“This is our future, huh?” “This is it. A one-room flat, downtown someplace and a social security check coming in.” These, along with other touching comments such as, “It reminds me of my dead mother,” were among the reactions heard in the lobby of the Portland Building in response to Becca Bernstein’s new art installation that opened there last Wednesday.
“This is our future, huh?”
“This is it. A one-room flat, downtown someplace and a social security check coming in.”
These, along with other touching comments such as, “It reminds me of my dead mother,” were among the reactions heard in the lobby of the Portland Building in response to Becca Bernstein’s new art installation that opened there last Wednesday.
“The Last Room,” is installed in a small recess adjoining a staircase in the building’s lobby–a viable re-creation of a single bedroom in a long-term care facility, complete with birthday cards, worn slippers, a metal bed covered with an heirloom quilt, and reminders about community bingo night.
Far from insulted by the free-flowing comments, the artist was excited about the implications of having her work up in a space where people tend not to be as reserved with their opinions as the typical gallery crowd.
“That’s not even an art exhibit, that’s a junk exhibit,” Bernstein recalled hearing one woman say, after barreling past through the lunchtime crowd and stopping short in front of the installation, unaware that the artist herself was listening in only a few feet away.
“I really enjoy hearing people’s interpretations, especially when they’re different from mine,” said Bernstein, explaining that she felt privileged to have witnessed a genuine reaction, which rarely happens when people know they are looking at art.
Bernstein’s reaction shows the strength of her character. She believes in what she is doing, and while she’s not afraid to promote her work, she doesn’t think of material or critical success as something that will make or break her.
“I think as a student I really embraced that I was a student,” Bernstein recalled, acknowledging her tendency to experiment with different themes and genres while studying painting and environmental science at Lewis and Clark.
“As a senior working on my thesis, I really did some soul searching about what I cared about and fully committed to making art that really expressed an idea.”
That idea is clear from Bernstein’s paintings as much as from the new installation work. While her work usually consists of portraits and focused studies of possessions, such as the well-loved objects present in “The Last Room,” the subjects do not represent issues of age and health as much as they represent the bond between individual expression and the contrived community which all of us share.
While many of the subjects are taken directly from Bernstein’s experiences in long-term care facilities, where she worked as an activities director for a number of years, her interest in the simultaneously shared and separate history of groups is what defines her choices.
“It’s a little bit voyeuristic,” Bernstein said of the installation, a statement that also could easily be made about the hundred Keyhole Miniatures she’s opening at Gottlieb Gallery on First Thursday.
“I’ve seen hundreds of rooms. I was always interested in how different the rooms could be. Some were like museums, others had nothing in them, like they didn’t expect to be there long, and they lived there for years with it always like that.”
Keyhole Miniatures opens Thursday, Feb. 7, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Gottlieb Gallery, 220 S.W. Yamhill. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The Last Room” is up in the Portland Building until Feb. 24, at 1120 S.W. 5th Ave.