Selma Bortner

Interviewee:  Selma Bortner
Date of birth/age at interview: June 18, 1926/52
Interviewer:  Ivy Silver
Interview date: July 13, 1978
Interview location:  Bortner home in Levittown, PA
Interview length: 44 minutes
Time span discussed: her career

Summary:  Selma’s very active life in printmaking, raising a family, and teaching is explored in depth with strong emphasis on her battle to value her own artistic ability and accomplishments. As an active member in forming the Bucks County Council of Arts, the artist emphasizes the need for a Bucks County Art Museum to more fully represent the past and then current 7,000 Bucks County artists .


Time markers:
00:08 – economic necessity brought to Bucks County; teaching school and pregnant
01:15 – first commercial success while teaching; exhibitions in Philadelphia
02:30 – awareness of art climate of Bucks County and New Hope after move to Levittown
03:44 – her work keeps changing; as female artist personal artistic growth set aside for family; no economic support for female artists, struggle to keep an artistic identity
05:30 – Women’s movement, need to recognize artistic area of life, other women with same needs
07:35 – self-worth growth after gaining income through commercial work
09:08 – passion and focus in printmaking; Philadelphia Museum of Art for first printmaking education; Philadelphia for exciting printmaking stimulation; the Print Club’s support and influence
12:40 – in early 1970s galleries in area not suited to sell her work, no demand created by tourists; little selling of works in Bucks County; no time to show work
15:35 – love of teaching; provincial background of students, encouraging students to grow
18:02 – natural beauty of Bucks County, but isolation; some other teachers not involved in Bucks County
20:15 – printmakers helpful to each other; tendency of women to specialize in printmaking
22:50 – Bucks County Council of Arts and Arts Alliance, board work, Council enumerated 7000 artists; county recognition of artists
25:40 – need for a Bucks County art museum, artists poor organizers of social and political activities; need for artists to socialize;
28:53 – more art groups will naturally occur when needed; Arts Alliance should help
30:52 – museum a major objective for improvement in County
32:40 – prefers face-to-face communication with other artists
36:04 – plight of female artist friends, family needs lead to less art production and less artistic self-worth, women not feeling competent enough
40:18 – continuing class work leads to support and artistic growth

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