Barbara M. Berk
Barbara M. Berk
My journey has been circuitous: a childhood love of fabric and sewing; a Master’s Degree in Russian History; over 15 years in magazine publishing. My introduction to antique jewelry led to studies in gemology and metalsmithing – and the discovery that my true passion is working with the metal itself. I learned that metal can be worked like fiber, by hand, yet produce structurally sound 3-dimensional forms. I launched my company in 1992 to create my signature handwoven wearable sculptures, and began creating wall-mounted, ceiling-suspended and pedestal-supported artworks in 2013.
My work embodies the interplay of metal with traditional fiber techniques and structures.
Working directly with stainless steel and phosphor bronze wire, I use Renaissance stitches to make ribbons of bobbin lace by hand. I then curve, loop, twist, interweave, layer, sew, embroider, weld and polish the flat lace “fabric” into 3-dimensional sculptural forms.
I play with geometry and pattern, density and texture, probing the limits of scale, volume, and structural integrity. Positive and negative space – both the openings that reveal the lace pattern and the voids in the form itself – create and mask transparency. Light reflections and cast shadows define and enhance form. Movement – actual and implied – engages the eye.
My process – with its focus on applying unusual methods to the materials of sculpture – is slow and repetitive. It can be rhythmic. It is often therapeutic. It is always labor-intensive and time-consuming. But the tactile pleasure of moving metal, the intellectual satisfaction of resolving a challenge, the joy of creating something out of nothing, feed my passion. Ultimately, transforming coils of wire into 3-dimensional calligraphic abstractions makes me happy.
My work is represented in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and in private collections in California, Florida and New York.
“Oskar Schlemmer’s Dancer” was selected for “On the Edge”: The de Young Open, at the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco, CA (2020 – 2021). A celebration of the 125th anniversary of the museum, the exhibition was juried by renowned Bay Area artists Enrique Chagoya, Mildred Howard, and Hung Liu; in addition to Timothy Anglin Burgard, Distinguished Senior Curator and Ednah Root Curator-in-Charge of American Art, Claudia Schmuckli, Curator of Contemporary Art and Programming, Karin Breuer, Curator in Charge of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, and Jill D’Alessandro, Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts, at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
My sculpture has been exhibited in the "100th Anniversary Exhibition" and awarded Honorable Mention by the Judge George Rivera, former Executive Director and Chief Curator, Triton Museum of Art and former Director and Curator, San Jose Art League, at the Pacific Art League, Palo Alto, CA (2021 – 2022); "Forge the Future", celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Metal Arts Guild, at ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA (2021); "BEAUTY or TRUTH", featuring the Pacific Rim Sculptors, juried by Chandra Cerrito, principal of Chandra Cerrito / Art Advisors, at Gallery 1337, Art Works Downtown, San Rafael, CA (2021); “2020 Members Biennial Exhibition”, juried by Emily Zaiden, Director of the Craft in America Center, at the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA (2020); “Form and Function: Fiber Arts for the 21st Century”, juried by Karen Gutfreund, at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, San Jose, CA (2019-2020); “Bauhaus Centennial – Taking Shape: Bauhaus Fiber Art Exhibition”, juried by Dr. Katharina Powers, Art Ventures Gallery, Menlo Park, CA (2019); “Beyond the Warp and Weft: The Enduring Legacy of the Bauhaus”, curated by Hanna Regev, Ruth’s Table Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2019); “Reflections and Shadows”, juried by Maria Medua, Director of SFMOMA Artists Gallery, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA (2017); “International Fiber Arts VII”, juried by Lia Cook, John Hopper, Kyoko Kumai, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA (2015).
My work has been featured in many publications, including “Textile Techniques in Metal for Jewelers, Textile Artists, and Sculptors” by Arline M. Fisch (1996, 2001, 2016), in addition to many magazines including PUNCH Monthly, Ornament and Metalsmith.
Silicon Valley Open Studio Location
May 13 - 14: Site# 448
1160 Industrial Road Suite #11, San Carlos
1160 Industrial Road Suite #11
Click on the map pin for directions