Christian Berman


Christian Ruiz Berman "Mirage for Kokichi" Acrylic on panel 5"x7" 2017

I was born in Mexico City in 1982. I have a BA from Duke University, and later completed a masters degree in landscape architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. I’m currently completing my MFA in painting, also at RISD. I have worked in environmental conservation, landscape architecture, art education, and public art. If life is a vast broth of chaotic acts and tangled reactions, making art is how I chart my way through the soup. Because I was forcefully removed from my homeland of Mexico and from much of my family at a young age, I became accustomed to localizing my identity within a precarious juncture of memory, fact and fiction. My work draws from personal histories of migration and adaptation, and I’m interested in the emotional and communicative power of the image. While I consider myself essentially non-religious, I am fascinated by the role of visual representations and symbols in mystical and shamanic practice, and have recently become quite interested in the intersections between contemporary philosophy and eastern/buddhist tradition. I consider my work meditative in that it strives to dissect and understand the components of my experience and of my cultural and aesthetic legacy in a way that might give a greater understanding of the whole. While I use symbols, architectures, and snippets of stories that are deeply personal and autobiographical, I want my paintings to embody a shared experience. The ability for the viewer to live their own life inside my work is extremely important to me, as is the work’s potential to inspire new narratives. The 20th century Indian philosopher J. Krisnamurti speaks about the importance of what he terms “joyful discontent.” This concept involves the abandonment of a quest for stability and security, which he deems are forms of premature death. I try to approach painting as someone that is always discontented, not with my station or success, but joyfully discontent because of a desire to know more, to learn more, to see more. I am also deeply influenced by the current writings of feminist philosophers like Karen Barad and Donna Haraway, who strive to build an ontology and worldview that privileges intra-actions and entanglements between things and systems rather than a reality built upon discrete objects and hierarchical actions. Barad writes about describing reality as an apparatus, in which each person, animal, relationship, and mechanism is an essential component of the present moment. She writes about the tentacular and woven nature of agency, as well as about humanity’s need for new symbols and figures that better reflect our current knowledge of quantum physics and the nature of reality and the mind. If there is a need for new symbols, new words, new ways of seeing things, how can I add to the conversation as a painter?  

 Art Seed at Marble House Project