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From the streets of Brooklyn to a one-room schoolhouse in Cherokee County,
Oklahoma, Sandra Bierman's life experiences have been chaotic, but she was a born artist. Her father, John Riesberg, was an immigrant from Sweden and her mother, Martha Blair, a Texas farm girl who became afflicted with schizophrenia while Sandra was a child. Her parents were divorced when Sandra was four.
Bierman grew up mainly in Houston, Texas, but she was introduced to a variety of environments as a young child due to poverty and an unstable home life. In early years Sandra lived on and off in foster homes and with her maternal grandmother in a tin-roofed cabin in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Bierman's grandmother was the only consistently caring and loving person in her childhood, and imagery of her grandmother as a large barefoot figure, as well as other symbols of her childhood, appear in many paintings. See The Bath series and The Planting.
Bierman describes herself as being lucky that she was born with gifts to survive her neglectful beginnings. One gift was her artistic talent. As a sensitive child she found solace in her ability to draw, sometimes on walls or broken furniture when her school notebook paper ran out. When things were bleak she would go off by herself in a corner, on a bed or in a tree and draw her heart out. As another survival technique, she also invented a Guardian Angel who loved her unconditionally. The angel is depicted in her 1994 painting Dream of the Guardian Angel which she painted at a time when she almost lost her husband to cancer.
Sandra attended a different school every year, usually moving in the middle of the school year, except for the last two years of high school in Baltimore where she lived with a great aunt. Bierman was a daydreamer and was unable to concentrate on studies in school and was considered a failure by teachers and relatives. But her IQ scores were far above average. In school she had low self-esteem, but the golden thread of her artistic talent followed her, and in that genre she gained pride.
Bierman in 3rd grade won her first art award when the Houston Art Museum
sponsored a city wide competition. At age 12, while living in the Houston housing projects, she was awarded her first art scholarship for watercolor lessons, a six-week course located in walking distance from where she lived. Her art talent followed her throughout her school years. In 1963 upon graduation from Western High School in Baltimore she was awarded a full 4-year scholarship to the Maryland Institute of Art, but her art education was cut short when she married a Naval Academy midshipman and moved away.
At the age of 24 Sandra had the first of three children, lived in New Jersey and was able to study painting with John Grabach in Princeton. Later she took courses in New York City at the Art Students League. Her artwork began to gain recognition in the late 1960s, but in 1969, she became a single parent.
Bierman was forced to seek a more financially rewarding career that would support her and her three children, and she entered the corporate world. However, in order to move up in the strenuous corporate ladder, Bierman had to forsake her art.
In 1977, Bierman became a Telecommunications Analyst in New York City. She
channeled her creativity to developing training programs for corporate users of voice and data communication systems, which included producing audiovisual training programs. Later she became a Second Vice President in the Telecommunications Division of Chase Manhattan Bank's world headquarters in New York City. Throughout this period Bierman was longing to return to her art.
During her corporate career the greatest tragedy of Bierman's life began which greatly influences her art. In 1982 one of her sons became ill while in college with the incurable illness of his maternal grandmother--schizophrenia. He was an honor student and had a promising future when this terrible disease afflicted his brain. Sandra has never been able to accept this tragedy, and when she returned to her art in 1986, her painting became a great outlet filled with the emotions and healing comfort she needed and continues to influence her art today.
In 1983 Sandra met and married Arthur Bierman, a Physics Professor at CUNY.
In 1986, after 17 years of not painting, Bierman retired from her corporate career to resume her art, but was fearful that she had lost her art talent. She was amazed to see her art emerge in tact from beneath a thin, rusty surface.
In 1988 Sandra and her husband moved to Boulder, Colorado, where they now reside. Her paintings soon began to be accepted in national shows and won awards. She became sought by major art galleries in New Mexico, California,
Florida and New York. She was surprised when her art was lauded in editorials in books and national art magazines, and she was more surprised when her paintings began to be published and distributed worldwide as greeting cards and prints by New York Graphic Society and other publishers. She sometimes says her guardian angel is still looking out for her.
Although Bierman has had various early art courses, she considers herself mainly self taught. When she recognized her own distinctive style after 1986, she chose not to study art from workshops or other artists for fear that her own style and technique would change due to influence from other teachers. Bierman is influenced by art which speaks to her such as the Italian 16th-Century masters, Mexican masters, and the classical flat art of Japan and China.
Her paintings are uniquely "Bierman." She paints spontaneously from imagination without models or photos. Bierman canvases are known for their lines and shapes of circular movement. She is intrigued with the rhythmic flow of lines and she will distort a figure to achieve a visual harmony in the curve of a line or shape. The imagery that appears in her art is from an unconscious place, triggered from her life experiences.
Her main focus is the relationships of lines and shapes and the division of space, but she is known by the public for her use of reflected light and her Earthy round, barefoot women cradling cats or small children.
Bierman's son who is ill with schizophrenia turned 41 in January 2001, and does not know that the emotions of love and nurture which abound in his mother's art are largely a result of his illness. Much of her art reflects her immense need to work through the pain and despair of his illness--to heal.
"My work comes spontaneously from my imagination. Although I grew up with struggle, I draw on the richness of my life's experience. When I moved to Colorado and began to paint only from my mind's eye, my art began to communicate a spiritual or inner quality. It is important in my work that I paint intuitively, with no models or photographs to influence my inner perceptions. Although I like strong shapes and fluid, continuous lines, I enjoy the added challenge of using the human figure in my compositions. The figures, celebrating women in everyday life, have bare earthy feet and large caring hands.
My paintings are about love and hope, and the celebration of life as perceived by a woman. They communicate my own yearning for tranquility and inner healing. The women may be cradling a child or washing their hair in the rain or getting solace from a cat reflections from my own life. The large old women reflect my moods and small pauses in time. For the sake of important elements in a work, I often exaggerate or distort lines and shapes to enhance the overall composition and character of a painting, which is far more important in my work than anatomical correctness. I apply the paint, but it is a struggle not to get in the way of the process as it unfolds. It is best if it guides me, not I guide it. I have been moving in the direction of simplification, to get closer to the essence." Influences: 16th Century Italian masters, Mexican masters, Japanese classical art.
Marques' Who's Who in America inclusion. Year 2000 to present.
Southwest Art, April 1997, "Sandra Bierman" by Judy Hughes, p 106-111.
U.S. Art Magazine, April 1999, Cover and "Women Painting Women" p. 30-32.
Mountain Living, Spring 1997, "Sandra Bierman", by Heather Prouty, p. 77-78.
Radiance magazine, Winter 1997/98, "Rediscovering My Art at Age Fifty," by
Alice Ansfield, p. 24 -29.
Art Trends, Sept.-Oct. 1996, "Making Their Mark," by Nita Bateman, p. 43
Art Review, Aug. 1998, "Sandra Bierman", by Paula Kiehl, p.30
U.S. Art Magazine, Feb. 1999, p. 3 & 43 - 46
Writers Digest Books, 1994: Artist's & Graphic Designers Market , Mary Cox,
(Editor's choice), p.444
Woman's Magazine, Dec. 1993, "Bierman: The Journey Back" by Deborah
Rosenberger,. p.8 - 9
Colorado Daily, " Feb. 21, 1992, "Feelings of the Spirit Shine Through in
Bierman Show," by David Alan, p.22.
Art Talk, Aug.-Sept. 1995: Danny Medina, "Bierman, one of the hottest painter
The Artist's Magazine, Dec. 1994: Marty Munson,. "1994 Oil Finalists," p.49
America West Airline Magazine, April 1996: Beverly Olevin, "The Gypsy Moon,"
(story illustrations) p.46-50
Art Calendar magazine, June 1996: Carolyn Blakeslee,. "Town Meeting on
ARTnews, June 1996: Michael Duty, "Art of the American West," IIp p.56 & 75
Sunday Denver Post, May 10, 1998, "Weight" by Kerri Smith, p.1-A & 3-D.
Southwest Art, 2/96: Margaret Brown,. "Bottom Line: "Sandra Bierman awarded the Medal of Honor" p.34
Sunday Camera, March 24, 1991 Jennifer Heath,. "Exhibit Promises Rebirth,"
Sunday Camera, Feb. 23, 1992: Jennifer Heath,. Visual Arts: "Bravo!," (show)
SunStorm Fine Art, Summer 1997, "A New Dawn Rising" AAWA women artists, p. 49 & 55
Light of Consciousness magazine Nancy Barstow,. (editorial Cover), Sept. 1994
Nexus, July 1993; Sept. 1994; Nov. 1996, Apr. 1998: (editorial Cover), Ravi
The Other Side, (cover and story illustration)
Selected Awards And Recognition:
Purchase Award "Seduction of Eve II", City of Loveland, Loveland Art Museum,
Colorado Governor's Invitational show, 1998. (This is the only award given
at each annual Colorado Governor's Invitational show.)
Medal Of Honor (1st Place Oil) "The Old, The Ugly & The Beautiful" American
Artists Professional League, 67th Grand National Exhibition, Salmagundi Club.
New York City 1995.
International Finalist, "Yin-Yang." Louie Awards, Javits Center, New York
City, 1995 & 1996.
National Finalist, "Fascination" Artist Magazine Awards, 1994.
Best Of Show Award & Best Oil Award"Three Graces Trilogy." Western Images, Boulder CO 1992.
Best Of Show, "Earth Mother" Boulder Art Assn. National Show, 1990.
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