Artist Iris Bernblum spoke to Esthetic Lens about her experience creating work during the pandemic. She shares her perspective on how working within the restrictions and limitations of lockdown was actually to her benefit in making her latest body of work.
1. How are you holding up?
I feel like the best anyone can be is ok right now, so I’m ok. Hanging in, trying to feel hopeful…I have two kids so I do my best to keep things moving.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?
It definitely had an effect on my work, well for one, there was a long period of time that I couldn’t access my studio. That was a big shift for me, and in a way it was a good one. I couldn’t have produced my most recent body of work had I not had to work within the limitations presented to me (to all of us). It forced me to work in a very restricted way that I think ended up allowing for things I never expected.
3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?
Well I’ve always worked around the idea of performance – which still very much takes place in my newer body of work, but the element of collaboration surprised me – the work depended on that and normally I think that would have frightened me in a way because I don’t like relying on anyone, but in this case it was magical. It opened me up to something new in a really intimate way.
4. Of the artists you follow, who is handling this particularly well?
I’ve seen some interesting work coming out of artists like Caleb Yono, Leslie Baum, Ann Toebbe, and a few others outside Chicago, Amy Sillman, Melanie Bonajo, using this time to really dive inwards – see what comes out – just prolific – almost fanatical work, which was happening before the pandemic but was nice to see continuing throughout. It’s clear to me the work is what helps them cope with life, which is definitely what it does for me.
Someone once described my process as having a kind of ‘psychoanalytic trust’, a free associative freedom which removes me from the position of censoring the work. For me, there is a truth that can only lie in that space, and that is where my work lives. It’s like mining for gold: once I find it I know its value and can shape it into something that seduces and invites a more complex conversation.
I explore ideas around human nature, power and vulnerability, focusing primarily on the way we frame our sense of self in regard to gender, sexuality, shame, and desire. I am invested in performative based work, although more as a voyeur than an actor.
The work begins with writing: dialogues, poetry, intimate stories from my life. It then branches out into photography, video, painting, installation, and sculpture, always using my text as a frame. I invite you to play a role.
I have shown at venues including Aspect/Ratio Gallery, The Arts Club, Goldfinch Projects, September Gallery, Terrain Exhibitions, and Weinberg/Newton Gallery in Chicago, Illinois; The Brooklyn International Film Festival, Artist’s Space and The Elizabeth Foundation in New York, New York; The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Iris Bernblum represented by Aspect/Ratio Gallery. Her show, Petit Mort is currently on display until September 29th, 2020.