Interview with Artists Timothy John Berg and Rebekah Myers
Remember those giant ice cream sandwiches that we wrote about earlier this week? Yes, you definitely do. We got such an awesome response to that post that we've decided to reward you with an interview with the artists, Timothy John Berg and Rebekah Myers.
Your work deals with commonplace icons and symbols —particularly food. Why?
Commonplace objects and stereotypical scenarios are accessible to a diverse spectrum of viewers. Our intention is to create work that is appealing to as many people as possible, not just a “art” audience. By appealing to people’s desires we are able to seduce them into a relationship with the work. Hopefully this allows people to meditate on its meaning and look past what is superficial or obvious. Food, especially ice cream treats are exceedingly seductive in their form, color and symbolic value. But we are using them primarily as a counterpoint. The pieces Enjoy it…while it lasts, Get ‘em ‘fore they’re gone and Eat your heart out are all meant to be considered within a broader context that demonstrates the important interconnectedness between human appetites and the implications that these appetites have on our environment.
A lot of your work uses iconic, bright, colorful, childlike images - do you draw inspiration from your own childhood?
There is something about the type of highly stylized work we are making that people like to identify as child-like. However, our work is not inspired by our childhood memories or even by children. There is a general attitude that if something is fun, silly or simple it is childish, but we don’t agree with this. Disneyland isn’t really for children, it’s for adults who want to create a facade that childhood is only fanciful and care free. We want to tap into a similar kind of nostalgic attitude in order to heighten the awareness that nothing is truly care free.
What was your favorite food as a child?
Do you have an explicit theme or issue that you are trying to investigate?
We began investigating the theme of how and why things disappear after making the piece the tip of the iceberg, which consisted of several empire penguins on a wooden glacier that was meant to appear as if it was disappearing right out from under them. As a part of the theme, things that disappear, we have been examining how things disappear through neglect, accident or intention. We are interested how these ideas can be conflated. For example, the extinction of the dinosaurs could have been an accident or they could have caused it themselves, we will never know. We may also suffer the same fate, only time will tell.
How do you reconcile working with commonplace, pop symbols and the more serious undertones of your artwork?
We don’t feel that there is a need to reconcile pop symbols or sentiments with the more serious undertones in the work. We feel that seemingly mundane things can be profound in their implications and that seemingly profound things can be mundane.
What artists have influenced you, and how?
While I think it important to acknowledge that our work is informed and contextualized in part by people like Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Jeff Koons I do not feel like we have been directly influenced by their conceptual agendas. Often I think we are making work as a direct reaction against something rather than an acceptance of it. I have always felt like the people close to me- teachers, colleagues and friends whose opinions I respect and value have had the greatest impact upon my work. In part this is how Rebekah and I began working together and what has made our collaboration successful.
How did you get into ceramics?
When I went to college at the University of Colorado at Boulder it was with the intention of becoming a painter. However, I quickly discovered that my ideas and my interests were much better represented in three dimensions. I was particularly taken with clay’s malleability and the notion that I could make anything out of it. I am continually impressed with what can be done with clay, but I have also come to realize its limitations. I think of myself as a sculptor first and a ceramicist second because in my mind we are making decisions about what materials to use based upon their ability to reinforce our concepts rather than trying to force the materials and techniques to carry meaning that they can’t.
We're fascinated by the souvenir dinosaurs - the "gift shop" actually being tied into the gallery show itself - was there an inspiration for the souvenir dinosaurs? Have you done something similar before? Do you imagine that this is going to be a component of future shows of yours?
I have included souvenirs in two previous exhibitions. Ecoficial, which was an exhibition about the artifice of public parks, included orange ceramic squirrels that inhabited a 1/3rd scale picnic bench. Hope Springs Eternal, was an exhibition dealing with how water in our environment is intentionally or unintentionally altered by humans and included seven large (3’ tall) pink ceramic penguins on a glacier. For Hope Springs Eternal I created a souvenir cart with 6” tall penguins, clouds and glaciers for sale. I like the idea that anyone who visits an exhibition has the opportunity to take a piece home with them to remember the experience. The slightly more subversive side of me likes that taking home a memento for one’s self means that ultimately the pieces all disappear, thus demonstrating the consequences of consumption. I think souvenirs will definitely continue to be a part of our exhibition strategy in the future.
If you had to eat a giant-scaled serving of any type of food, what would it be?
The idea of a giant-scaled serving of real food is a little bit off-putting in its excess, which is part the point, but if forced…
Tim: A 70% cacao dark chocolate bar
Rebekah: A perfectly ripe strawberry
Tim: Rebekah Myers and I have both contributed to these questions since we have begun to collaborate on all facets of our artistic production. I would encourage you to read more in depth descriptions of some of our projects at my website, www.timothyjohnberg.com.