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Q & A with artist Helene Berson @ the Mulberry Street Branch
Helene Berson's work is on display in the main reading room on Level 2 from July to August. Since we opened last May, six local artists have shown their work here.
Describe the kind of art you create. My artwork is best described as collage and mixed media. The materials I rely on are myriad types of papers, photos and acrylic paint. Some of these come from quite ordinary contemporary sources, some are vintage, some are found objects, and some are specialty art papers. The works come together with the use of a variety of glues and gels. Frequently I incorporate details that have great personal meaning to me in addition to adding visual interest or suggesting the themes or subject of the work.
Talk about the scope of your show at the Mulberry Street Branch. The show consists of about 25 pieces of artwork. They range in size from 4 x 4" to 16 x 20. Most of these pieces were inspired by family photographs; many are of my parents. I found making these works of art gave me an opportunity to explore my feelings about family; family history and my roots. For this reason I coined the term “biollage” to suggest the connection between collage, biography, personal biology and history. Although much of the work contains very personal and mundane references I believe it evokes universal common human themes and experiences.
Where do you find inspiration? I have been deeply inspired by the good fortune of having many vintage family photos in my possession. For many years, decades actually, I treasured these photographs but was not actively relating to them. They were stored in boxes and bags and tucked away in a cupboard. Over the past several years they have revealed both a treasure trove of memories real and imagined and at the same time a Pandora’s Box of the mixed bag of my family history. This show at the library consists of one collection of my work. Other work reflects the inspiration of the sea; shapes--especially triangles; travel, and architecture.
How do you think the library setting affects the people who are experiencing your art? I believe that the Mulberry Street library is a particularly fitting setting for my show because it is a historic building that matches the vintage photographs and settings of my collages. I would like to think that when readers and researchers look up from their books or laptops my work provides a thoughtful resting place for the mind and eye.
Let's judge books by their covers. Describe the kinds of book jackets that have stuck in your artist's memory. I have certainly been drawn to look at a book because of its cover. I like bright, simple, dynamic and stylized designs and typefaces. One example is The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain. Generally speaking pulp fiction, Art Deco and styles popularized in the 1930s and 40s will almost always get a second glance from me.
Visit the Mulberry Street Branch to sign Ms. Berson's guest book and see the installation in person.