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Becca Bernstein is a remarkably productive young artist, for whom a lot has been happening since receiving Portland Open Studios’ first Kimberley Gales Emerging Artist Scholarship. Her paintings of older women, and lately individuals of all ages, have been featured in numerous exhibitions, as well as written up in many local and regional publications.
It’s clear this talented young woman is already looking forward to an active and prolific art career. What has Becca been up to in the year and a half since her Portland Open Studios experience? Here is a quick look, as gathered from an email interview.
Q. Let’s start with a summary of what you’ve been doing since Portland Open Studios 2005 – can you give me a chronology of shows/exhibitions/accomplishments since then?
Upcoming July 2007 – The Ten Children of Margaret – Premier Gallery – Minneapolis, MN
2007 – The Locals: Intimate Portraits from the Highlands of Scotland – Gottlieb Gallery – Portland, OR
2006 – In Piece: The Women at Pinewood Gardens – Gottlieb Gallery – Portland, OR
2005 – In Piece: The Women at Pinewood Gardens – Gallerie d’Art Sylvie Platini – Portland, OR
Select Group Exhibitions:
Upcoming August 2007 – Lake Oswego Chronicle Exhibit
2006 – Miniatures Show – Phoenix Gallery, Park City, UT
2006 – Art of Aging Exhibit, Oregon Jewish Museum, Portland, OR – Curated by the Jewish Institute of Religion Museum, NY
2006 – Gender Studies Symposium Art Show – Portland, OR
2005 – NW Business & Culture for the Arts, Portland, OR
Teaching and Speaking:
2006 – Lewis and Clark College Visiting Artist
January 1, 2007, Gottlieb presents Becca Bernstein paintings. Jewish Review, p. 13.
July 2006, Medina, Gabriel. Arte Cuna De Creación. Travel and Leisure Mexico, p. 56-61.
June 2006, Wisner, Heather. The Art of Aging. PDX Magazine, p. 40-41.
February 17, 2006, D.K. Row. Quilting a Portrait. The Oregonian, A & E Visual Arts Review, p. 24.
February 1, 2006, Seldner, Deborah. Jewish painters Bernstein, Marlieb at Gottlieb… Jewish Review, p. 2.
February 2006, Curran, Tim. Artistic activities director… The Mid County Memo, Vol. 21, No. 10, p. 1,2.
Winter/Spring 2006, Pace, Pattie. Aging with Wisdom. Lewis and Clark Chronicle.
November, 2005, Edwards, Judy A.C. Artwork at the MBA. Multnomah Lawyer, Vol. 51, No. 10, p. 5.
November, 2005, Recycled art… The Daily Journal of Commerce.
October 1, 2005, Seldner, Deborah. Portland artists invite public into their studios. Jewish Review, p. 16.
October 2005, Hummer, Liz. Open Studios. PDX Magazine, Vol. 1, p. 34.
October, 2005, Nafsinger, Janie. Faces of Wisdom. Lifestyles Northwest, p.2.
September 2005, Woods, Nancy. NE Resident earns Portland Open Studios Scholarship. The Hollywood Star, Vol. 22, No. 12, p. 28.
Q. Wow! What’s next – any shows coming up in 2007 and beyond?
In addition to the upcoming exhibitions mentioned above, this July I’ll be opening a solo 3-month exhibition at the Premier Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I need to average about one painting per week to finish/frame/photograph/ship in time! The show is a series of paintings entitled “The Ten Children of Margaret.” The subjects are all members of one large family. Ten adult siblings are each painted separately in acrylic on 12” round patchwork surfaces. Their ninety-year old mother is painted on a 24” round. In addition, I’m painting up to ten 36”x36” square acrylic paintings on wood panels. The subjects of the squares are groups of people interacting – all descendants of Margaret, up to the fourth generation. An infant is included in each group, as if being passed from one painting to the next.
Q. Are you still directing activities for seniors, and are they still your primary subject matter? Are you exploring any other imagery or media lately, and what influences your choice of subject?
After the birth of my daughter in July 2006, I cut back working with seniors to only about one day every week or two. I also left my position as president of a non-profit group that educated activity directors. Seniors are still a primary interest of mine as an artist and as a personal concern. Lately though, I’ve been painting people of all ages. I work in series, exploring one or two ideas within a group of paintings. My work continues to address issues of aging and family, as well as of the broader concepts of community and the human bond. This winter, I showed a series of acrylic paintings on slate roof shingles at the Gottlieb Gallery in Portland called “The Locals.” The subjects of this series were men and boys from a small village in the Scottish Highlands – the slate is the traditional roofing material in Scotland. Those familiar with my paintings of elderly women on patchwork quilts may recognize conceptual and visual connections between the two surfaces. The slate tiles were pieced together much like the quilts, handcrafted and forming a sheltering whole. I’ve been pretty consistent about painting in acrylic, but my surfaces have varied a great deal. I try to choose and construct surfaces that are visually and conceptually strong. I’m interested in materials that are old, used, worn and discarded.
Q. What did you think of your open studio experience; did it open any doors for you, and would you do it again?
Portland Open Studios provided great exposure and local publicity. Even as recently as this week, a gallery contacted me about joining them after seeing my paintings in the calendar that is now 2 years old! I love what Open Studios does for Portland artists and for Portlanders in general – it’s a completely unique opportunity for people to see artists in their creative spaces. As a participating artist in 2005, I loved the feedback. As a viewer in 2006, I really felt honored to have access to other artists’ studios and homes and to hear about their own processes. I also loved meeting the other artists in my cluster. It really is about building community which, for studio artists, can be very difficult.
Q. Aside from the financial assistance, can you express the value to you of receiving the first Portland Open Studios Kimberley Gales Emerging Artist Scholarship?
I was really honored to be chosen for the first award, especially after hearing what a wonderful person and artist Kimberley Gales was. As an emerging artist, it can be hard to stand out in a crowd. I’ve heard that, on average, a piece of art is only looked at for about 4 seconds. When I send my resume out, I imagine it sitting in a pile of hundreds like it. Receiving the emerging artist award has given my work a greater chance of being noticed, selected and exhibited.
Q. You have a family – how are you managing to balance work/art/life?
Right now, my husband is a full-time graduate student and we have an eight month-old daughter. Also, I’m averaging about 2 solo shows per year, plus group shows and commissions. Before my daughter was born, I would paint uninterrupted for long days, then not paint at all for weeks or months. Now, it’s necessary that I be more disciplined with my time. Fortunately, my daughter loves being outside, rain or shine. Even though my converted garage/studio is cold and dark, she loves to be out there with me. Also, I have an assistant who helps me now with some of the prep work, paperwork and framing. He’s been a lifesaver.
In Portland, Becca is represented by the Gottlieb Gallery, 220 SW Yamhill, 503-241-1070, www.gottliebgallery.com. In Park City, Utah, she is represented by the Phoenix Gallery at 508 Main Street, 435-649-1006, www.phoenixgalleryparkcity.com, and in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by the Premier Gallery, 141 South 7th Street, 612-338-4541, www.premiergallery.com. Although she won’t be in the Portland Open Studios tour this year, people are welcome to come by her studio. She can be reached at 503-335-5839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the scholarship, please visit the Scholarship page: www.portlandopenstudios.com/scholarship.html
Below is one of Becca’s recent paintings, “Robbie Burns Night”, from the Scottish series, “The Locals.” It is 24″ x 36″, Acrylic on Wood and Ballachulish Slate, 2006, and is on display at the Gottlieb Gallery, 220 SW Yamhill Street, Portland. Photo credit Robert Bernstein.
Tupper Malone (Portland Open Studios artist 2002-2006, and 2007 applicant) is exhibiting her watercolors at Portland City Hall, Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s office from March 1 through April 2. Tupper primarily works in watercolor and collage at this point in her career, but has a BFA in Sculpture from PSU where she studied under Don Wilson (Sculpture) and Jim Hibbard (Printmaking). She switched from 3D work to 2D when she suffered an injury that forced her out of sculpture, and although she has since recovered, she found herself ‘completely swallowed up by paint.’
Tupper is a full time studio artist who has enjoyed Portland Open Studios tremendously over the years, finding the experience of demonstrating and interacting with visitors exhilarating.
This is a brief interview with Tupper, conducted via email. You can see more of her work at her web sites:
Q. As an experienced participating artist, what are some of the best parts of Portland Open Studios?
Receiving feedback from the visitors to my studio and sharing the techniques that I develop and use in my work.
Q. What do you hope visitors take away from the experience? Besides art, that is.
The sense that art is something they can do, too. It’s not just a chosen few who can be an artist. Everyone in their everyday life is an artist – when they stop to see clouds form, a sunset, the light on water, to appreciate the arch in the neck of a horse, to see the beautiful movement of muscle in the running dog, the stateliness of a purring cat – all of is artistic appreciation.
Q. Can you give us a brief description of your work process?
The kind of work I’m doing right now begins with a “watercolor pour” – pouring liquid watercolor through tissues that are lying on top of watercolor paper. The color that seeps through creates a pattern of color. The second step is to take that patterned watercolor paper, superimpose an image over the colorful pattern, and emphasize that image through positive and negative painting.
Q. How about a brief description of your studio environment, which I happen to know is beautiful?
I am very fortunate to have an amazing studio. I rented studio space as a sculptor for nine years. The idea was that I would have a studio at home and be able to give up the rental. I jokingly tell people that we found a studio and a house came with it. The studio was built by the artist Thomas Yerxa, an accomplished oil painter. The space is about 400 sq. feet plus storage. There are skylights and a view of the garden. It is a wonderful and quite place in which to paint and meditate.
[Note: Here's a photo of the garden and studio that Tupper sent us.]
Q. Do you think that your background in sculpture has influenced the way you work in 2D?
I feel my background in sculpture has made work in two-dimensions somewhat easier for me. Many times I work from my imagination or a photo that I’ve taken. When I’m stumped about which way a line should go, I imagine how it would be if I were sculpting the figure and the lines go where they should. Although, at the same time, I must point out that just as sculpture is part of art, skiing is a part of winter sports. A skier just doesn’t start ice skating and a sculptor just doesn’t start painting. There are techniques in watercolor that I went back to school to learn.
Q. I know you’ve been working with the images of the long horns, can you talk about that a little bit?
On a visit to my brother who lived in the Santiam Canyon east of Salem, I discovered a herd of longhorns in a pasture. I stopped and photographed them and have returned several times to capture them again on film. Initially I painted the animals in traditional transparent watercolor. Subsequently I depicted them in the bright colors of pours and watercolor crayon and named the series of paintings “Technicolor Cows.” I admit that I am enchanted by longhorns. There is a massive strength in the animals that is completely contradicted by the leisurely, steady gaze. I feel that there is something that they know and could share with me but, to date, have chosen not to. I cherish what I consider a connection to animals – an empathy and envy all at once. Perhaps this is just my ego projecting itself onto the animals I paint but I prefer to consider it a gift of seeing, of sensing.
Q. Anything else you’d want our readers to know about what you’re doing/showing?
I try to enter as many exhibitions as possible. The reasons are two-fold: feedback on my work – if it is meaningful to others, and as a means of validation – what I’m spending my life doing makes a difference to others as well as myself. In that way it’s a two-edged sword. I would continue to paint and create no matter what the results might be but not being accepted into competitions can be difficult for an artist. But everybody has to face rejection at times and I am no exception.