What Is It About, and How Is It Made?
Marcy Bernstein’s work is imbued with history, memory, and a sense of place.
Her paintings read as contemporary relics that seem both ancient and fresh.
She captures images, shapes, and colors gleaned from the land, water, and sky. These may include people, textiles, architecture, flora, and fauna that are native to an area.
She then interacts with these elements intuitively, forming and deforming layers.
Embedded material is scraped and chipped away, covering and then unearthing the colorful and textural secrets of what came before and creating fissures that let in the light. The layers of paint create scar-like surfaces that function as a visual embodiment of a process over time.
Bernstein’s colorful, anthropomorphic abstractions bend geometric shapes just enough to reference the human body interacting with surrounding space. The textures are inspired by crumbling and decaying architecture, textures, and patterns in nature, and layers of peeling paint. They are bars, stripes, but at the same time legs, and bodies. They are acted upon and dissolved by a force of nature outside themselves. These paintings speak to the resilience, beauty, and persistence of the human spirit.
Bernstein often uses recycled doors and other found materials as “canvas” for her paintings. These kinds of surfaces are often old and had once been utilitarian. They carry a history and energy within them which are important to the work, both visually and symbolically.
Taking her own photos of abstract elements in the environment, she rips and cuts them up to use as collage material. These images are layered, peeling, and exposed to create captivating visual remnants of the effects of time on objects.
Bernstein then begins the lengthy process of interlaying paint in multiple layers. This involves interacting with the images using acrylic paint, wax encaustic, oil glazes, and a myriad of tools to cut, sand, and scrape. She uses scraping tools to scratch into the surfaces to expose what lays beneath. It is an unearthing process that is additive and subtractive and builds intuitively over time.
The resulting surfaces have a luminous quality and a depth that resonates with primeval energy.