LOVE FROM CHICAGO // Laura Berger, Illustrator and Ceramicist
Laura Berger is a Wonder Woman.
It's in a world where peace prevails and humanity reigns that Laura Berger paints her simple figures into existence. In sharp contrast to today's increasingly frenetic world, these figures exude a weightless sense of calm. Whether helping one another to succeed, practicing yoga or seated in contemplation, Laura's figures live free of appointments, expectations and the 24 hour news cycle. As her audience grows, it's evident that Laura's illustrations have captured a ubiquitous longing for a life lived more slowly.
In this photo series (captured by the radical Marta Sasinowska) Laura opens up her beautiful home-studio and shares with us her practice and driving philosophy. As we aim to live by our own belief to 'hasten slowly', we could not be more inspired by this serendipitous collaboration.
Interview by Alex Birch, Images by Marta Sasinowska
Laura wears Abundance
You’re best known for your acrylic and gouache women yet recently you’ve brought them to life through your ceramic and animation work. What propelled you to explore these mediums? Do you think you’ve been able to express something different through these new dimensions?
With the animation, I was getting ideas in my head that seemed like they would be more fun with motion. So I just gave that a shot. And then the ceramics seemed satisfying as a way to flesh out the figures I was working with in 3D. I've definitely learned a lot from both, and it's nice to be able to go back and forth between working in these different mediums and painting. They all end up feeding each other and they keep me interested and engaged in a bigger way -- I'll get new ideas for one medium when I'm working in another. Working with the animation has given me a more complete understanding of how I want to use motion and fluidity in my paintings, for example. And the ceramics allow me to spend more time thinking about body positions, structure, and expression through posture.
Your figures are very physical; they seem at peace, removed from our busy lifestyles. How does your own yoga practice inform your work? How do you find your peace?
I think a lot of my work is kind of like a means of manifestation or an envisioning of ideal or utopic situations. We all want to feel more at peace, freer, more accepted and supported. It's nice for me to use my work as a way to think about and flesh out these dreamy states of being, and hope that they can find little ways of showing up in real life. Painting helps me find peace and I need it to stay sane, but it also gives me other challenges to sort through as well. I like to do yoga and meditate to help find peacefulness. Being by the ocean works wonders for me, too, but I live in Chicago so it's not readily available to me. When all else fails, drinking wine and looking at animal pictures on the internet is obviously excellent medicine.
I've had a regular yoga practice for almost 20 years now, though lately my busyness has made it less regular than I would like. I think of it kind of like a circular feedback loop -- being calm and centered and grounded helps to fuel honest creative expression, and putting yourself out there with your work/working a lot creates a need to come back to that quiet place inside as often as possible.
Laura wears Saturn Returns Turmeric
Tell us about the sense of kinship and sisterhood that weaves through your work. Is this idea of a more communal, compassionate society something that you feel we’ve lost? Or is it something we’re still capable of achieving?
God, I hope we can still achieve it. I like to paint about it because I believe it is the source of happiness and I think everyone deserves to feel that sense of total freedom and acceptance in belonging. On a personal level, I definitely long for a deeper sense of community in my life. My own family is very small now, so I feel like I'm always kind of trying to fill that very elemental need for a familial support structure through other ways. This has been an ongoing challenge because my work situation is so solitary. I know a lot of people in the world are likely in that same position. Although all of our new technological ways of staying "connected" to each other give us that promise, we instinctively know that we're actually becoming much more isolated and turned inward on the self because of them.
That being said, I feel like I still see examples of strong community in some places I've traveled, so let's hope those cultures can keep honoring that and we can possibly learn from them as we start to really get wise to and conquer our device addiction and narcissism? Here's to hoping we swing back around and selflessness becomes the next hot trend. We can hashtag it.
With your increasing notoriety and growing demand, I imagine your life has shifted substantially over the last couple of years. Talk us through your daily practice; what’s changed? What remains consistent despite this growth?
I don't know that I have a set daily practice anymore -- every day is very different and it can definitely be challenging for me to figure out what to focus my attention and time on at a given moment. Last year I was working pretty much every minute of every day, so this year I've been really trying to find ways to shape my choices so that I'm spending more of my time doing the things that I really want to be doing. It's a constantly evolving thing that I know will always be shifting as I change and as my work changes, so I'm trying to get better at just flowing with it, making more intuitive choices about what feels good, and having a high degree of trust. One thing that has stayed consistent is that I try to always make sure to be working on something creative every day, even if it's just working through ideas -- just continuing to make new things and keep at it with a good amount of persistence and discipline.
What does being radical mean to you?
I think it means really going for it with a high degree of honesty and authenticity, and living openly with integrity and courage. Standing up for who you are and what you believe and being a good dude to others.
Laura wears Saturn Returns Turmeric