We had the good fortune of connecting with Jesse Berlin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jesse, how do you think about risk?
As a fine artist, risk-taking is everything. The vast majority of people who study fine art never become professional artists. Those lucky few who do only do so by risking everything. Building a life as a professional artist means working on art and promoting your work full-time, even if you’re not getting paid. You have to be willing to spend a great deal of time and money participating in exhibitions, travel to exhibitions, residencies, and workshops, buying materials and equipment, obtaining adequate studio space, etc., and there’s no guarantee that any of this will result in financial success. I only got where I am today because I was willing to risk everything. At times it has cost me dearly, but I like to think that I’ve finally reached a place in my career where all of that risk is beginning to pay off.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
For a long time now, there has been a growing schism between conceptualism and more traditional, materials-based art. In addition to creating a divide between artists of different disciplines, it has also resulted in a division between the everyday public and serious art consumers. I see this as incredibly detrimental to the sustainability of art in America. My own sculpture does not fit comfortably into either of these categories. I deal with intense subject matter that evokes feelings of discomfort and anxiety in many casual viewers, but I am deeply concerned with technique, craftsmanship, and classical aesthetics, which often alienates me from the more academic/conceptual art establishment. Luckily there is a growing community of artists within the more recent “Dark Art,” Lowbrow Art,” and “Pop Surrealism,” movements that in addition to welcoming me into their fold, have also striven to bring fine art to the masses while still maintaining an awareness of the importance of concept.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Being a Tucson centered artist, I can’t say much about what Phoenix has to offer, other than the fabulous Heard Museum, and the Mesa Contemporary Arts Center. As for Southern Arizona in general, the Sonoran Mexican food is not to be missed. Tucson itself was recently named a UNESCO world heritage site for our 4,000 year old, continuous culinary history. The Tucson Museum of Art is a must see, and is adjacent to our historic Warehouse Arts District. Of course not trip to Southern Arizona would be complete with out a trip to the Sonoran Desert Museum. This living museum houses numerous natural enclosures, and exhibits featuring living specimens of out incredible native flora and fauna, as well as several interactive, educational exhibits. Honestly, I have a great love for our little part of the country, and don’t know if I could pack all that we have to offer into a year, let alone a week.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Romero House Potters I have been associated with Romero House Potters for three years now. First as a volunteer monitor, and later as the Studio Manager. They provide a tremendous service to the Tucson art community, providing affordable means to study and produce ceramic art, as well as opportunities for working artists to learn technical skills in studio operation, and to volunteer their time in exchange for access to facilities that they might not otherwise have.
All images credited to the artist: Jesse Berlin