Debra Bermingham /Artist statement /June 25, 2019
Tell me a story.
In the final poem of Robert Penn Warren’s Audubon: A Vision the narrator asks -
In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.
Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.
The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.
Tell me a story of deep delight.
My aim in the exhibition - Tales from the Blue Ship Tearoom – is to tell this story of “Time” using a theatrical language of old boards and torn paper in juxtaposition with clock parts; paintings; organ tops – the ephemera of a rural life shaded by memories of sky blue trades.
I lived in a nest that floated at sea. Wind and waves were calm around me. Swaying at the top of great trees, I clung to tiny branches, my small hands cut and sticky with sap. In an ocean pinewood with damp paths that seemed to stretch for miles, I ran on barefoot adventures. Through my window at night came the sound of laughter and a barking dog, the rhythmic sound of insects. The night breeze gently stirred the shade darkening my room. It sounded like water lapping against the hull of a ship and lulled me to sleep. There were days and kingdoms where I walked in snow up to my waist. Dark hemlocks disappeared in haze above a rushing ravine near a lodge made of logs cut by mountain men. Inside, a stone hearth held an open fire with huge birch logs ablaze and crackling. All was a great mystery and adventure, full of song and sky blue trades. (May 25, 2018 / D.Bermingham)
Tell me a story.
Artist Statement/ April 2, 2018
The circumstances of my life have been defined by my connection to the natural world. For the past thirty years I have lived in rural upstate New York where I have my studio and the vineyard/winery – Bloomer Creek – that I established with my husband. These two endeavors, though seemingly different, are closely related. By concentrating experience and memory, both efforts can reveal transcendent beauty.
To speak about my paintings I have found kinship in the words of Joseph Conrad writing of his own work – “To compel men entranced by the sight of distant goals to glance for a moment at the surrounding vision of form and color, of sunshine and shadows, to make them pause for a look, for a sigh, for a smile – such is the aim, difficult and evanescent.” I have also found echoes for my work in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson – “Drama is poetry of conduct, romance the poetry of circumstance.” This is what I am after - to pause for a look at the poetry of circumstance.
For many years I made paintings in the quiet north light of my studio. My work came from the surrounding hedgerows and forgotten fields where I live. I also choreographed simple tabletop arrangements of miniature knights with plumes and lances that relayed “stories” from my life. “Threaded Dances” (time breaks the threaded dances - from “As I Walked Out One Evening” by W.H. Auden) combined all aspects of my work in 17 contiguous panels and was included as the centerpiece for my solo exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in 2015.
After my parents died, new material arrived in the form of boxes filled with family relics. In them I found water-stained encyclopedias and college text books predating WWII. In the corner of one box, hidden like a secret, I found a small, black change purse. It had belonged to my great, great Aunt Mae who had spent her entire life sewing leather in a shoe factory outside of Boston. When I opened the purse, thinking I might find an old penny or two, I found, instead, a carefully folded silk handkerchief with “Paris 1919” embroidered in red. Slowly, fragments I found in the boxes on the floor of my studio began to find their way into my work, spliced together with pieces of paintings and drawings. Now, the quiet indigo light of my studio expanded to include red and green, parrots and mechanical drawings. Suddenly, my artwork began to whisper stories of kings and genies, sorcerers and beggarmen, and of a small silk handkerchief – “Paris 1919” - embroidered in red.