Saturday, January 12, 2008

the heART of Becca Bernstein, human relationships, aging, family and community

Redefining the art of portrait
the art of Becca Bernstein

I first noticed the painting's of and met the wonderful artist Becca Bernstein when she was the winner of the Portland Open Studio's Kimberley Gales Emerging Artist Scholarship in 2005. Her work was lined up along the walls of a small one car garage with the big door open for light. Instantly I was hooked, her depth of character and feeling was amazing, all the more so due to her young age.

Recently I received a little email notice of some of Becca’s upcoming shows. One in particular caught my attention,

"The Last Room" A public art installation by Becca Bernstein in the lobby of the Portland Building, 1120 SW 5th Ave,January 30th - February 24th.
"The Last Room"recreates the furnished apartment of an elderly,long-term care facility resident inside the lobby of the bustling downtown Portland Building.

After you learn a little more about this outstanding young painter and the spirit behind her creations I hope you well see why I thought I should share this and the rest of her work with all of you.

Her full artist statement for the show is at the bottom of this blog

Becca Bernstein is best known for her work focusing on human relationships, aging, family and community. She explores issues of human fragility and strength.She develops her work in series of 10-30 paintings,exploring each idea fully before exhibiting the group together. Bernstein often uses unusual surfaces like patchwork quilts and slate roof tiles in her paintings. She paints faces, figures and, most recently, objects in a realistic, expressive style.

"Becca Bernstein is a painter and a humanist who redefines the art of portrait, expressing the intimate personality of her models beyond their physical appearance," says Jean Luc Laminette of Portland's Galerie d'Art Sylvie Platini.

"In Piece: The Women at Pinewood Gardens"

For six years, the Becca worked daily with the elderly residents of a senior care home. The paintings reflect the faces of the senior friends she met there. The fragmentation of the varied fabrics, together with the expressiveness of every subject, helped illuminate who these women were. According to Bernstein, "Their lives are a mysterious patchwork, hand-stitched unevenly and imperfectly." The artist first selected and salvaged , being especially partial to hand-embroidered pieces that were torn, stained or practically unusable. "My hope is to compel the viewer to wonder about who these women are and were and to contemplate the quilted nature of a long life lived," says Bernstein.

"You Know Me" (acrylic on patchwork quilt) Dimensions: 24" x 18"
"So So Very" (acrylic on patchwork quilt) Dimensions: 24" x 18"
"Things Again" (acrylic on patchwork quilt) Dimensions: 24" x 18"
"In Piece: The Women at Pinewood Gardens." The 3 are still available through Gottlieb Gallery, 241-1070,

In "The Locals" Bernstein captures the faces of the men and boys of the area, painted on wood, and Ballachulish slate – the traditional roofing material used in Scotland. Bernstein, who spent close to a year in Glenelg, recalls the place, its peculiarities, its people and their stories, thought this group of paintings. Rather than being nostalgic, the work is powerful, honest, and is presented with her usual uplifting clarity. For those familiar with her previous series of elderly women painted on patchwork quilting fabric, you may see the connection of the two surfaces. The slate shingles are pieced together like the patches of the quilts. Both are hand-crafted, coming together to create a sheltering whole – like a family, like a village.

"Duncan MacRae" Dimensions: 36" x 24"
"Robbie Burns Night" Dimensions: 36" x 24"
Available through Gottlieb Gallery, 241-1070,

"The Last Room"
A public art installation by Becca Bernstein in the lobby of the Portland Building, 1120 SW 5th Ave,January 30th - February 24th.

Again and again, my art is drawn toward issues of community, to the awkward dance of human interdependence.
For nine years, I have worked closely with the elderly residents of senior care homes in Oregon and Scotland. In this capacity, I am witness to the modern anomaly of dividing the tribe – of the separation of generations from one another, each to their respective institutions. As an artist, my interest in this subject has led me to seek out communities of all kinds for my work, both traditional and uniquely present-day, exploring the relationships we have developed or abandoned in this contemporary age.
Through my years of work in senior care homes, I have seen inside the one-room apartments of hundreds of elderly residents. Some rooms are like living museums; some are overwhelmed with piles of junk. Other rooms are sparse – furnished as if the occupant does not plan to stay long.
“The Last Room” is the furnished apartment of a fictional resident in a long-term care facility. Along with a twin bed, dresser, chair and nightstand are knick-knacks, framed photos and worn, hand-quilted bedding. There is also evidence of life: a current calendar, reminder notes on the walls, an on-time alarm clock, a dinner tray with dishes, greeting cards and a Mylar birthday balloon tied to a geriatric walker that faces a full-length mirror.
In my art, I strive to create an intimacy between my subject and the viewer deep enough that there is a spark of recognition and, ultimately, empathy.

About the Artist:Becca Bernstein is a 2008 recipient of the George Sugarman Foundation Grant for artists with a social conscience. She also received a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council of Portland, Oregon for her February 2008 installation in the lobby of Building. Bernstein won the Lake Oswego Public Art Award at the Chronicle Invitational Exhibit of 2007 and the Kimberley Gales Emerging Artist Scholarship in 2005. She is a 2000 graduate, cumlaude, of Lewis and Clark College, in Portland, Oregon, where she studied drawing. She interned in1999 at the Museum of Modern Art, NY.Bernstein is represented by the Gottlieb Gallery in Portland, Oregon, the Phoenix Gallery in Park City,Utah, the Premier Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota,Gallery Heinzel in Aberdeen, Scotland and the Holburn Gallery in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Her Next show

Keyhole Miniatures

"Keyhole Miniatures"100 new paintings by Becca Bernstein at Gottlieb Gallery, 220 SW Yamhill St in Portland, Oregon,February 2nd - 29th. Opening reception Thursday, Feb. 7th 5-8pm. Intimate and mysterious, "Keyhole Miniatures" is a minute study of the personal and familiar.

All the best,

Michael Orwick

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

many good info thank you