Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Yesterday, I was invited to lunch with Sheila Berger, an old friend that I had not seen in many years, we were pals almost a lifetime ago in Paris, France... but first, I was invited to her art studio that is located on 27th street between 10th and 11th avenue, a very desolate part of town, if that is actually possible in New York City. So, imagine my surprise when the elevator door creaked open and I was greeted by the entryway of "Blood Manor"... Now, I am a native New Yorker and I do not scare easily but let me explain that many dark thoughts rushed through my mind, and I am sure you can imagine what! I quickly pushed the down button and whipped out my handy-dandy cell phone and promtly called Sheila, who explained to me that her studio lied just behind Blood Manor, a once a year haunted house event... whew! I followed Sheila down the dark ghoulish hall and then to my wondrous surprise we entered, Sheila's Sumptuous Secret Garden, her studio...
As I looked around in awe, Sheila explained that she had been influenced by her lifetime of travel to some of the most remote parts of the globe, her paintings are both a reflection of the visual richness of these experiences and a space to breathe, not unlike a garden. She also spoke about how she found inspiration, in the inbetween spaces, where things unexpectly grew in her own garden up on top of the Chelsea Hotel. As Sheila's process is a slow and ritualistic one, the work likewise demands a quiet concentration, gift of time, and a willingness to listen to their silence. Part of her pleasure in crafting these paintings is the celebration of a technique unchanged for thousands of years: the melting of encaustic then repeatedly painting her special custom-made wooden panels until they have the desired texture. The result is a tabula rasa awaiting her impressions. With the introduction of pigments, and the use of wood-block patterns some centuries old--unearthed in India or Persia--Sheila, like an exacting alchemist, builds each painting into a palimpsest of memories, moods and emotion.
Sheila's newest work is an ode to her mother Rosalie, and motherhood... it tells the tragic and beautiful story of a mother having to let go so that her children may learn to fly, yet always silently being there and watching... whether they stumble, fall, or soar.
Silverplate dhalia from Sheila's garden on top of the Chelsea Hotel.
By Adrian Dannat, for Paul Kasmin Gallery, 2009