Bert Bergen, Severed Arms

Bert Bergen is near the top of my short list of my very favorite artists of all time, ever.

Bert appeared on the cover of the second issue of Swee(t)art magazine back in October of 2006. That seems like a long time ago and yet not.

This studio visit happened right before his show at the SFMOMA garage windows last month. You can see him in the Worship of Water show at the Swee(t)art Drawing Gallery in Oakland this month.

What do you have planned for this show?

Iconic fragments from an ecstatic experience of dismemberment and renewal. Holy men that live inside of orcas, celestial beings with only mouths, the healing crystals of totality and the dismembered limbs of my spiritual overseers, that have guided me so gently over the years, all displayed against the lattice of infinity.

Where did the concept come from?

The concept came from the sensation of experiencing the symbols, icons and rituals of an ecstatic/spiritual practice that is unfamiliar yet engrossing. All is revealed in front of you, but there is no guide, no text to tell you what is happening, what anything means. Only your intuition and ability to follow narrative connections can guide you.
Humanity needs ecstatic experiences, connections with unknown realities and planes of existence that lie beyond our own. There are many theories, disciplines, and narratives that explain the why of our existence and the universe around us. These spiritual methods/religions/cults/movements etc. have historically borrowed and appropriated certain elements from each other. This amalgamation, this reforming, twisting and utilizing to form a new ecstatic framework are how I approached the work for this show.
Influences on the concept ranged from; Haida and Tlingit mythology, the shamanic practices of the tribes of northern Australia, the Pacific Northwest of America and the area of what is present day Mongolia, the lives of Christian ascetics St. Simon the Stylite and St. Seraphim, crystal healing and the writings of G.I. Gurdjieff.

There is nobody like you. Where do you find inspiration?
I feel like my life is a constant balance between the cave and the vista. Being isolated and focused in my studio working, probing those deeper recesses of my existence through a visual means can be like existing in a cave. There are moments of darkness and light, but ultimately I am cut off from the outside world, psychically speaking, and only existing in “ME” land. A deprivation of the senses on one level to heighten the senses on another. I balance this with the experience of the vista, the antithesis of the cave. This is the sensation of seeing the illuminated void that surrounds humanity, a continual expanse that stretches beyond one’s existence. When atop the vista there is only clarity and the reality that when it is time for me to leave this vessel, my body, this plane of existence and everything in it will no longer matter.

see Bert’s work online at

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  • Moises Aragon

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