▲ American artist Rachael Berman at work. Photos by Arielle Ballou
Although American Rachael Berman is currently employed as an English teacher on Jeju Island, her primary passion is her artwork. She uses her photography as a basis for painting and through other mixed media creates pieces themed around concepts such as nature, organics, life, trash, human consumption and global destruction. Berman has traveled the world, “aspir[ing] to gather material and create work in every new place [she] lives and visits.”
Living on Jeju has been no exception and Berman will exhibit months of Jeju-inspired work in a show entitled “Way of Being” at the Halla Arboretum throughout January 2010.
Artistic expression runs in the Berman family, extending from both parents. “I remember digging through my parents’ shed, when I was a kid, and finding paintings of my family done by my great-aunt and other distant relatives.” Her grandmother also enjoys water-color painting and Berman’s cousin is a science-fiction illustrator.
Berman grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana, a small, humble town not known for its artistic support. However, the 18-year-old student was encouraged by her high school art teacher, Tom Shafer, to pursue and expand her art career. When Berman was awarded a prestigious scholarship for photography to the Art Institute of Boston in 2000, she accepted, uprooting herself from her small-town world to the hustle and bustle of East Coast city life.
Berman completed her photography degree in 2004, and though she planned at some point to return to university to do a masters degree in Fine Arts, she felt life experience was more valuable for the content of her artwork than further years of university study. So she packed her bags and went abroad. To date, Berman has traveled through much of the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Scotland and, of course, South Korea.
Berman’s upcoming show at the Halla Arboretum is inspired by Jeju Island’s famous natural beauty. Since Jeju advertises its environmental splendor as a selling point for tourism and international recognition, discovering Halla Mountain, the many oreums (parasitic volcanoes found throughout the island), and Jeju’s olle courses was an easy task for Berman upon arriving on the island nearly nine months ago.
Specifically, much of Berman’s work for the show was inspired by
her experiences while hiking all of Jeju’s 15 olle tracks. For Berman, hiking the courses illustrated two sides to Jeju’s environmental issues. She was inspired by Jeju’s beauty and enjoyed the walks a great deal, “but hope[s] some of the pieces also show that things are really changing on the island.” Though the courses take hikers to various beautiful places through-out the island, “many are littered with trash shoring from the ocean.” Berman wants to show in her upcoming exhibition that although Jeju’s natural beauty is currently abundant, “It seems like people are ignoring the intrinsic contradiction that as Jeju Island strives to become an international city, its natural beauty is at stake.”
This is Berman’s 27th art exhibition in 10 years. Although each show has been very different from its predecessors, a certain continuity flows through all of her artwork. For example, Berman prices her work accord-ing to the buyer: “If someone loves a piece, but doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, I’ll adjust the price to something they can afford.” She also incorporates her concept of Free Art at each gallery, where she allows guests to take home her organic bookmarks, stickers and other small artworks branded with the Free Art slogan. “I love the idea of making art accessible to everyone,” she said.
Berman plans to finish her year in Jeju in February 2010 and return to the states for graduate school, where she will complete an MFA. In graduate school, “I’d really like to take ‘rubbish’ and turn it into natural, organic art forms, and take organic pieces of nature to form urban or synthetic pieces.”
Her work will be on display until Jan. 31 at the Halla Arboretum, in the Natural Ecology Experience Exhibition Hall. For more information, www.wix.com/rsbmedi/art.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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