Arts and Entertainment

Bainbridge sculptor Brian Berman sends work to the Louvre

Brian Berman in his home gallery. The cast glass version of “Genesis,” right, will travel to Paris in December.  -
Brian Berman in his home gallery. The cast glass version of “Genesis,” right, will travel to Paris in December.
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Sculptor Brian Berman seeks clarity.

“I’m working with glass and translucent stone right now because I want my artwork to bring more light into the world,” he said. “I feel like we’re in a dark time right now, and that each of us has the ability to radiate that light.”

The artist is only speaking partially figuratively; one of his recent pieces, a circular form in cast glass called “Genesis,” is bound for the Louvre, one of 12 pieces that will represent the United States at the Societe Nationale Des Beaux-Arts, to be held this December. This Saturday evening, he’ll hold a local celebration and fund-raiser at the Bainbridge Commons, to aid his effort to be there with the piece.

Sculpting, for Berman, began as a healing measure. During the summer of 1991, after his long-time business disintegrated, Berman and his 14-year-old son began carving in soapstone. He found their togetherness, and the process of carving and smoothing, enormously therapeutic, and kept going. He moved to Bainbridge and continued to build his body of work.

The qualities of Berman’s sculptures that made, and continue to make their creation so gratifying for the artist are probably the ones that make them appealing to viewers.

Circularity permeates his current work. Many of the pieces, like the ones in the “Genesis” series, are polished to complete and serene smoothness, in everything from cast bronze to ruby red glass to the translucent light earth tone version bound for Paris.

“My interpretation helps people connect with that calmness in themselves,” he said.

Other pieces are rougher-hewn, with jagged edges and irregularities. Many of the pieces have a human geometry, with a round head and shoulders.

Just as the smooth circular sculptures might invoke calm perfection, these, Berman says, can represent the person who is viewing them, both the promise and the imperfection of what lies within everyone.

“We also have our unfinished, unpolished representations of ourselves,” he said.

The artist moved to Suquamish in 2001 and began expanding his contact base. Last December, he submitted samples to the Karen Lynne Gallery in Boca Raton, Fla. She requested five pieces for her January show, and two sold in short order.

Three months later, something even bigger emerged; the gallery owner invited Berman and 19 other artists around the country to apply for inclusion in the SNDB’s contemporary show. He was one of the dozen selected.

The question then became how he’d get to go. Shipping the sculpture alone would cost $3,000, a price agreed on by the participating U.S. artists. How could he swing his own travel expenses?

“I agonized about that,” he said. “And then I thought, how would I feel if I didn’t do it?”

With encouragement from friends and family, this Saturday’s benefit-slash-celebration began to take shape.

The current financial crisis has left him a little unsettled as to whether it’s right to ask people to support his trip to Paris.

On the other hand, he doesn’t view this as a vacation, but an investment.

He likens it to the Olympics, an opportunity to take his sculpture, with its message of light and peace, to an international audience while at the same time gaining valuable perspective on what other artists are working on right now around the globe.

For that reason, and for his old island connections, he hopes for a strong showing of local support.

“Even though I’m not a resident of Bainbridge, I feel like Bainbridge raised me as a sculptor,” he said.

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