Joseph Bernard

Posting #3

Posted on December 21, 2014

Posting #3 brings more additions to the earliest set of 'Paintings', related studio history and a new ‘Mixed Images' category of eclectic items.




As additional mid-to-late 80’s images were being put on the site, I thought back to the different locations this work originated in (the various studios); as well as what was being read, what music was listened to, related work involvements. How the paintings were constructed on floors & tables - -  shapes, sizes, colors, materials, even who the student studio assistants may have been (they changed each semester) and where specific pieces were done. 

Up until a given point, I had always worked where I lived. Beyond a pantry or bedroom darkroom, the collage painting, as activity, found separation in an attic or basement, a spare bedroom or in a functioning garage, dining or living room. An away-from-home studio, (real luxury), came late in life. A 300 sq. ft. below ground, storage room in an office complex was my first and was quite perfect, until the rent was raised prohibitively. The real deal came next. 

For two years, beginning April 1989, I rented a large, ground floor studio in a raw, brick commercial building at 11627 Klinger Street, Hamtramck, MI. The building, constructed as a brewery in the 1920’s, was converted to a steel shop during the second world war. That business eventually closed and the property was bought by a young man with a degree in philosophy who began to rent spaces to painters and rock musicians. 

My bigger studio allowed several paintings to be worked on simultaneously, in addition to crate-building and documentation photography. When told the landlord intended to sell, I bought the 6000 sq. ft. building on land contract in 1991 and made serious renovations throughout. For two decades, I maintained the building & grounds, rented studios to artists and did my own painting while employed as a full-time professor at the College for Creative Studies. Following divorce, the studio became my home and sanctuary. It also functioned as a gallery-like setting for many art tours and discussion groups. The piece of life I spent there truly came to represent a prodigious amount of work under the roles of painter, photographer, teacher, mentor and custodian of a property.

After those many years and following retirement, I found myself wanting to take leave of land-lording responsibilities and relocate all my accumulated work from Hamtramck to the home we found in Troy. MariaLuisa designed storage areas and engineered shelving racks to safely contain all of our paintings. Just prior to that, in September 2012, I found the ideal owner for the building - - it was bought by another young man degreed in philosophy, an artist who also wanted to rent studios to other artists. Serendipitously, full circle! 

The new ‘Mixed’ category on the site has the beginnings of very early photos (my high school motorcycle, a BSA 650), selected drawings, installation views and various oddities (see above ‘very early photos’). 

My current activities are pretty far removed from conventional art making, but they’re as deliberate. Those sensitivities honed are now applied elsewhere. 


Posting #1; An Introduction

Posted on July 07, 2014

Resized_blog_image_copyPhoto: Jonathan Rajewski


This initial blog post is to welcome you to my website and to relay the purpose behind it. 

[To sift remnants of a life... to gather ‘driftings’ and make them stable, clear.]


The idea of designing a repository of personal images appealed to me. I had produced a good number of pictures and objects throughout my life, many of them with no documentation; some lost through unrecorded donations, sales and gifts or destroyed either by my hand (to ease in relocating) or by basement studio flooding.    

Then too, for years I produced paintings and bodyprints directly on sheet glass. They were heavy, fragile, highly impractical to ship. Lots of them were fatally damaged along the way. I’ve not been a diligent caretaker of past efforts, but then this “archive” may provide witness to that porous history.

Unfortunately, there are bodies of work that can’t be included because they were never documented or retained; (small sculpture, early paintings, all darkroom work, most graphic prints and drawings), or only sparsely so, like the paintings on glass and bodyprints. Some drawings and works on glass will be added eventually, if possible.

This is the beginning of a large project. So many more old 35mm slides have been scanned, which then have to be digitally formatted, categorized, resized and labeled. So much other work has yet to be photographed. The ongoing documentation process, and all that lies ahead, is quite daunting. Now, as archivist, I’m obliged to attempt cataloging the impossible, or at least make gestures in that direction. At present, that’s the plan.  

The following remnants are evidence of activities that, in fact, provided me an identity.

Paintings - But for a few early examples, these are all acrylic on wood (OSB) panel constructed to float 3/4” from the wall. Most have collage elements included. I hand-built the panels and the backs were treated to the same layers of paint and topcoat as the facing surfaces. This format and practice began when I was an undergraduate and continued until 2010, at which point I quit all painting and gallery involvements. (Note: Apologies for the quality level of early work reproductions; they obviously predate digital clarity.)  

Films - Dating from 1976-1985, these were all Super 8, silent, usually with a great deal of editing. They still occasionally get screenings, the most recent was a program in this year’s 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival. Also this year, 40 of them were accepted into The Academy Film Archive in Hollywood, California for safekeeping and study. In the near future, this very same group of films will be released in a DVD format boxed set titled, Prismatic Music  The Super 8 Films of Joseph Bernard.  

Film Stills - Like selected words pulled from a poem, these single frames offer no (or very little) sense of the whole, yet may resonate with a projected 24th of a second DNA from that entity. Passing quickly from one to another, somewhat like flipping through random slides on a carousal projector, (which, of course, no one does anymore), these images become ‘un-possessed’; they provide a revised context, an incongruity in search of meaning, not unlike the thought process itself. This may have some indicators of my past filmmaking practices. 

Photographs - Another personal pursuit that began long ago and went through several permutations; prints, slides, sandwiched slides, photographic decals and collages. I now  continue to photograph only digitally. Unencumbered by justification, a few subcategories are included on the site and are broadly labeled by location only, without titles, sizes or dates.

I think art comes from the same place as any real discoveries; informed intuition,  without conscious introspection - - at least during the making. Now, much after the fact, this retrospective view allows for a clearer assessment of overlapping activities and their commingled relationships. It can bring order to what’s been achieved, also suggesting where it may lead. After decades of studio solitude, a public unveiling certainly has its anxieties. But then any self-portrait, any personal overview, any regathering of both additions and deletions inevitably gives shape to one’s life map, as it should. I intend to keep changing this website and, as it evolves, certainly welcome your feedback. 


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