Laura Berman – prints

Playing on the words Ad Astra from the Kansas state motto, Laura Berman decided to call the show of her most recent work at Pioneer Bluffs “Ex Astris”—not to, but from the stars. It indicates that, in this phase of her artistic career, she feels uniquely connected with stars, novas, supernovas, the ever-changing cosmos. Earlier, Laura already received much recognition with her “rock art” prints and installations (one of her shows was called “Between a Rock and an Art Place”); at the time, her rocks showed their relationship with the earth. Now she connects her rocks to the sky.

A logical development, says Laura. “As far away as the middle of Kansas is from other places, it is one of the most ideal locations to connect with the sky, with the stars, with ‘greater things.’ I find its remoteness actually closer to everything, the universe, than most places I have ever been.” Rocks grow from under ground… stars circulate above earth… eventually the stars make the rocks. She made the rational decision this time to concentrate on these stellar linkages.

Laura’s rocks, in whichever connection, as prints as well as building stones of installations are playful, humorous, sometimes ironic—and foremost extraordinary colorful. It must be her background. Born in Barcelona, Spain in the 1970s, her roots are equal parts traditional and hippie/disco; she credits her infinite love for saturated color and bold pattern on these stylistic eras and her cultural relationship with Spain, where she returned many times including as artist in residence in El Bruc, near Mont Serrat, where she found so many of the real rocks with which she built her enormous collection. The fact that she studied art in festive New Orleans may also have contributed to her development as an ardent colorist. “I am fascinated by the plasticity of color. In plastics, color is really infused in the material and not dependent on the material itself, like a bark of a tree would be. In man-made processes we can infuse and put in any color we want. That’s what I am doing—and I am working with color that is not nature-based.”

Laura just wanted to paint rocks. Still wants to. “These inanimate objects are not asking me questions, they don’t need anything from me, they are just there for me and my experiments.” She focuses on relationships and recombination of forms, which relates to her nomadic history of relocation and travel; and she outfits her rocks truly in bursts of color. Although a printmaker par excellence (since 2002, she is an Associate Professor of Printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute), Laura’s work includes many site-specific installations. “All She Ever Wanted Was Everything” (2009) was an expansive polymorphic wall installation consisting of nearly one-thousand hand-cut intaglio prints of rocks; it appears climbing walls, or hovering way above the floor. In 2013, she hopes to realize a new installation in situ on the prairie near Matfield Green, as one of the participating international artists in an experience called EARTH – Sites and Structures; the working title for this project is “Form Field.”

Laura Berman’s rock collection has already travelled with her through thirty-something dwellings–in ten states and two countries. Hundreds of artifacts document and archive her life’s trajectory and memories. A series titled “Re-Collection” features vividly colored prints inspired by her rock findings and other discoveries. Again, she uses color to transcend what the images are.

At Pioneer Bluffs, Laura’s work is dominated by dynamic relationships of color, pattern and natural-themed imagery. Included are two new series of prints—one of monoprints with flat colors and layers related to supernovas and having an “exploding” composition; and one suite of flower prints related to floral patterns from her childhood clothes. Together with her rock collection imagery, these prints tell a strong story of an artist connecting to her own life through past and present interests.

Ton Haak,
Matfield Green, July 2015