Emmy Award-Winning Casper Filmmaker Produces New Documentary About ‘Steel Sculptress’ Betsy Bower
"I wanted to find my own way," she said. "I didn't want to be a mother. I didn't want to be married to a man. Like, that's not the existence I was hoping to have. I wanted to be in places where people were building cool stuff, or there were just things going on and things to do. I didn't want to be a subservient woman, and I knew that I could never be."
For many people, to know Betsy Bower is to immediately become enraptured by her smile. There are just certain people in the world who emit this...this sense of light; this sense of wonderment. Bowser is one of those people, and it's something that Anthony Stengel, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker from Casper, noticed years ago.
Stengel has partnered with Bower on a number of different projects but their latest project, a documentary for Wyoming PBS, tells Bower's story for a brand new audience.
The documentary, entitled 'The Steel Sculptress' tells the story of a Wyoming woman who builds molds and breaks them.
"I've been working with Wyoming PBS for a while," Stengel told K2 Radio News. "This will be the third one for them. I really like to do character doc pieces and Betsy and I have worked together, and I've known her, for a long time. So it just felt like she was kind of the next story I wanted to tell and the next person I wanted to cover."
Previously, Stengel produced pieces about fire spinner Miranda Bressler, and neon light artist Connie Morgan. Now, with his piece on Bower, Stengel has told the stories of three Wyoming women, three Wyoming artists, who are blazing their own path. And they're doing it in very unconventional ways.
"These last three pieces that I've done for Wyoming PBS have all been about artists; particularly, all three of them were female artists," Stengel said. "I just want people to open their minds to less traditional things or to not be so closed off to new and different things. That's what hope; that someone would maybe be inspired to see these things through some of my work, and just life in general."
The project was a true partnership between Stengel and Bower; both of whom have worked hard to improve at their craft over the years.
"This opportunity wouldn't have happened anywhere else except Casper," Bower said. "Anthony has gotten so good at his craft and, I don't know, I guess I've spent a few decades getting good at my craft too. So to be able to work with someone on his level, who has put in the work and who has this standard for himself - to be a part of someone doing that is just unreal. It's solid gold."
And if anybody knows about metallurgic properties, it's Bower. She has been, for much of her adult life, working with metal to create incredible pieces of art.
In the video, Bower is seen driving around Casper, saying 'I built that.' There are several pieces throughout town that Bower commissioned. She's recently been featured in an exhibition at The Nicolaysen Art Museum as well. Bower is an artist but she also wants to be a teacher; showing others how to do what she does.
"My intention for this was to teach classes and I had almost lost sight of that because I had been working on so many things and going in all these directions, and still trying to figure out if Casper felt right as a home base. Like, at times I'm longing for my Burning Man friends in San Diego and other places; that connection and that inspiration and that sort of community. But I also want to incubate that same thing here and create a chance for people to do art together here in Casper."
It was while filming the documentary with Stengel that Bower realized these things about herself and those realizations, she said, were the biggest gifts to come out of the entire production.
"I was kind of at odds with myself," she said. "But then, I talked to Anthony about a lot of this stuff on camera, and a lot off camera. And the way he edited it...when I watched it, I wasn't sure what was going to come out of it because I felt like I was all over the place. But the way he edited it and it came together in such a succinct way that I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is my purpose. This is what I've always told myself I wanted.' And it's funny that, like, all of the chaos of my thoughts versus who I really am - he was able to see it and capture it and bring that through."
That's part of what Stengel does with his work. He likes to tell stories of Wyoming - hence his partnership with Wyoming PBS- but he's not content to just scratch the surface of a subject; he likes to find the heart stuff as well.
"That's what I've really been trying to lean into," Stengel said. "Of course I want to, like, get cool shots of her doing what she does and showcase her artwork. But I also kind of wanted to dig deeper and find out about her story, her struggles, what's she's trying to achieve. It just makes her a more interesting story."
And, as this documentary proved, Bower is most certainly an interesting story. These days, Bower wants to use her story to teach others and to inspire others, whether they want to be a metal artist, a rock star, an astronaut, or something else entirely.
"Recognizing that this is what I can do, and the rest is out of my control is huge," Bower said. "And I feel like if all of us could recognize that - that what we do matters, even if it's small - we could change the world. Gandhi said 'Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it's very important that you do it.' If we all just do our part, the world would be a better place. I feel like I'm doing mine, I feel like you're doing yours, and I feel like Anthony is doing his. And if we all could just take a step towards purpose and meaning, no matter what it is, then a massive change would happen in a single step, if we all took it together."
The Steel Sculptress can be viewed in its entirety below: