Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blog of a Blog

Rather than reinvent the wheel for this post, I am re-posting a recent interview shared on the New England Wax blog done by Dietlind Vander Schaaf, who through her astute and insightful questions made this interview a thought provoking exchange.
Dietlind Vander Schaaf:  Your work is concerned primarily with capturing and expressing movement—whether of the artist’s bodily gestures, sound vibrations, or that of a spiritual state between death and rebirth.  Why is movement so critical to your art?
Round About
Round About
Kim Bernard:  Movement has always been a significant part of my life.  I studied dance growing up and continued well into my adult life.  I’ve dabbled in African, Latin, Flamenco, even Aerial Silks and Trapeze.  When I was just out of art school I studied and eventually taught karate and kung fu.  For the last 6 years I’ve practiced Ashtanga yoga.  Movement has been a consistent outlet for me.
Back in ’95 my father had a spinal cord injury as a result of a skiing accident.  Here’s someone who was very physical… biked, ran, skied, sailed, built.  In an instant I saw him become paralyzed from the neck down.  Around that time I remember running up stairs because I could, it affected me so deeply.  He eventually regained much of his mobility and had a pretty good several years, and then he declined again to the point where he needed assistance with every move and was in constant excruciating pain.  Deciding that he just didn’t want to live another 20 or so more years like that, he choose to end his own life.  Right around the time of my dad’s accident, we discovered my now 21 year old son had Perthes disease, which meant the femoral head in his left leg was malformed.  From age 2 ½ – 5 years old he had to wear a brace by day and a spica cast by night which limited his movement.  In 2009 my now 23 year old son, as a result of a football injury, discovered he had been walking around for years with a broken navicular bone in his foot.  Again… surgery, casts, pain and limited mobility.  Both of my sons are fine now but as you can see, three people that have played such a big role of my life have had significant limitations of movement.  I’ve really developed an appreciation that I can move with ease and how movement is not a right, it’s a gift.
Several years ago I assigned myself the task of merging my art making practice with my movement practice.  Since then my work has explored movement through kinetic sculpture, mark making, contraptions that make marks and some video.
Dietlind:  Your story about your father reminds me of a passage from the book Intimate Death: How the Dying Teach Us How to Live by French psychologist Marie de Hennezel who spent seven years working in a palliative care unit in Paris.  In recounting her time working with a patient named Daniele who was paralyzed except for the use of her right index finger, de Hennezel describes a type of survivor knowledge experience:
“When I left Daniele, all I wanted to do was go and run barefoot in the grass like a mad thing.  Get drunk on movement!  I took my car and went to the park at Sceaux.  It was warm, and I realized that the days were getting longer.  On the big lawn in front of the castle, I took the most immense pleasure in running in circles, feeling the warm, damp earth under my feet, and I said thank you to life and to Daniele for such a conscious flash of pure joy.”
Gesture Partakes
Gesture Partakes
You describe the merging of your movement background with your art making process as an assignment you gave yourself.  I know that meaning and intent play a significant role in your work.  Do you always start out with an idea that you want to give form to–and if so, how does form relate to the work’s deeper meaning?  Do some ideas naturally want to find themselves realized in 3D versus 2D?
Kim:  What a beautiful passage.  That quote resonated deeply with me.
I used the word ‘assignment’ but it was really an answer to my own question of why these two realms, my studio practice and my movement practice, were so separate.  They were already influencing one another; I just deliberately made them one.  It became clear that movement was what I wanted to explore in my work, what I was most curious about and the way I wanted to engage the viewer.  I’m always encouraging my students to ‘go deep, rather than broad’.  Being intentional about the quest keeps us on track and focused but allows the maker to be open to discovery.
It’s timely that you ask the question about how I start.  I have a solo exhibit at Boston Sculptors Gallery (BSG) in May that I’m now generating ideas for.  I know the space.  I know how I want the viewer to engage and I know the overall Gestalt.  It will be interactive and have moving parts you set in motion that leave a trace or a record.  There will be a performative element, certainly the work itself or maybe myself.  Now I have to figure out the specifics, the materials, the size/s, the palette, the sculptures function and deal with the nuances of design.
In general, as to whether work will be drawn, sculpted, painted, 2-D, 3-D or time based, I try not to impose a medium or method but let the ideas dictate.  I do respond to space though.  It’s very challenging to conceive of work when I don’t know where it’s going to be installed.  Space gives way to ideas and possibilities, especially with 3-D work and certainly with installation.
Barbo State
Barbo State
Dietlind:  If the idea and the installation space both inform the dimensions, when does palette come into play?  Much of your work is brightly colored—red and black feature prominently.  Bardo State is all grey.  How is color related to meaning for you?
Synergy 17
Kim:  Color has great significance and symbolism to me.  Color elicits a mood and by thoughtfully selecting a particular color or a palette I believe I can achieve a certain desired effect.  For Bardo State I wanted to elicit a somber, reflective, meditative mood so grey was the only color that would work.   For Synergy 17 I choose bright orange, an attention getting color that we read as caution, pay attention.  Think of traffic cones or construction signs.  For Quantum Revival, red for energy, vitality and life was fitting.  Using many colors, polychrome, on sculpture presents many challenges.  It doesn’t always work so I often use just one color for sculpture.  For my 2-D work, where I work in series, I deliberately limit my palette.  My most recent body of 2-D work is white, black, red, yellow-gold and green.  That’s it.  It was a way to create a body of work I knew would hang well together and create unity.  I always think of the palette of an exhibit as I’m developing the concept.  For my next exhibit at BSG I’m leaning toward white, black, grey and red.  That’s a serious and powerful palette.
Quantum Revival
Quantum Revival
Dietlind:  While tackling complicated or serious subjects, such as physics, your exhibitions are often playful and encourage audience interactivity.  Why is it important for you to have viewers break the “no-touch” rule of art and participate in your work?
Kim:  While many of us primarily experience stimulus visually, there are many other ways we process information.  Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences identifies 8 different modalities through which we experience sensory information:  musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.  My own learning-processing style is without a doubt visual–spatial and bodily–kinesthetic.  In other words I process information by seeing and doing either with my hands or with my whole body so, of course, I have gravitated to a method of creating that suits me.  It seems logical then that in my sculptural work, at least, I aim to expand the viewers experience by offering a hands-on, interactive experience, in addition to the visual and the spatial.  It’s all about expanding the experience.
Dietlind:  In addition to physics, spirituality is a theme that shows up repeatedly in your work.  Projects of yours concern the soul, charkas, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen—does the work reflect your own personal search for meaning?  How so?
Kim:  Absolutely.  We are all searching for meaning, aren’t we?  Sculpture, installation, 2-D work—these are all methods I use to explore what I’m questioning and curious about.  Making art is the vehicle through which I learn, connect, communicate, and try to make sense of the world we live in.  I don’t pretend to have the answers but I do have plenty of questions.
Dietlind:  The cultivation of any artistic practice can take a great deal of time and energy.  At times it can be consuming.  How do you balance the needs of your practice with the need of your daily life?  Does being married to another artist make a difference in terms of meeting those needs?
Kim:  It’s definitely consuming, but in a good way.  My studio practice is my daily life.  It’s not like a 9-5 job that you leave behind at the end of the day.  If I’m not creating in my studio, I’m usually involved in some activity that has to do with my work.  I may be planning, researching, documenting, picking up supplies, delivering work, teaching, etc.  If I’m not doing, I’m often thinking.  I do a lot of that while driving.  I try to keep a balance in my life by practicing yoga, reading, spending time with friends and family and traveling whenever I can.
Being married to an artist helps in that Christos ‘gets it’.  He understands the creative process, the complexity of being a full time artist, the all-consuming nature of it and the unpredictability because he works at his painting full time too.  The drawback to both being artists is that neither of us can lean on the other financially.  We each have to pull our own weight.  What’s great is that we share the same interests and understand one another.  We look at one another’s work, offer feedback, and support one another completely.  That’s invaluable to me.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Back from Peru

Thanks to Boston Sculptors Gallery member Nora Valdez, many BSG members had the recent opportunity to travel to Peru and exhibit at the Qorikancha Museum in Cusco.  Nora not only established the connection for all of us, but curated and orchestrated all the details of the international exhibit.  Several sculptors created their work in Peru and some, myself  included, choose to create work ahead, allowing time to explore the Sacred Valley and do a two day trek to Machu Picchu.

I've been wanting to visit Peru and especially Machu Picchu for almost 2 decades now, so I saw this as my chance.  Here are some highlights.   

After flying into Lima on Jan 24th, we flew to Cusco, elevation 11,200 ft, and spent the day acclimatizing by drinking coca tea and sleeping.  I learned that no one, especially this sea level dweller, is immuned to altitude sickness and it's best to allow plenty of time to adjust, especially before even modest physical exertion.  By Sunday, Jan. 26th, Christos, my husband and favorite travel partner in life and on land, and I took the local bus to Pisac to visit the market.  Every day, locals sell and trade their produce and handmades but Sunday is the best.  

Peru's third biggest source of revenue is agriculture, after tourism and mining, and there's no shortage of fresh food.  This market far exceeded any farmers market I have even seen.  

We learned quickly that nothing is priced and you can expect to haggle over everything from a taxi ride to a bag of potatoes.  

I could not resist buying some natural dyes, all from local plants, seeds, insects and moss and fixed with salt, lime, alum, acid, and urine.

We wandered the streets of Pisac a bit and made our way,  

again on the bus packed with locals, to Ollantaytambo.  

These are some of the local taxis, souped up motorcycles really, that buzz the streets taking locals and tourists short distances.  Each on had it's own personality.  

We got lucky and found a great place to say, the Hotel Iskay, where we could hear the river babbling.  A good nights rest and off to visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo the next day.   

Here's a view of Ollantaytambo looking down from the Inca ruins where the land was terraced and irrigated to yield a variety of fruits and vegetables.  

What's remarkable is that the stones fit precisely, with no mortar and are interlocking to prevent seismic shift.  

This site at Ollantaytambo was built in the mid-15th century as a ceremonial site but never finished due to the Spanish invasion of 1532.

The Sun Temple or Wall of Six Monoliths was most impressive due to the size of the fitted stones having been carried on roads, ramps, and slides from a quarry 5 km away...

and the way the Incas created complex irrigation systems to redirect water for drinking, bathing, growing and livestock.

Speaking of sustaining life, we had worked up an appetite, climbing the ruins, so I decided to try my first Alpaca burger.  

As for Peruvian cuisine, which we quite enjoyed, llama is also popular, as is chicken, ceviche (raw seafood or fish mixed with lime juice and pepper) and guinea pig (bottom left in the case).  

After lunch we took the local bus to Urubamba, not a touristy town at all but a working town, which also had a great indoor market.  

The colors were a photographers dream!

And the streets were alive with people shopping, selling, working, and on the move.  

After a good nights rest, we traveled by bus to Chinchero, land of the weavers, at 12,343 ft.

At the Center for Traditional Textiles in Chinchero we visited a co-operative where woman demonstrate their craft and sell their exquisite work.

Below you'll see woman using a back loom and weaving indigenous patterns, each indicative of the village they are from.  

We also learned how the women use local plants, herbs, insects, to make dyes for the alpaca yarn.  

That's a guinea pig house in the back, which they keep as pets, till a special day comes along like Christmas or a birthday, then it's meal time for guinea.  

Woman have their small children with them always.  We found Peru to be a very family centered culture.  That's yarn she'd dying.  

While in Chinchero we also visited a church, museum and more ruins.

Peruvians are quite enterprising and will approach you with anything to make a sol.  1 american dollar equals about 2.8 soles.  Everything is quite inexpensive to USA standards.  

This small museum had wonderful examples of large ceramic vessels for carrying water on ones back.  

Even though it was/is the rainy season in the Andes of Peru, we managed to escape the entire trip without getting wet.  Back to Cusco to set up the exhibit, give an artist talk and get packed for the trek to Machu Picchu.


Our guide Xavier, with Llama Path tours, picked us up at 5am in Cusco and we made our way by bus then train along the Rio Urubamba to the beginning of our two day trek along the Inca Trail.  Xavier was a wealth of information and shared with us info about Inca history, local flora and fauna, architecture, culture and the Incan beliefs.  

Left to right:  Altin, Roz, Laura, Christos, me, George, Nancy, Hannah and Jessica

Here's the trekking gang!  Not only were we fortunate to have Xavier as our guide, but we stayed dry, had no injuries and all kept the same pace.

At the end of our first day of hiking we got our first view of Machu Picchu.  Since it was the end of the day, all the tourists were gone and we had the rare opportunity to see it without the crowds.  

After a night of hot springs, a good meal and a comfy hotel in Aguas Calientes, we returned the next morning to a magical and misty Machu Picchu to explore for the day.  

Pictures don't even come close to how awesome Machu Picchu (old peak) is.  Christos and I thought we'd make our own peak by taking a little yoga break before heading back down to town to join the group, meet out train, then bus, then van on the journey back to Cusco.   

Our last full day was finishing up the installation for our exhibit Visions/VisiĆ³nes at the Qorikancha Museum.

The Qorikancha is an archaeological site in and of itself and it was a true honor to have work in such a special site.  As you can see from the open courtyard above, it's an open air museum and Boston Sculptors work, along with other invited South American sculptors work, is exhibited throughout the second level.

Artifacto, wax, dye, steel, 72"x96"

In one way or another each artists work was inspired by something Peruvian. My work above, was inspired by Inca artifacts such as pottery, shall pins, knives, tweezers, mace, weaving tools, and hair ornaments recovered at Machu Picchu by archaeologist Hiram Bingham on his expedition in 1912.

Qorikancha Museum show features artwork by the following artists from the Boston Sculptors Gallery: Caroline Bagenal, Kim Bernard, Murray Dewart, Donna Dodson, Rosalyn Driscoll, Laura Evans, Peter DeCamp Haines, Michelle Lougee, Nancy Winship Milliken, Andy Moerlein, Nancy Selvage, Liz Shepherd, Jessica Straus, Nora Valdez, Hannah Verlin and Joseph Wheelwright alongside notable South American artists such as: Ronald Alvan, Pablo Yactayo, Jacob Sulca, Persi Narvaez, Ivan Tovar, Victor Zuniga, Luis Angulo y Gianfranco Yovera, Carlos Bardales and Xavier Cano.  

The work will be on view through March 30th, 2014.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Full February

I have 4 upcoming exhibits, all opening in February.  It’s a busy time of year and I’m packing my bags now to leave for Peru.  I look forward to posting lots of pictures when I return and perhaps seeing some of you at either the Fuller Craft Museum or R&F Paints Gallery.

Qorikancha Museum, Cusco, Peru
Feb 1-Mar 31

 Artifacto, fiber, dye, wax, steel, 12 discs, 24" diameter each

Here's a pic of the installation I am carrying on the plane with me to Peru.  It will be installed by suspending the discs from the ceiling.  The exact arrangement will be dictated by the exhibition space at the Qorinkancha Museum in Cusco.  Most likely, not in a grid, but more organically.  

The images, patterns and colors were inspired by Inca artifacts of gold, silver, ceramic, bone, and textile works recovered at Machu Picchu by archaeologist Hiram Bingham on his expedition in 1912.  I’m not only interested in the Machu Picchu site and its place within the Inca empire, the mysteries surrounding its establishment and abandonment, and the discoveries there but intend to drawing attention to the fact that Bingham, a Yale archeologist, “borrowed”  thousands of artifacts from Peru in 1912, only to be returned under pressure from the Peruvian government, in 2012. 

The show will feature artwork by the following artists from the Boston Sculptors Gallery: Caroline Bagenal, Kim Bernard, Murray Dewart, Donna Dodson, Rosalyn Driscoll, Laura Evans, Peter DeCamp Haines, Michelle Lougee, Nancy Winship Milliken, Andy Moerlein, Nancy Selvage, Liz Shepherd, Jessica Straus, Nora Valdez, Hannah Verlin and Joseph Wheelwright. These Boston sculptors will show alongside many notable Peruvian artists such as: Ronald Alvan, Pablo Yactayo, Jacob Sulca, Persi Narvaez, Ivan Tovar, Victor Zuniga, Luis Angulo y Gianfranco Yovera, Carlos Bardales and Xavier Cano.

 ICPNAC (Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano del Cusco) 
Jan 31-Feb 28

Artifacto Drawing, charcoal, graphite, wax, 24x36

In addition to our Visions/Visiones exhibit, many of us will be participating in a drawing show that will run concurrently with our exhibit at the Qorikancha Museum.
Transcripts/Transcripciones will be curated by Jose Luis Morales Sierra and will feature drawings and works on paper by the following members of the Boston Sculptors Gallery: Caroline Bagenal, Kim Bernard, Murray Dewart, Donna Dodson, Rosalyn Driscoll, Laura Evans, Andy Moerlein, Nancy Selvage, Nora Valdez, Hannah Verlin and Joseph Wheelwright. This show of drawing and visual design will also feature work by the following distinguished Peruvian artists: Jacob Sulca , Ronald Alvan , Ivan Tovar , Luis Angulo, Gianfranco Yovera, Pablo Yactayo, Persi Narvaez, Victor Zuniga, Roger Bellido, Pachacutec Huaman, Marcial Ayala, and Jose Luis Morales.

Machines and Mechanizations: Explorations in Contemporary Kinetic Sculpture 
Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA 
Feb 2-June 1 

Readymade Color Wheel, wax, springs, bicycle wheel

Machines and Mechanizations will showcase contemporary artists working in the realm of kinetic sculpture. Movement, motion and sound will be explored through a variety of motor-driven and hand-powered objects. Artists include Kim Bernard, Chris Fitch, David Lang, Erica von Schilgen, and Mark Davis.  I'll have four interactive kinetic sculptures in the exhibit. 

Kim Bernard: Gestural Record
R & F Gallery, Kingston, NY
Feb 1-Mar 22

Gesture Partakes, encaustic, 36x36

Lastly, I'll be having a solo exhibit at R&F Gallery in Kingston, NY.

Inspired by the Sumi brush paintings of Zen masters, this recent body of 2 dimensional encaustic works are an attempt to capture movement: fluid, gestural, spontaneous, whole body movement, as in a dance. The results are sumptuous abstract encaustic paintings that utilize a minimal color palette and repetitive imagery, thick layers of translucent and opaque wax, paper prepared with batik markings and hand rubbed oil stick combined to create multi dimensional panels. Adopting this approach to mark making, I place the panel flat on the floor, and allow the spiraling, gestural marks to become a record of my own whole body movement, in much the same way that the Zen master allows the ink to flow off the tip of his Sumi, committing to paper the extension of his Chi, as a culmination of summoned energy. The method that I’ve developed allows me to make marks and “erase” the ones that don’t yield the desired results.