Oct 30, 2013
09:08 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Fern Berman's Abstract Photography at the New Britain Museum of American Art

Fern Berman's Abstract Photography at the New Britain Museum of American Art

Fern Berman

"Man in the Moon," C-print on Somerset Velvet 330 gsm paper, 42 x 28 in.

      At first look you might think the image above is an abstract painting, but appearances can be deceiving—it’s actually a photograph snapped by Madison photographer Fern Berman, who strives to uncover the underlying essence of ordinary objects through her lens. The results are stunning. She is currrently the featured "New/Now" artist at the New Britain Museum of American Art, and will discuss her work with cultural historian Cara de Silva at the museum on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m.

      Berman is fascinated with the concept of entropy. “I love decay, it’s beautiful,” she says. She produces images full of color, texture and emotion from the natural erosion occurring around us all the time. “I feel that everything has an energy and a soul, and that’s what I’m trying to capture,” she says. Her compositions hone in on a patch of a worn stucco wall or loose flecks of paint on a rusting car door. She may ponder a subject for months before photographing it, she says, but doesn’t reveal its identity. “I want people to stop and look at the photograph, contemplate it, stand back and settle into it like a painting,” she says.

      Everything about Berman’s process is deliberate. “First of all, I don’t take digital photos, she says. “I still shoot with film in the same camera my parents gave me when I was 16—a manual 35mm Nikkormat.” Then the photographs are printed on heavy watercolor stock handmade in Germany. “I like the results of a totally matte finish—this is what makes the photographs look like paintings,” she says.  ("Landscape, Red and Blue," pictured at right.)

      Berman credits artists Franz Marc, Vasily Kandinsky and Mark Rothko as influences. But she also has gone through a personal transformation since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis many years ago and credits the condition for giving her a fresh perspective. “I was running around New York and then my life came to a screeching halt,” she says. “But MS affects the way I see, and to an extent, it was a gift. Now I stop and look.”
      New/Now: Fern Berman is on view at the New Britain Museum of American Art through Jan. 5.
      For further information, call 860/229-0257 or visit nbmaa.org.
Fern Berman's Abstract Photography at the New Britain Museum of American Art

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