Skip to content

May we suggest

Features / September 1, 1998

Betty Goodwin: Secrets and Lies

“I’ll tell you.”

“I don’t usually tell people, but I’ll tell you.”

“But if you write about it, you must find a way of telling it without telling it. Or you must forget it in fifteen seconds.”

That is Betty Goodwin speaking. She is, among other people who can still love art for its toughness as much as its beauty, one of our most celebrated artists, but she is far from a household name, even at seventy-five, even after years of arduous work. I have asked her what it was that exploded her into creativity, that suddenly seemed to transform what had been years of modest productivity and the occasional group show into critical acclaim, an international reputation and, this November, a retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

She answers the question—reluctantly, a little haltingly, conjuringly. We sometimes hold the simplest truths as secrets, and there is nothing to shock in what she tells me. There is, however, a condition—“you must find a way of telling it without telling it.”

What follows are not her words. It is not what she told me. It is not what happened. But it is true.

So begins our Fall 1998 cover story. To keep reading, view a PDF of the entire article.