ARTIST CONTEMPLATES HER GARDEN EDEN – Betty Miles, with her husband Gary, created a pond and garden backyard paradise, as have artists everywhere across all time. Theirs was on Samish Island. – Photo courtesy of Skagit Land Trust
Betty Batchelor Miles, October 14, 1940 – August 5, 2019. – Photo courtesy of Cathy Stevens
By Thaïs Armstrong
I first met Betty Miles in her ditch. She loved to transplant roadside flowers along the ditch at her Samish Island property so she would have something beautiful to look at whenever she left her home. Creating beauty was a part of her life, whether in the yard, areas for visiting friends, or on the canvas; beauty was a value for Betty.
Betty loved nature and animals and especially loved watching wildlife. Her deep desire was that critters have a place to live. She and her husband Gary made their beautiful 10-acre home, “Deerpond,” into a sanctuary for all kinds of birds and animals. Molly Doran, Skagit Land Trust executive director, noted, “It feels very peaceful there – Betty cultivated that. She also allowed her artistic expression to come out on the land.” Betty moved to Samish Island in 1984 after falling in love with Gary. She loved the property where they lived, in peace and solitude – and with the deer. She whipped around it in a golf cart with tools to whack, bludgeon or trim things back into submission. She was especially proud of her turtles and bright red Flanders poppies growing around her pond, in honor of her brother who died in the war. Skagit Regional Health benefitted greatly from Betty’s generosity of spirit and giving. Their fine art collection boasts more than 10 pieces of Betty’s work. The Skagit Valley Hospital Foundation Development Coordinator, Wendy Ragusa said, “We are grateful to her and her work to promote healing and comfort. Betty, you will be dearly missed.” Betty was proud of being one of the artists included in Claire Swedberg and Rita Hupy’s “In the Valley of Mystic Light, an Oral History of the Skagit Valley Art Scene.” A Cornish College graduate, Betty moved to La Conner in 1969 after spending six years visiting the major museums of the world in Japan, Italy, Greece, Spain, Greek Isles, Israel, Egypt, Mexico, France, England, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Holland, Alaska and Hawaii. Betty began her career in watercolors, often showing Asian influences. She found her voice in acrylics – a medium that perfectly matched her style of bold, bright scenes. She has exhibited at Kirsten Gallery, Nordstrom Stores, Brick Gallery, Hadrian Stone Design Gallery, i.e. Gallery in Edison and more. She built her La Conner float shack in 1971 and was friends with many artists. “Exploration and fullness as a woman were some of her assets. Her centerpiece was her creativity and passion. She was drawn to people who make art,” reflected Edison artist Christine Wallenberg-Skinner. Many a story remains from the iconic Fishtown era of La Conner. “I enjoyed her stories about earlier days, and her affiliation with various Skagit artists and her Seattle friends too. She was a firecracker of a personality, more reclusive in later life, but had the capacity for being a wonderful and true friend. . . . I enjoyed every moment I could be with her,” recollected former MoNA executive director, Greg Robinson. “I saw Betty a few weeks ago and she was very tired but looked beautiful and was as gracious as ever,” Doran shared. Betty will be remembered for her unique personality. Her determination and dedication to her beliefs, values, and perspectives will outlast our memories through her generous art contributions and land development. Betty Miles, née Batchelor, was born October 14, 1940 in San Diego and was a self-claimed “navy brat.” Her parents moved to Shelton, where she grew up. Betty passed away August 5, 2019. The La Conner Weekly News has rented its North Third Street office space from Miles for at least the last four years.