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St. Croix Artist Donates 72 Paintings to Hospital

Aug. 29, 2008 — Well-known local artist Betsy Campen says she feels art can be used as therapy, so Friday she gave 72 framed paintings valued at $23,000 to the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and the V.I. Cardiac Center.
"Words cannot express our pleasure to decorate the hospital and lift the spirits of patients and visitors," said Gregory Calliste, chief executive officer of Juan F. Luis Hospital.
Campen donated one original and the rest are giclées, which are computer-generated prints. The original is a brightly colored oil painting of lifelike mocko jumbies named "Jumbies Dem" that is four feet by six feet and valued at $6,000.
"We really appreciate the paintings, and I know they will appreciate in value, too," said Rashidi Clenance, public relations and fund-raising officer for the hospital.
The donated giclées included a series of a dozen flowers, each 14 by 14 inches. Some of the flowers in the series are the bright yellow ginger Thomas, a red hibiscus, dark orange royal Poinciana and a dark pink frangipani.
"St. Croix has the most beautiful flowers," Campen said. "All of St. Croix is beautiful — it's like a Kodak Moment here every day."
The paintings also included a series of orchids, scenes of Christiansted Harbor and depictions of buildings in Christiansted. Also donated was a painting of the back of a candy apple red 1963 Chevy Impala. She paints the shiny chrome of the bumper with such detail that the viewer can see a reflection of her in the bumper taking the picture. She said she likes to paint reflections.
Campen classifies her work as photo-realism and primarily works in oils and watercolors. She works strictly from photographs. Painting directly from nature presents some problems, she said. Shadows on one side of an object when a painting is started may be on the other side before it is complete, she said.
The artist started painting at age 3. She took her first formal art class at 9 and sold her first painting at 12. She graduated from the University of Richmond in 1975 and a year later moved to St. Croix. When she left Virginia she was just a Sunday painter, Campen says. After Hurricane Hugo, Campen decided she didn't want to push a broom — she wanted to push a brush, said her husband, Jim Bierowski, who does the framing. She was inspired by the Mexican creeper, one of the first flowers to take hold after the hurricane, he said.
Campen paints eight hours just about every day. Bierowski and Campen own the Gallows Bay Frame Shop, located in Gallows Bay, Christiansted.
"Art is good therapy — it's like taking a happiness pill," Campen said.
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