Cutting through news to find poetry, art

While some might enjoy the newspaper over a cup of coffee, Bette McIntire has a different purpose for herLos Angeles Times.

For the last five years, the Sawdust Art Festival artist has made her art from the pages of the daily paper, cutting out words to string together a poem and illustrating the theme by hand — using paint, crayons and handmade paper, or stamps.

The newspaper has the "raw ingredients of the day," she said.

It's how you use those ingredients, she said, that makes a difference. She takes these pieces and forms what she calls an "underground poem."

She cuts out words from the front page first, because she said it tends to have harder headlines and the text is larger. As she pulls words, a theme appears.

"Any random day you can find a poem in the news," she said.

Originally a writer, McIntire, 61, never intended to make a living with her art and didn't begin in earnest until five years ago.

She had always admired Robert Rauschenberg, the midcentury abstract expressionist who sometimes used found objects in his work. After leaving a 2006 Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit of his in L.A., she felt inspired.

With a bachelor's in English from UCLA and a master's in philosophy of religion from Claremont, McIntire said her art has been a way to express her personal philosophy.

She describes the process as reimagining the world. Some pieces will have more somber themes, but in the end there's always some hope, such as flowers colored in crayon reaching toward the sky.

"The reason sorrow is beautiful is because you care so much," she said. "You can make something good out of everything."

Her husband, Glenn McIntire, has been supportive from the start, helping her land her first show at Bistango Restaurant in Irvine.

He's a graphic artist and a painter, and immediately noticed that her pieces were meant to be seen.

"When he came home and saw them, he said, 'You did these?'" McIntire recalled with a laugh.

Glenn McIntire introduced an art representative to her work and reported back to his wife that she had called them "small treasures." McIntire couldn't believe it.

Now she's trying to do one piece for every day of the year. She's on No. 295.

McIntire said she's been surprised by buyers' reactions. Some have cried and others have shown immediate connections to images or words in the pieces.

She also recently found out she'll be in a Walter Foster art instruction book on mixed media, which will be released in January.

"It's been one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life, besides raising children," she said. "It's exciting to think when I started this I was 56 years old."

McIntire is at booth No. 243 at the Sawdust Art Festival, and her art is available at

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