Sheila Berger

Influenced by a lifetime of travel to some of the most remote parts of the globe, Berger’s paintings are both a reflection of the visual richness of these experiences and a space to pause. Here, the world’s fecundity is both marked yet stilled. As Berger’s process is a slow and ritualistic one, the work likewise demands the viewer’s quiet concentration, gift of time, and a willingness to listen to their silence. Part of Berger’s pleasure in crafting these paintings is the celebration of a technique unchanged for thousands of years: the melting of encaustic, repeatedly painting her special custom-made wooden panels until they have the desired texture. The result is a tabula rasa awaiting Berger’s impressions. With the introduction of pigments, and the use of wood-block patterns some centuries old–unearthed in India or Persia–Berger, like an exacting alchemist, builds each painting into a palimpsest of memories, moods and emotion, welcome emptiness incised, such varied signs of life.

These works are also overtly and unashamedly beautiful: their surfaces, their texture, their patterns and patina, their discrete, elegant presence lift us into a celebration of our world and lives. Berger’s work is a heartfelt paean to the opposite of “entropy”. Growth, change, creation – Berger’s work is a hopeful and fertile present to us all.

Born in St Louis, Missouri, Berger was educated at NYU, the Art Students League and New York Academy of the Arts. She has shown her work everywhere from the Rubin Museum in NY, the Bemis Center in Omaha; the American Consulate in Istanbul, and the US Embassy in Laos. A longtime resident of the Chelsea Hotel, she previously lived in Paris and Italy and currently divides her time between Manhattan and the Argentine.

By Adrian Dannat, for Paul Kasmin Gallery, 2009

Image Courtesy of Stephen Lovekin