Art teacher Betsy Dijulio showcases her art in new Norfolk exhibit

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Art teacher Betsy Dijulio showcases her art in new Norfolk exhibit

Art by Betsy Dijulio.

Art by Betsy Dijulio.

Art by Betsy Dijulio.

Art by Betsy Dijulio.

Bella Coulter, Staff Writer

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By Bella Coulter

Betsy Dijulio turned up the radio, as she tuned into her favorite station. She listened attentively as the reporters discussed a tragic, yet unfortunately very common topic: the Me Too movement. A young, African-American woman at a historically black college came on, speaking about the atmosphere at college campuses that prevents women from speaking out.

“She said that the women were afraid to speak out because they were told by adults that these men had worked hard to get into college, that this was their one chance at a successful adult life, and they shouldn’t ruin that by damaging their reputation by coming out with these allegations of abuse,” said Dijulio, a well-renowned art teacher at PA.

As soon as she heard this, inspiration struck. She had the idea for her next piece.

Dijulio recently was a featured artist at a gallery opening in Norfolk, where she and two other artists explored the Me Too movement through their unique styles and voices. 

Art by Betsy Dijulio.

Their art trio consisted of two females and one male to get perspectives from both sides of the issue.

“[Knox Garvin] works in photography and sculpture and [Anne Bousquet’s] more graphic design,” Dijulio said. “Mine’s somewhere in the middle so it was a nice blend.”

When dealing with an issue as heavy as the Me Too movement, it was essential that the artists find an angle. None of them wanted to exhibit the extreme violence and violation side of the issue. They preferred hinting at it through symbolism and subtle design choices.

“We didn’t want to deal with the real physical abuse side of the Me Too movement, more like the psychological conditions that prevail in our society that have allowed women to be abused,” Dijulio said. 

The artists submitted their idea to the owners of the exhibit space around a year ago, and spent the remainder of the year piecing together their work. 

In Dijulio’s pieces, she chose to focus on the Me Too movement from the perspectives of different cultures. 

“There’s five pieces, and one clearly deals with African-American women, one clearly deals with Middle-Eastern women, one’s with Native American, one for Caucasian women, like that,” Dijulio said. “They’re heavily infused with symbolism and metaphor about being victimized, about being unable to speak, being expected by society to look and behave a certain way even in the face of abuse by men.”

One of the elements of her work that jumped out at people was the pleasant expressions on the women’s faces. In the midst of all of the abuse and suppression, the women were indifferent, some of them even looking happy.

“They’re expected to go on as if nothing has happened, and put a good face forward and act as though everything is okay,” said Dijulio. 

Art by Betsy Dijulio.

In order to create these reflective pieces, Dijulio draws inspiration from seemingly every source imaginable. One of her main sources is the most unlikely of places: a box of trinkets she’s collected from dog walks.

When she went to create her work, she paid a visit to her box and immediately found objects that would work.

“When I pulled some objects out of this box, they all just spoke to each other,” Dijulio said. “They were in the same color palette, kind of oranges and grays.”

She also textures her work with simple, household items like teabags and cheesecloth. Everything she uses is a symbol, depicting the ultimate message of the feminine struggle.

After a year of crafting her art, the three artists came together to see how it looked, and were totally blown away. 

“It was amazing how it looked together,” Dijulio said.

The gallery can be viewed at an offsite Norfolk Arts gallery at MacArthur Mall through November 29, 2019.