Betty Black

Text & artwork Betty Black     


Betty Black started off as a name, just a made up name. An alter-ego that I created for myself in an attempt to perfect one distinctive style of work, rather than end up with a variety of mediocre crap, after having just coasted through a pointless Illustration degree back in 2008.


Only four short years ago on paper, but in reality all of the dimensional shifts and time travel that I’ve experienced since make it seem like another lifetime completely. I can vaguely remember some things. A full time job? My own studio apartment? My Independence? Yes, back then Betty Black was just a made up name. But then my life slowly descended into Hell. And I got to meet her in person. First of all I lost the job and then of course the apartment had to go. I was forced to move back home into the terrible purple bedroom of my teenage self-loathing and, not content with imprisoning me inside a vile indigo box, the fates apparently thought I needed to be taught a much greater lesson in humility, inflicting upon me an impressively revolting medical anomaly which involved a number of degrading surgeries and agonisingly dull stints in beige waiting rooms.

I could neither believe nor understand what was happening to my body and so I fled. I absconded deep into my delirious imagination and firmly locked the door behind me. All I wanted to do was hide behind my new name. I took comfort in sadistically drowning paper in the blackest of black ink, leaving minimal white space for the strange scenarios and characters that seemed to mysteriously well up inside of me. I read stacks of Japanese Ero-guru comics and erotic novels by Von- Sacher Masoch, Anais Nin and the Marquis de Sade to name but a few. I buried myself beneath tomes of folklore, mythology and black magic and I gorged my eyes upon the tangible darkness of Film Noir, Pulpy sexy 50’s B-movies and grotesque eastern horror films.

But try as I might there was something missing from my work, some kind of key transcendental factor was lacking. I couldn’t seem to expand my ideas fully. I was fenced in, blocked – but by what? What was holding me back? “It’s really not good enough to just start writing new initials on your pictures and think that that’s all there is to it, you know?” I heard my own voice whisper in my ear. “I’m afraid that it all goes much, much deeper than that.” My heart stopped and my eyes bulged. I reeled around in total shock only to come face to face with myself, my exact double. Only this version of me was sharply dressed in a black Chanel suit with her hair perfectly coiffed and lips the color of dried blood.

“You can’t just call yourself Betty Black. You have to understand how to be Betty Black.” She tried to smile at me but all she was capable of was an evil grin. “What’s wrong? Isn’t this how you pictured yourself as me?!” “You know it is…” I managed to gasp. She laughed. “Of course I do. I’ve been around for a lot longer than some silly nickname has! I am the darkest part of your heart and The Monster in your mind. I’ve always been here darling, and tonight I’m going to show you a few things to get you on the right track.”


‘I took comfort in sadistically drowning paper in the blackest of black ink.’

She took me by the hand and pulled me straight into another state of being. She showed me things that I had only ever caught glimpses of in dreams – there was Lucifer’s harem, with its jet black Onyx walls and opulent lacquered torture devices. Giant women with planet sized heads made of marble skewered human souls with meter-long stiletto heels, while Opera music played softly in the background. We traveled to London in 1856 and stole inside the house of an infamous coven. We peered into violently chintzy rooms whilst witches that looked like porcelain dolls – coldly perfect with long, silken hair – fondly degraded initiates with blindfolds and birch whips upon layers of velvet, silk and lace.

She led me into a Japanese summer garden with sweet, overwhelming fragrances and flurries of peach blossom spiraling into the air. Courtesans of the Sun Emperor sat in giant peach halves, partially dressed in heavy, gorgeous Kimonos which were embroidered with intricate patterns and flowers. They made love to each other lazily, licking the dewy peach juice from each other’s golden skin in the dappled light. Then we spied on a rich American heiress in 1925 as she lounged by her pool wearing nothing but a mink coat and blowing rings of opium smoke at a staunch looking Butler. We giggled as she ordered two maids to simultaneously fellate him because “He looked as goddamn bored as she felt.”

Finally, after exhausting ourselves in the black forest with a bunch of insatiable, orgiastic tree nymphs she took me to a place called ‘The house at the end of the world’, a raunchy bar which transcended time and space and that I would be able to get back home from easily, or so she said. We ordered whiskey sours and watched an incredibly oily and voluptuous burlesque dancer twirl two silver octopuses from her breasts. “So even though you’ve really only had a tiny peep into the infinite void of creation tonight, do you see how important it was even just to visit?” She knocked back her drink and lit a cigarette. “It’s the boiling carnal soup of madness where all real ideas come from and you can’t really expect to create any kind of decent, honest art without coming here and seeing it for yourself.

You can’t just guess at this stuff. It’s like I said, you can’t just call yourself Betty Black, you have to be Betty Black and now you know how to get here, you know how to do that. “ “Thank you for showing me…” I began to gush. “I wouldn’t thank me until you look this good”, she interrupted, looking at my clothes with a mix of disgust and confusion. “You need to get a suit like this one, bitch.” And with that she vanished into thin air! I felt like a well of perfect knowledge and infinite vision. I had shed my dead skin and finally, truly become Betty Black in the flesh. A new force of creative will bubbled up inside of me like a freshly opened bottle of champagne and I was giddy with inspiration. But, although on some level I had achieved inner contentment, deep in the back of my mind – I was indeed still thinking about that bitches amazing Chanel suit.


Related articles

Nadia Naveau

From the moment I started at the academy I noticed that sculpting was very demanding on both a physical and a psychological level. This has never diminished. I very much like what I do, but a large percentage of my practice involves…..

read more

Bernard Perlin

In One-Man Show, Michael Schreiber chronicles the storied life, illustrious friends and lovers, and astounding adventures of Bernard Perlin through no-holds-barred interviews with the artist, candid excerpts from Perlin’s unpublished…..

read more

Faryda Moumouh

Since I was young I was already drawing, watching, registering details from the things I saw. It was an urge and I had the feeling I was chosen by a visual language, which I pursued. I went to art school when I was 14 and it made me discover…..

read more

Agustin Martinez

“Dancers don’t always know what they are doing”, “Revelations from a sailor from Rotterdam” and “The past is alert and ready” are just a few of the many intriguing titles of the work by collagist Agustin Martinez; a fellow countryman of Pablo Picasso…..

read more

George Quaintance

George Quaintance was an artist ahead of his time, a man who forged several successful careers, yet never enjoyed mainstream fame. Had he been born a few decades later, we might know him today as a multi-tasking celebrity stylist, as a coach…..

read more

Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979) was a key figure in the Parisian avant-garde, whose vivid and colorful work spanned painting, fashion and design. Tate Modern presents the first UK retrospective to assess the breadth of her vibrant artistic…..

read more

Rurru Mipanochia

Rurru Mipanochia is a 25 year old, Mexican illustrator. Her drawings represent ancient pre-Hispanic sexual deities, transvestites and transseksuals, in order to promote dissident sexualities and to create a visual questioning about beauty…..

read more

Allen Jones

Three women, wearing black leather fetish gear, produced by the same company that supplied Diana Rigg’s costumes in The Avengers. One of them is on all fours and the glass top on her back awaits your drink. The second one wears thigh high…..

read more


Paper-cuts originated in Eastern Han Dynasty China (AD 25-220) and are hung on windows or doors for good luck. But instead of the usual decorative flowers and birds, Xiyadie, whose pseudonym means ‘Siberian Butterfly’, portrays graphic and…..

read more


Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven is known for creating a diverse body of work in painting, sculpture and installation that has made her among the most important Belgian artists of her generation. She embraces a complex array of subjects, including alchemy,…..

read more

Jennifer Nehrbass

Someone once wrote that she was dismantling the roles and stereotypes of beauty and femininity, examining the psychology that leads women to go to extremes to maintain beauty and style. Needless to say that our brain got tickled so we…..

read more




Et Alors? magazine. A global celebration of diversity.