Art New England's 10 Emerging New England Artists (March /April 2022)

featuring Berta Burr

We are thrilled that artist Berta Burr was selected by Art New England as one of 10 emerging artists for their 2022 Emerging Artists Issue.


Berta Burr (Hoosick Falls, NY)

"Viewing Berta Burr's oil paintings on canvas-- whether her sky scapes, or her draped fabric series-- is a powerful and contemplative experience.  The quality of her brushstrokes and the sheer, quiet beauty of her chosen palette compel us to linger.  By focusing our attention on a detail of a landscape or still life, it's as though she suggests the infinite possibilities of beauty and calm within the chaos of modern, everyday life.  

Focusing her compositions on dispersing and coalescing clouds, Burr connects the viewer to the immensity of the wide open sky, and alludes at once to the sublime and the quotidian.  Capturing the shifting beauty of cloud and sky, her paintings are profound, poetic and elemental: with great gentleness she offers the viewer a moment of wonder and a lens through which to rest the weary mind.

While her work is rooted in the history of art-- the gorgeous, luminous skies of the painters of the Hudson River School come to mind, the stunning drapery folds of the Italian Renaissance-- here she courageously offers a contemporary exploration of this subject matter, with altogether less artistic hubris and a great sense of her own deeply felt humanity," says Sophie Bréchu-West, director and founder of 571 Projects in Stowe, VT.


"I have to admit that I'm merely post-adolescent.  It's been a long emergence."  That's how Berta Burr describes her lifelong engagement with painting.  Her career has been a mosaic of connecting with her artistic practice.  Drawn to the performing arts yet discovering that tap dancing was not her calling, she swapped tap shoes for art lessons when she was younger. Her first contact with painting took place when she was four, "I discovered realism at that time. When I started working in a space of my own in 1980, I realized that it was where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be. I have never been bored when I was painting."

"Boredom is a curse," she states as she talks about her drive. And although she, like other artists, has faced moments of struggle, of concepts not translating well to the canvas, she shares, "Self-doubt is not a bad fuel." And speaking to what is motivating Burr these days, her focus is towards common, everyday images that we may take for granted. Burr states that it's important for her as an artist to "…awaken in people the possibility of beauty in things that are not unusual." 

Take something as simple as cloth and the way it folds or drapes. Upon Burr's canvas these items carry a stillness and serenity. The viewer feels the folds, the creases, the softness of the fabric. "Recently, I have turned all my attention to painting draped cloth. There is a familiarity and a timelessness to [it]." Her technique is gentle and meticulous. Burr elaborates that her practice has been informed by working with her husband. "At a very young age, I married a harpsichord maker. He is a strict historicist and it has inspired my approach to researching techniques."

Burr returned to the question of what it means to be an emerging artist, allowing some time for reflection after our interview. In answer, she shares: "I taped a quote by jazz artist Sonny Rollins to my wall; it is a studio motto of sorts. 'I simply want to reach a level where I will never cease to make progress.' Recognition as an emerging artist makes me think I am nearing that ideal. Also, another quote from Mark Twain, 'I can live for two months on a good compliment.' So it is with me, the compliment of being included in the Emerging Artist Issue of Art New England offers real sustenance."

- Shanta Lee Gander

March 30, 2022