounter the challenge of finding the time I need to write: with the business of life in LA and my involvement in the visual arts, plus the things we all deal with now – the overload of information and social media, it has taken me longer than I would have liked to establish a writing schedule for myself.
bardoLA – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
bardoLA is a Los Angeles based nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting international exchange of arts and culture via traveling exhibitions and events. It is inspired by the Tibetan Buddhist concept of “bardo” as the intermediate state between two lives on Earth.
According to Tibetan tradition, “bardo” is a space of great potential for liberation and enlightenment: when one’s consciousness is not bound to a physical body, it is believed to be open to transcendental insight. However, “bardo” is also a potentially dangerous ground as its uncertain vastness likewise allows for our less desired traits to rise to the surface and challenge us. In its essence, “bardo” is a place of change where our usual way of life becomes suspended, a place that can be both exhilarating and frightening at the same time, but, fundamentally, one that provides us with an opportunity to grow.
bardoLA draws from this ancient concept of the in-between space with a vision to encourage creative exploration, artistic collaboration on an international level, and innovation fueled by a sense of wonder. bardoLA, while based in Los Angeles and in particular supportive of the city’s creative community, is not attached to any traditional exhibition space, striving instead to remain fluid and open to change, and thus free to move and manifest in diverse environments.
In a lot of ways, bardoLA is a mirror of my creative interests and path in life. As an immigrant and now a citizen of two countries, I wanted to establish an entity that can expand beyond myself, to include a community of creative people, and provide a platform for inspired art projects. bardoLA also embodies my life philosophy that “Anything is possible.” All of my biggest and most satisfying accomplishments began by someone declaring to me that they were “impossible” to materialize – I’ve tested that “impossible” so many times now that I can say for certain that it does not exist.
So, if I’m known for anything, it is that I live my life with a belief that we are all capable of a lot more than we may be inclined to think, and that creative pursuits are the most fertile ground I’ve found to push through the boundaries of what (only initially) seems “impossible.”
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I keep my definition of success really fluid because it changes from project to project. The most important thing for me is to find what surfers call the “sweet spot” – where I can navigate challenges and enjoy the highlights without getting attached to either.
After 20 years of working in the Los Angeles and international art world, I find that it is of essential importance to my wellbeing and continued creativity to not define my success through external markers or other people’s definitions/expectations. If I can be present in what I am doing and feel inspired, alive, and creatively and genuinely connected to others while I’m doing it – whatever that “it” happens to be at any given time – I feel successful.
- Website: http://www.bardoLA.org
- Email: hello@bardoLA.org
- Instagram: @bardo_LA
- Other: @elizabeta14
©BrandyEveAllen, ©laBiennalediVenezia2015, ©LAWA LAX Art Initiative