The time is finally ripe to share my new series, ‘The Midsommar Dream’, and I could not be more excited! This series feels especially dear to my heart — it represents a return to some of the most romantic and dreamy imagery that permeates my work, while also transcending past limits and adding compelling new symbolic layers.
This year has been one of incredible change and personal transformation, and these paintings feel representative of that. They were conceived on the cusp of my departure from Seattle, and were painted in four countries and many states of mind. For inquiries about any of the works, please contact Erica Berkowitz (email@example.com), the full preview with pricing information is available here: Haven Gallery Preview
A little background
A forceful sense of wanderlust washed over me like a sudden wave in the spring of 2018, so the opportunity to attend a 2 month artist residency on the small island of Korpo presented itself at the perfect moment. Working in the midst of nature was a transformative experience; the stimulations and creative breakthroughs that came just from wandering on the rocky outer-islands, and the inland forests and marshlands, were astounding.
residency fell over the Midsummer Solstice Celebration, which is as
important in Scandinavia as Christmas is in the West. The festival is a
celebration of life, and many old and pagan myths and rituals linger in
the consciousness of these communities. I was surprised that my
paintings seemed so fully synchronized with the area around Korpo, but
also many of the beautiful Midsommar traditions. One of my favorites
entailed an actual Midsummer Dream: on the solstice young maidens walk
through the meadows, collecting 7 unique flowers (sometimes 9, depending
whom you ask!) The flowers are placed under your pillow, and in your
dreams you will see a vision of your true love. Of course I had to try
this, collecting my flowers in a windstorm, and did indeed have a lovely
and intriguing dream apparition!
This group of dreamers sprouted from a self-portrait experiment by my
sister Roxanna. She had staged a beautiful set of photographs of various
graceful poses distorted by wet glass and flower petals, and I knew the
moment I saw them, that I had to paint them. The other figures that
join her here seem lost in their own inner worlds. Time is suspended
from their fingertips, and behind the glint of their clear blue eyes,
phantoms and visions dance. To me they feel like the players who beckon
us into the petal-soft forests of ‘The Midsommar Dream’.
the Dreamers spilled forth from my brush, they were joined by a small
menagerie of other beguiling creatures. In a way, these represent a
return to one of my oldest impulses, inventing fanciful imaginary beings
that hover on the edge of our reality. When I was little, the real and
imagined danced together without boundaries, but over time as I honed my
draftsmanship, it became important to reference the natural world more
faithfully. Yet the creatures never fully disappeared, and when I
cracked a small doorway open for them in the last few years, they came
flooding back from some secret corner of my consciousness. The small
giraffapine creature was the first, and she kindly invites us to join
the myriad of myths and monsters that surround her.
The Dream Cage
‘The Dream Cage’ is the crescendo of this series, and represents a breakthrough on many levels. The image first appeared in a half-remembered dream; a powerful luminous being, contained in a gilded cage. Perhaps there is a story here of how the flautist and the creature are connected ~ isn’t it exciting to imagine all the possibilities? The symbol of the magic flute is a powerful one, and has fascinated me as long as I can recall. A puppet version of the opera was the first live performance I ever saw as a child, and something of its whimsy and magic still haunts me to this day.
It took many trancelike sketches to coax the shape of this creature out of my sleeping mind. To paint it convincingly, I built a small model of the creature and placed it in a toy railroad cage. While sculpting this little maquette, I was struck with a terrible flu, and when I emerged from the fever many days later, it truly felt like it had materialized from a murky nether region of my consciousness.
The piece itself is among the largest I have ever managed, and represents a massive technical feat. Just the underpainting for the magnolia tree took a long audiobook, and fitting all the components together was a tricky feat. But it’s also one of those paintings that had me smiling the entire time - from the glimmering folds of Roxanna’s magician’s robe, to the glittering scales and ruby eyes of the creature.
The Minotaur appeared to me from a haze, mysterious and surprising,
yet also insistent and fully formed. During my final weeks in Seattle,
there was a moment where every book I opened, and several songs and
podcasts, all mentioned the Minotaur. It felt like one
of those coincidences that should not be ignored, so just for fun I
sketched one while riding the bus home one day. He was an usual
subject-matter, so clearly masculine in contrast to the usual feminine
or androgynous figures I tend to favor. I grappled with how he would fit
into my work, and decided that keeping the color palette in a soft
floral hue would help to ground him among my other paintings.
While all alone on my distant island, working on the endless branches and foggy trees which surround him, another small realization about the mysterious Minotaur bloomed. In 2016, my dear friend Seb took their life, and left what felt like a tangled gaping hole in my world. One of the last pieces they painted was a brooding self-portrait titled ‘Devourer’. In it, their face is overgrown with foliage revealing only a menacing grimace, bare-chested torso a visualization of their masculine shadow-self. It was heart-wrenching to have never been able to talk with Seb about so many things before they were gone, and part of me always wanted to reply to this piece but could find no outlet to do it.
Suddenly it felt like the Minotaur might be a subconscious reply - a vision of a masculine self that does not have to signal destruction, but could be full of creation and protection instead. He is a steward of his misty forest, beckoning you to enter the world he guards. Contrasting the pale floral bounty of the Minotaur’s face with the sharp-edged lines of his cloak was especially important, and while painting the crystalline edges and folds it felt like I’d wandered into an inescapable emerald labyrinth.
If you are in the New York area, I invite you to come join the revelry this Saturday for the opening reception! I will be in attendance, and would love to see you and hear your thoughts on this little web I’ve woven