Artist Interviews 2022

Betsy Enzensberger  
By Laura Siebold

You will be able to spot Betsy Enzensberger’s art from afar, as those giant ice cream popsicles are hard to miss. It was not even a question that I had to interview Betsy for our anniversary issue. In her interview, Betsy tells us about the sculptural and fine art scope of her work, the process behind creating her differently shaped resin popsicle sculptures, and the intentional effortless imperfections of her art. Betsy introduces us to different upcoming collaborations with other artists, as well as the universal factor of joy ice cream brings to people all over the world. Betsy’s art brightens up the art world. Her studio in the Palm Springs area which was open to the public during Desert Open Studios and allowed me a unique glimpse inside her working process, allows Betsy to participate in the magic of this artistic community. Betsy Enzensberger is based in the Greater Palm Springs area, California.

Betsy, I love ice cream, so I was instantly drawn to your giant, colored popsicle sculptures that were on display at the LA Art Show in January 2022. When did you first start creating your Original Melting PopsTM series and how did you come up with the idea? 

Isn’t ice cream the best? It’s this thing that brings us joy when we taste its sweetness. While traveling the world, I found that most cultures have some sort of a frozen sweet treat. What a beautiful thing it is that we can connect with people worldwide over something as simple as ice cream. The unifying factor of the ice cream itself is a big theme in my work.  I began to create my Original Melting Pops™ in 2016. At first I made ice cream cone sculptures. They were so cute and delectable. After I made about 6, I asked a friend from the art critic world to come over and look at them. I needed his opinion because I wasn’t sure if anyone would take this new idea seriously or not. You know? I mean, I never want to be considered a “crafter” or someone who makes “toys”. My goal is to be considered a well-respected, skilled, “fine-artist” and to eventually be considered for a museum show. That’s why I make sure that the work that I create is sculptural, well-designed, and highly refined. My friend said that he loved the new sculptures and he encouraged me to have an exhibit to debut them to the community. Within a year, I had several art exhibits in Los Angeles with these sculptures and the reactions were mostly positive.  How did I settle on this ice pop shape, you ask? Well, a different friend asked me to make her a red popsicle because it was her favorite treat as a child. I created her a seemingly delicious, shiny, melty, red pop and she loved it. When I looked at the rectangular shape of that sculpture, I decided that I would be able to create more designs within that ice pop shape versus the ice cream cone. This is why I have shifted from ice cream to ice pops.  Over the years, even the ice pop shapes have evolved. They have become more refined, and even growing in size. The evolution of my sculptures is what keeps me interested in this series. Each new shape / size requires a new set of skills in order to sculpt it. I’m always learning new things so that I can create all the designs that I dream up. It’s quite challenging to work with resins. In the end, the challenge is what interests me most about sculpting.

Your pop art sculptures come in many different creative variations and sizes. Can you tell us a little about the process behind creating your “Popsicle Art”? How long does the process take for the various sizes and how do choose which elements you incorporate into the artwork? Is each popsicle created with a specific intention in mind? 

That’s a tough question to answer. It depends on the specific piece. Some of my work takes 7 days to make, other works take 2 months to make. It all depends on environmental conditions, how many layers the piece has, what type of casting I’m doing, and the size of the sculpture. For example: some of my 5” tall pieces take over 3 weeks to make, while my 6-foot-tall sculptures generally take about 2 months. I do think it’s important to know how much time and effort I put into each and every sculpture. Nothing is accidental, although it may appear that way. I try to make my work appear effortlessly imperfect, yet every bit of it is intentional.

We are curious about your background. Did art play a role in your upbringing? What made you choose the profession of the artist? 

Oh yes. As a child, all I ever did was make things. My bedroom walls were covered with layers upon layers of paint from murals. When I ran out of wall space, I painted my bedroom carpet. I excelled in art in High School, studied abstract painting in college, and then learned to sculpt with the guidance of the renowned sculptor Eric Johnson, located in San Pedro, CA. So, as I moved through life, art was always the driving factor. After my mentorship with Eric, I found my true calling: sculpting with resins.

You collaborated with many different artists with the result of special popsicle sculptures like the “Purse & Sculpture Combo” with The File. What was your favorite collaboration and why? What did you learn from these collaborations? 

How do I pick? They are all so unique. I’ve worked continuously with the Queen of Crystal, Lauren Lyle. She completely encrusts my sculptures with Swarovski crystals. What I love about working with her is that we have frequent video chats where we brainstorm ideas. She’s become a friend and a source of encouragement for me. I’m really looking forward to our next project which is almost finished. Stay tuned… As for upcoming projects: I’m working with an Edinburgh-based bronze sculptor, James Howden, on two designs which is very exciting. We just released the “Boomsicle” which is a melting grenade ice pop. It’s so incredible in bronze - it truly takes my breath away. Working in bronze is a hazy dream of mine. I don’t ever intend to switch mediums, but I would love to observe someone else creating in bronze. Since James is working in Scotland, he has sent me pictures of the entire process. It’s intense, much like my process, but in a different way.  Another project I’m finishing up is with a Polish fabric artist, Alicja Kozlowska. Alicja has embroidered these amazingly intricate ice pop wrappers out of fabric, string, and metal foil to accompany my melting ice pop splats. The wrapper fabric in contrast to the shiny resin pop is really cool. It’s truly something you need to see in person to appreciate. 

You’ve exhibited both nationally and internationally. Do you think that your art speaks a universal language or is perceived differently by communities and countries? 

Absolutely. Ice cream or ice pops are found all over the world. The flavors and shapes vary, but the reward is always the same: big smiles.

Your intention to evoke both joy and inspire nostalgia by the sight of a common sweet treat, frozen in resin, seems especially needed in those crazy times we live in. Have the pandemic and recent world events had an impact on your creative expression? How do you define your role as an artist in contemporary times? 

The biggest effect that the pandemic had on my work was allowing me more time to create it. There were so many months that we couldn’t interact with others. I secretly loved that because I was able to spend so much time dreaming up new designs. While my work has always had a joyful impact on others, I feel that people really began to connect with it on a deeper level during the pandemic. We all needed some brightness during those tough times. I’m glad I was able to provide that either in sculpture form or just a quick visual in Instagram. Your work includes Melting Hearts and Melting Popsicles. You ask on your website: “Why are they melting? This element begs for the sculptures to be rescued.” 
Does art have the power to rescue us?  Since art evokes emotion, I suppose it has the power to rescue us or destroy us. 

Your studio is located in Palm Springs, CA, a city which is known as an enclave of creativity in the desert. In your opinion – what is special about this place and why did you decide to open your studio there?  

I lived and worked in Los Angeles for 18 years. It was what I needed at that time in my life, but now I prefer the calm of the desert. My studio is in Palm Springs for one reason only. I love this town. Palm Springs has a sense of magic that I can’t describe. You really need to experience it to understand it.  As for my studio, it’s not open to the public. It really is just a workspace for me. Fortunately, the weather is ideal for working with resin most of the year - Hot and dry is a good combination for this material. So, I make each morning into a regular workday and I spend a lot of time outside with my dogs in the afternoon.

What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?  

My five-year plan, huh? Well, I have a few big projects in the works. These projects might take 5 years to accomplish. It’s hard to say right now. Other than that, I want to just keep refining my skills and continue making work that sets me apart from others. 

If you could choose any place in the world to exhibit your art, what would be your choice and why?  

I get asked this question a lot. Since I’ve had the pleasure of exhibiting throughout the US and Europe, I’m hoping to show more in Asia. Perhaps Japan or Singapore. Japan was one of the most amazing places to visit. While I have no idea if my art would resonate with collectors there, I do need an excuse to go back. 

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