Friday, November 6, 2009

“De-concealing:” An Interview with Barbara Bernstein

Drawing and installation artist, Barbara Bernstein will visit Chester College of New England Tuesday, November 10 as part of the visiting artist symposium. She will lecture in the Wadleigh Library Conference Room from 2:30-4 p.m. Bernstein has studied at the Rhode Island School of Design Bachelor’s in the Arts program, The University of New Mexico MA and MFA programs and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is the artist-in-residence at the Virginia center for creative arts. Recently, her installation show, Things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise, exhibited at the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA.
SO Good staff member Eric Notaro, had the opportunity to speak with her about her artistic process.

Eric Nota
ro: Utilizing both traditional and nontraditional techniques and influences, how do you decide when a piece needs more of a traditional touch versus one that is more experimental?
Barbara Bernstein: Ideally, it’s the work that decides, not me. My job is to get out of the way, listen to the work and respond.

EN: Line, shape and perspective are elements you cite as being both “sustained and challenged by.” What is it about these elements that interest you?
BB: These principals are basic, traditional tenants of western art. As such I was steeped in them in my visual art studies. However, Mark Twain said, “Don’t let your education get in the way of your learning.” I like that sentiment.

EN: You note illusion, suspension of disbelief and other obscuring qualities as a major inspiration. What is it that draws you to the unknown and mysterious as a theme in your work?
BB: The German philosopher [Martin] Heidegger addresses issues of revealing and what he calls “de-concealing.” I like the duality and interdependency of that— like a teacup and the inside of the teacup.

EN: Among your influences, you note “Science, philosophy and religion via contemporary aesthetic perception […]” Are these influences based on simply the idea of empirical discovery or are there specific philosophies, scientific findings and viewpoints you have in mind?
BB: Western and Eastern philosophies, poets and religions have interested me since high school. I have collaborated with philosophers in writing about art and have collaborated in teaching with philosophers as well. I also collaborated with a computer musician for a few projects and hope to continue that in the future if we can get funding.

EN: Having traveled and exhibited throughout the country and abroad, what advice could you offer artists trying to establish themselves?
BB: I am certainly no authority— I don’t even have a website yet! I can only speak from my own experience. I consistently tell my students and friends and colleagues, focus on the work.

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