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 Ciel Olsen Bergman  (1938 - )

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Lived/Active: California/New Mexico      Known for: inner/outer landscape painting, spiritual, perceptual art

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Ad Code: 3
Ciel Olsen Bergman
from Auction House Records.
Collective Empathy #387
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
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 cultures.

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 coexist.

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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