Wednesday, July 31, 2013

 Interview with an Artist: Megan Berk
Lower East Side Printshop

Untitled, 2013, screenprint, 24 x 33 in.

Megan Berk working in the studio, 2013.

Megan Berk is a current Keyholder Resident at the Lower East Side Printshop

This interview was conducted by Oscar Montenegro and Paulina Beron, who are spending the summer at the Printshop as part of the Studio In A School Internship Program.

Most of your artwork seems to be organized in different series and themes, is this intentional?

Yes, it happens intentionally. I am a very anxious painter therefore my first instinct is to get frustrated and feel like something has not succeeded, and to run away. Eventually you train yourself to resist that impulse and try to stay with things a bit longer, like anything in life. So yes, as a way to organize all of the different points of inspiration I do try to work in series.

How would you describe your creative process? Does it involve experimentation or is it rather restrictive?

Well, the term 'creative process' is interesting because my work is very much a part of my life and very personal. My process involves being aware of what’s going on with me, and all the aspects of my life. Inspiration can come when you least expect it to; I tend to get inspired at odd times when I’m doing something else—reading, traveling, or visiting my family. Much of my work starts from visiting my family so I sometimes have to just try to take down information and write a lot, along with taking a lot of pictures. That’s how I start! Then I often come back to it latercome back to the photographs and writingsand after having had a little bit of distance I start working on it in a pretty organized way. I’m probably not as experimental as I could be; I’m pretty cerebral, and always think about things too much. I do, however, like to give myself a little bit of space between the time I start thinking about something and the moment I start working on it.

Untitled, 2013, screenprint, 28 x 22 in.
Are there any printing secrets you’d like to reveal or pass along?
I think a good secret is that it’s usually easier than you think! So, if you are planning a color scheme for example, your first idea about how the colors are going to work is probably the best and most accurate place to start. I often try to make things more complicated than they need to be. Usually, if you can think of a color and you want it to be a part of your work, you should go straight for that color and don’t overthink it too much.

Do you incorporate events from your life or your personality into your work?

Yes, well, I think that one of the fun things about being an artist is that you get to take things from your life that can give you anxiety or weigh on you, and use them. I’m interested in what seduces me and what causes anxiety in me and I try to break it down into a very simple, formal level. So then things that represent bigger ideas can be familiar, as familiar as shapes and colors. I try to basically listen to that in myself and follow it.

Who supported you while you were becoming an artist? 

My family has always supported me; I’ve been very lucky. They are not artists per se, but they are very interested in what I’m doing and that’s great! I was also very lucky to have a few specific people in my high school, teachers that were very supportive, and just a couple of employers in my twenties who were supportive and that has been very helpful too. I’ve been very lucky because it has been a slow climb and along the way there have always been a few people who have made it possible.

What are you currently working on? How does it differ from past projects? 
I wasn’t a very good printmaker before I came to the Printshop and now I see it as an important part of what I do and for the rest of my career, definitely. The prints I’m creating are related to my paintings, but they are their own body of work. It’s been really good to work with photographic imagery because I normally use dark and light a lot and using photo-based printmaking lets you investigate that in a very practical way, so that’s what I’ve been doing.

Glass House in Heaven (Endless Privacy), 2012, acrylic on panel, 24 x 30 in 

Do you have any regrets about becoming an artist? Are there other things you would like to accomplish?

It’s really difficult and there are a lot of sacrifices in this life. I don’t think it’s going to be easy for the rest of my life, but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. At this point, it would be very difficult for me to give up. I put a lot of work into my art practice and my life, but yes, there are a lot of sacrifices.           
Where do you see yourself in 15 years?

15 years? Probably, I mean, hopefully I will, you know, progress, but I see my life the same as it is now, in the present.

How has working at the Lower East Side Printshop changed or reassured your previous approach to making art?

Just having the time, there’s so much time here, it has let me fail a lot more and not worry about it so much. I don’t think I’ve ever allowed myself to fail as much as I have ever, even in school, which is pretty amazing. Also, I feel more comfortable showing everyone here my failures and talking to them about everything that’s on my mind, and it’s so great to not go through that alone.

Do you plan to continue being an artist for the rest of your life? 

I mean, unless I discover that I could be an acrobat, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.

BONUS: What can we expect from your upcoming exhibition?

My next show opens on September 7th at Recession Art in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and it’s going to be paintings, prints, and sculptures, and today is the deadline for the naming of my exhibition, but I haven’t got the name right just yet*. The root of the show is the houseplant. A lot of the work doesn’t have houseplants in it, but I feel like the seed of it all was worrying about keeping a houseplant alive through the winter.

Untitled, 2013, screenprint, 28 x 22 in.

Untitled, 2013, screepprint, 28 x 22 in.

*In Stillness This Fiction Is Real, September 7 - October 6, Recession Art, 47 Bergen St., Brooklyn.

MEGAN BERK (b. 1979, Los Angeles, CA; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) received her MFA from Pratt Institute and BA from New York University. Recent exhibitions include a solo show at Salena Gallery, Long Island University, New York, NY; and group shows at RAC Gallery, New York, NY; Silas Marder Gallery, Bridgehampton, New York, NY; Bowman/Bloom Gallery, New York, NY; and Brenda Taylor Gallery, New York, NY.