Artist and Wisconsin Academy veteran Randall Berndt retired from the James Watrous Gallery last month. We thought you’d enjoy some of his reflections on the past ten years, excerpted from his interview in the current issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine.
“Working in the Watrous Gallery these last ten years has been a terrific “post-graduate” course of study—I got my MFA in 1969—in wildly varying artist’s personalities, art styles, and curatorial challenges. Dealing with all this art over the years has helped me think critically, if not systematically, about quality in art. I have often exercised some curator’s compassion in coming in contact with art wildly different from my own, and, at the same time, become more firm in pursuing my personal quest, more definite in developing the identity of my own visual narrative.
Randall Berndt, The Taming of Nature, 2014. Acrylic on board, 18 x 19 in.
“I have especially enjoyed working with the Academy’s Visual Arts Fellows. These have included John Wilde, Warrington Colescott, Lee Weiss, Ray Gloeckler, and Tom Uttech. They have all been tremendous exemplars for me of what it means to take yourself seriously as a practicing, professional artist. I have also enjoyed the friendship and support of many other Wisconsin artists met through Watrous Gallery doings, visiting their studios, borrowing ideas and techniques, and complaining about the ups and downs, both material and emotional, of the artist life.
Randall Berndt, Numen Rusticus Presides Over The Largeness of Nature, The Smallness of Civilization, 2013. Graphite on paper, 24 x 18.5 in.
“If I have any advice to aspiring artists, it is this: Show your work wherever you can to get it out of your studio. See how it looks in the company of other art. Too, keep trying if you are rejected from competitive shows, find a place to be accepted—there are layers and layers to the art world. Okay, this, too: study art history and the old masters, find out how to make the craft of your art better, put yourself in your art, keep it personal but somehow try to drag in as little as possible from the disposable, fad-ridden pop culture we all swim around in. Spend little time in shopping malls. Study trees and clouds. Remember we are all emerging each and every day.”
Randall Berndt, St. Anthony, Patron Saint of Swineherds, Visits My Farm, 2014. Graphite on paper, 15 x 12 in.
Randall Berndt’s painting and drawings were featured in “The Taming of Nature,” his recent solo show at the Watrous. You can read the entire article—including reminiscences from Martha Glowacki, who also retired in December—here at Wisconsin People & Ideas on the Academy's web site.