Oct 30, 2013
09:08 AMArts & Entertainment
Fern Berman's Abstract Photography at the New Britain Museum of American Art
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.)