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Meet John Bernhard

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Bernhard.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland and have always been fascinated by America and the western experience in particular. I had dreamt of traveling to the New World for as long as I could remember. So, in the late seventies, I took a yearlong backpacking road trip throughout America. After I returned to Geneva, the draw of the U.S. tugged at my mind until 1980, against the advice of everyone I knew, I quit my job, and returned to pursue the American dream. I actually wrote a book about the journey titled America’s Call.

I fell in love with Texas and settled in Houston. It was in the middle of the oil boom, and without speaking much English, I started my own business in graphic design and photography, while simultaneously beginning to make a living with my fine art. Today, I am a full-time artist, living the dream!

Please tell us about your art.
I am a photographer/mixed media artist with a fascination with the human body and the theme of metamorphosis. I take the human form and present it as dreamland, a surrealistic demarche of some sort. I like to explore new grounds and I constantly work on ideas, producing essays, photographing people and the female body. I guess my choice of themes fluctuates between dream and reality, between reflection and emotion and also a bit of fascination with transformation. It is the transformation, transition and change in people, bodies, myself and our environment that I am after.

My photographic work derives from the studio where I photograph the model with controlled strobes mixed with projections of photographs previously taken of elements of the earth. The camera is the mechanical apparatus that exteriorize my inner thoughts. I produce images driven from an ultimate desire to create and make sense of my constant imaginative mind. The camera therefore becomes an extension of myself.

Much of my work originates from my mental approach to image production—from the myriad paintings I produce, textures I create, and photographs I take. Textures I find around nature fascinate me. A close-up of a tree bark, a washed-out façade, a stonewall, a broken concrete structure, a dirt road, a sand fill, a trashed piece of clothing. I have thousands of these abstracts photographed in my files. Each photograph can be used as an overlay to my original work.

I find contentment with the use of more than the single image. With the combination of multitude images, my work strives to present the incongruous dualities of beauty and ugliness, change and transformation, dream and reality, human and nature. The power of mythology in our complex universe fascinates me and in many ways my work is simply trying to make sense of our own existence, from life to death.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
The role of artists will never change, whether you are politically engaged or not at all. For me, an artist is a person who needs to create, with deep meaning or just for personal satisfaction. Making art is more than a desire. It’s essential, like the necessity for air, food and water. Personally, I couldn’t survive long without the sustenance delivered by fulfilling this ultimate need to create. Nor, do I suppose, would I want to.

My art is affected by my experiences of life; I dig deep inside myself in search for meaning. The mind is constantly searching for meaning. What’s the meaning of a photograph or a pipe? What’s the meaning of the universe? We all have different take on it. We are so engaged in wanting to understand, to make sense of everything that we forget the real inner value is to live. Who cares if people understand my work? I will continue to create work even if nobody would ever see it at all. I follow my bliss, the life I ought to be living and I enjoy the life within me. And I am thankful to make a good living out of it.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My fine art work has flourished over the years and hangs in galleries in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and is included in 20 museum’s permanent collection, such as the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Musée de la Photographie, Belgium, Musée de L’Elysée, Switzerland, Museet for Fotokunst, Denmark, New Mexico Museum of Arts, Pushkin Museum of Art, Russia, Southeast Museum of Photography, Florida, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

My work can also be found on my website
Or in published books on Amazon:

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

©John Bernhard

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