Berkeley Arts Council members exhibiting diverse works in show
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Scattered throughout Berkeley Art Works are images representing the travels and life experiences of the artists who created them.
There are 36 pieces by 12 to 15 artists in the fourth annual exhibit of works by members of the Berkeley Arts Council. The show opened Jan. 11 in the downtown Martinsburg gallery and continues through Saturday, Feb. 18. A reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, will give visitors a chance to meet the artists.
Among the works on view are a handmade coffee table, quilts, digital and analog photographs, mixed-media creations and paintings using acrylics, oils and watercolors.
Sterling “Rip” Smith, vice president of the arts council and coordinator of the exhibit, called it “a very diverse show. We think it’s very good.”
He said not all of the artworks for sale, but those that are range in price from a little more than $100 to $1,300.
Smith has two photographs in the show, both from McDowell County, W.Va. He spent time in the southern part of the state “to get a feel for what’s going on down there” regarding poverty and to document it with his camera.
It was “an exercise in self-education,” during which he talked to some people about how they’re coping with the economic challenges there, including the principal of an elementary school and someone who recently opened a physical-therapy business in the area. The latter told Smith that he was struggling to find employees because there weren’t many qualified ones in the area, and those from outside the region were not interested in relocating there.
“Infrastructure is a big problem there,” said Smith, of Martinsburg, who is “70-something.”
He said the only route in and out of McDowell County is a two-lane road. The county has lost 80 percent of its population since 1960 because of the demise of coal mining, he added.
The photographs he amassed during his excursion were “my inner journalist trying to come out,” said Smith, who said he took a photojournalism course in 1965 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but didn’t pursue that as a vocation.
However, he’s continued to use a camera.
“I really gravitate toward architecture and man-made objects,” said Smith, adding that he rarely photographs people.
Three of the four photographs he submitted for consideration in the 2017 Cumberland Valley Artists & Photographers Exhibition at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in City Park were accepted. That show will be on view from Sunday, Jan. 29, to Sunday, April 9.
A diverse approach to art
Sharing wall space with Smith is Gary Bergel, a member of the arts council’s board of directors and an adjunct professor at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg.
The 73-year-old resident of Kearneysville, W.Va., has two has two paintings in the show, along with a piece of mixed media called “Postmodern Views, Rendition 2017.”
His “Collision Transition” and “The Rushing and the Rest” are acrylics on canvas, while his other creation consists of old reading glasses and assorted items inside a shadow box that is sandwiched between two art books.
Bergel said the latter is a statement on the world right now: “Everything seems so fractured,” he said.
While society might seem to be splintered, Bergel’s art merges his decades of experiences, as well as reflections on sky, earth, wind and water.
“I’m all over the place” in terms of styles and mediums, said Bergel, who has worked in film and digital photography, mixed media, oil and acrylic painting, printmaking and ceramics. He writes poetry, too, some of which he described as “Zeny.”
Genome mapping revealed that Bergel’s ancestry also is diverse, including kin who are Balkan, Irish and English.
“I’m very multiethnic,” he said, adding that he plans to incorporate his genome map into future works.
While life itself provides many a Muse, Bergel is often moved by his students.
He teaches “An Introduction to Visual Art” and two levels of “Creativity, Color and Design” at BRCTC. He also is a volunteer in recreational therapy at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg.
Bergel said he is particularly fond of teaching those who aren’t art-minded, what he called “outsider artists.” The ones who come to him with little or no experience in art but bring with them challenging experiences often are the ones who shine.
“The work they do sparks everyone else’s creativity,” said Bergel, a founding board member and treasurer of the Washington Streets Artists’ Cooperative in Charles Town, W.Va.
Bergel did his undergraduate work in biology and secondary education at University of Wisconsin, Madison, with minors in natural science and art. He received a master’s degree in mixed media and ceramics from the same university, and went on to work in myriad fields, including gallery direction, writing and Web posting, public-affairs research, international travel and humanitarian relief. He also used his concern for the poor to promote community development among Native Americans, as well as residents of Haiti, West Africa and the Middle East.
Bergel said he takes “more of a universalist approach to landscape,” enjoying creating images with a brush or camera of skies and clouds, sometimes taken from the interior of planes. His works have been exhibited throughout the region, including at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown; The Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, Md.; the Ice House in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.; and The Bridge Gallery in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Smith hopes that the public will stop by to admire the pieces created by Bergel and a sampling of the 60 to 70 members of the Berkeley Arts Council.
“We like to recognize talents,” Smith said.