Art gives form to the things we know, but cannot yet understand. Its symbolic structure allows us to approach complex ideas that would be lost under the weight of analytical language. Art can serve as a kind of incubator for nascent truths as they evolve a coherent meaning. Art can also elicit and galvanize the support of a larger community for complex ideas. -M.P.B.
Michael P. Berman’s classically executed black and white photographs participate and extend the tradition of western landscape photography. Berman was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008 for his work Grasslands: The Chihuauan Desert Project. Photographs from this project was published in 2009 in the book Trinity, by The University of Texas, Austin. Trinity is the third book of the border trilogy, The History of the Future, with the writer Charles Bowden. In 2008, the Lannan Foundation organized an exhibition, also titled The History of the Future, of photographs by both Berman and artist Julián Cardona, accompanied by an essay by Bowden. The exhibition traveled to the Santa Fe Art Institute (2008), the North Dakota Museum of Art (2009), Blue Star Contemporary Art Center (2009), Ohio Wesleyan University (2011), and Tulane University (2011). A selection from the show is now on view at the Nation Institute.
Berman was born in New York City in 1956 and later came west to Colorado College, where he studied biology. He subsequently received an MFA in photography from Arizona State University. Fifteen years ago he settled in southwestern New Mexico, where he now lives in the Mimbres Valley near San Lorenzo.
He wanders the border wild lands of U.S. and Mexico and works on the local issues—mining, grazing, wilderness, timber, water, growth and the border—that impact the land. Berman brings an awareness of the complexity of the biological world to the political and social dialogue of the West to his art, which he then uses as a catalyst to renew and heighten our perception of the land.
His photographs are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum, Lannan Foundation, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. He has received Painting Fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Wurlitzer Foundation and his installations and paintings have been reviewed in Art in America, and exhibited throughout the United States.