|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following is from the artist, March 2004.|
Ciel Bergman (formerly Cheryl Bowers) was born in 1938 in Berkeley,
California. She attended Berkeley Public Schools, graduating with a
major in History. During these formative years, already
practicing the craft from 6 years of age, she frequently visited the
Brundage Collection at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco and was
deeply influenced by the rich Asian aesthetic of the Pacific Basin
Initially trained with an R.N. in Psychiatry from the Santa Rosa School
of Nursing in the late 50's, she then married Second Lieutenant Lynn F.
Bowers and moved to Germany in 1960 for four years, during the building
of the Berlin Wall. She applied for employment as a clinical nurse with
the Army Base Medical Center in Giessen, however due to the constraints
of the Geneva Treaty with post-war Germany; she was unemployable.
During nursing school she had pursued drawing every evening alone.
Being self-taught, she found living in Europe with access to all the
great museums, a profound education. She traveled extensively, closely
studying the Masters, spending weeks and months in museums. She
began to paint seriously during these four years. Her daughter,
Bridgit, was born in Germany.
Returning to California, Bergman (then Bowers), continued to paint in
isolation in a village of east of the Bay Area, Lafayette, CA. There
she began study with a painter, Peter Blos, a German immigrant and
portrait painter of the Chancellors of the University of CA at
Berkeley. He had studied in Munich and Paris with Hans Hofmann and taught a very expressionist style. After the birth of a
second child, Erik, and the dissolution of her marriage, she moved to
Mendocino, CA where she continued to paint and mounted her first one
person exhibition, WINDOWS, at the Laura Lyngel Gallery West in
l968. These works investigated light refraction, translucency and
a layering of perceptual realities.
She met painter Paul Sarkisian, who was creating huge airbrushed
paintings, increasing her passion for what was possible. Due to lack of
money, she returned to the Bay Area and because of an extensive and
impressive portfolio, was able to enroll directly into the San
Francisco Art Institute Graduate Program, in 1970. Here she
studied with Sam Tchakalian, Fred Martin, and Frank Lobdell along with
seminar member, David Ireland. Bergman simultaneously audited
graduate seminars at UC Berkeley, with Peter Plagens and Robert
Hudson. She was befriended by Peter Voulkos and Harold Paris and
finally found herself gratefully, among a community of artists.
Bergman began exhibiting in San Francisco with a gallery, while joining
a gang of young Bay Area artists, who ran an alternative space called,
The New Museum of Modern Art, in Oakland, CA. Her canvases were in
acrylic, off the stretch on large sheets of linen, very empty and
minimal, poured and sprayed with little brushwork.
In 1972, she was invited to print at Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque.
It was during this time that she met and spent five hours with the
painter, Georgia O'Keefe in her Abiquiu studio.
In 1975, Bergman was honored with a SECA Award and exhibition at the
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and included in the 1975 Whitney
Biennial of American Painting and Sculpture. She was the
recipient of a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award for painting: traveling on
research to China, during which she experienced a transformative
epiphany. Her painting changed from graffiti-expressionism, to a more
controlled, contemplative surface, open composition, using symbols and
metaphor: the search began for a 'middle-ground', without a grid or
perspective; the space located in Asian painting.
During the 1980's Bergman's work was almost entirely composed of 3
juxtaposed vertical panels, each of different content, time, space and
place. She is a deeply committed environmentalist and has been called a
Neo-Transcendentalist, as the subtext is always about the natural
world, without actually identifying it as such. In 1988, she
received a fellowship from the Vermont Art Colony, where she began work
on a group of triptychs called LINKING, concerning the issue of nuclear
material and the environment. Then a group of very large paintings
called GOOD WILD SACRED, shown in a gallery in Los Angeles.
Bergman changed her name in 1988, on her 50th birthday, from Cheryl
Bowers, to Ciel Bergman, to honor her maternal Grandmother, Emma
Josephine Bergman, who had come to this country from Sweden in 1895 and
had wanted to be a writer of literature, but due to financial and
social constraints was unable to realize her dream.
Bergman taught at several institutions of higher learning, before
joining the Department of Art Studio on the painting and drawing
faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she
became a tenured Full Professor of Art. She has lectured
extensively around the United States and Slade School of Art in London.
After 18 years of teaching, she surrendered her appointment to become a
full-time painter and has moved to the quiet wilderness of Northern New
Mexico in the vicinity of Abiquiu.
Since 1990, having returned to oil several years earlier, Bergman has
been working for over 10 years on an on-going body of work titled, THE
ANTIDOTES. The work, both on canvas and architectural mylar engages the
search for an unknown, 'the deep feminine', a vision that seems to be
the need to locate a particular orientation, a 'genetically felt'
space, in which a simultaneous multiplicity of disparate realities
Ciel Bergman's work is held in the collections of 11 major museums in
the United Sates, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
She has many unpublished papers from speaking engagements, and her work
is discussed on video, produced by Eve Reynolds for PBS at Cablevision
Marina Del Rey, CA, 1989
Art in America, July 2003, San Diego, Ciel Bergman at R.B. Stevenson, Dr. Peter Selz, Pg. 102
IONS Magazine, March-May 2002, No. 59, Stepping Into The Fire, Chris Bache, P.16
THE Magazine, April 2003, The Universe of: Painter Ciel Bergman, Guy Cross, Pg. 8
THE Magazine, June 2000, Antidotes, Richard Tobin.
THE Magazine, March 1998, Trees and Faces, Diana Armitage.
Crosswinds, Vol.5, No. 10, September 1993, Reconnecting Art, Sandy Ballatore
Vision Art Quarterly, Fall 1993, Eco Trip: Embracing Nature, Seattle Area, Laura Funkhauser
Catalyst Magazine, February 1992, Sticks and Stones-The artist As Shaman, Frank McEntire
Art NEWS, December 1998, Ciel Bergman, Dorothy Goldeen, Pamela Hammond
Art NEWS, September 1992, Fresh Paint, Thomas Albright
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