Oral history interview with Miriam Beerman, 2009 Dec. 28

Beerman, Miriam , b. 1923
Painter, Printmaker
Active in N.J.

Size: Sound recording: 2 WAV files (1 hr., 9 min.) digital; 2 5/8 in.
Transcript: 29 p.

Collection Summary: An interview of Miriam Beerman conducted 2009 December 28, by Anne Louise (Bayly) Berman, for the Archives of American Art, at Beerman's home, in Silver Spring, Md.

Biographical/Historical Note: Miriam Beerman (1923- ) is a painter and printmaker in Silver Spring, Md.

This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.

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Interview Transcript

This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Miriam Beerman, 2009 Dec. 28, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Interview with Miriam Beerman
Conducted by Anne Louise (Bayly) Berman
At Beerman's home in Silver Spring, MD
2009 December 28

Preface

The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Miriam Beerman on 2009 December 28. The interview took place in Silver Spring, MD and was conducted by Anne Louise (Bayly) Berman for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Anne Louise Berman has reviewed the transcript and has made corrections and emendations. The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.

Interview

ANNE LOUISE BERMAN: Annie Lou Bayly interviewing Miriam Beerman, at her home in Silver Spring [MD], on December 28 2009.

I think the last time we spoke was 2005 at your home in Montclair, New Jersey.

MIRIAM BEERMAN:  That was a long time ago.

MS. BERMAN:  Yes. When did you move to Washington [D.C.]?

MS. BEERMAN:  A little over a year ago.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. And what brought you down here? Just family or—

MS. BEERMAN:   Well, I had been ill—

MS. BERMAN:   Oh, no. I'm so sorry.

MS. BEERMAN:  I'd been in the hospital, and my family felt that I needed someone to be near me all the time because I'm getting old and who knows? But anyhow, so my son asked me to move in here. He lives on the 12th floor with his family.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, wow! Oh, that's great.

MS. BEERMAN:  So I get to see my grandchildren every day.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, how nice.

MS. BEERMAN:  And that's one of the reasons why I wanted to come here was to see my grandchildren.

MS. BERMAN:  Absolutely.

MS. BEERMAN:  You know I waited a long time for grandchildren. [They laugh.]

MS. BERMAN:  Well, they're very lucky to have you so close.

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, thank you. So that's the story.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, good. Now are you—

MS. BEERMAN:  They found this apartment for me. Excuse me.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. And now I guess we can back up a bit. I know we had touched before on, you know, your early training and work and your work with students and all that kind of thing. But if there's anything you want to of course throw in, please do. But now you were when— You know we'll sort of pick up, I suppose, kind of more recent things. But when you were in Montclair, you were still working. Where was your studio?

MS. BEERMAN:  It was on the third floor. It was a huge space. It was the whole attic area which I cleared out. For a studio. And I had put skylights in, and it was perfect.

MS. BERMAN:  Perfect lighting for all the color and— Now did you—you're still working of course. And are you doing it in this apartment?

MS. BEERMAN:  Of course I'm still working, you know. I never stop working.

MS. BERMAN:  Right.

MS. BEERMAN:  But the work changes with time. And right now I've been struggling with a painting that's in the other room, which I have covered up part of it so that, you know, if you came into see the studio, you wouldn't have to see my mistakes at this point. [They laugh.]

MS. BERMAN:  How has your work—has your work changed a lot since you've moved or in the past even ten years, etc.?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, you know I've started doing a lot of collage for some reason or other.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  So I've fallen into the collage pit, and I can't seem to stop. In my studio room in there is a big wall mural collage, which I may just cut up or do something with. I'm not quite sure that it's any good.

MS. BERMAN:  When did you first start collage? You know when you first—

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, you know, I've been doing collage from time to time all my life, you know, in small bits here and there. And now I seem to be obsessed with it, for some reason or other. So I am doing a lot of collage.

MS. BERMAN:  And are you using, you know, just—what sort of materials are using? Are you incorporating pieces of other work?

MS. BEERMAN:  I do some drawings, and then I, you know, glue them—I arrange them on the sheet. So some of the drawings—

MS. BERMAN:  There's a lot of them.

MS. BEERMAN:  —are old. I never throw anything—I hardly ever throw anything away. So that some of these are pieces which I've been saving for quite a while. And I take them out, and I use them. As a matter of fact, I was going to take out a bunch of collages to show you. But I never got around to that. But I can get them if you want to look at them afterwards.

MS. BERMAN:  Absolutely. And now are you still painting as well?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. I'm struggling with a painting now.

MS. BERMAN:  The one in the other room, right. And what about printmaking? Have you done any of that?

MS. BEERMAN:  No. There was a printmaking place—there is a printmaking place near here. But the atmosphere didn't suit me. So I decided not to go.

MS. BERMAN:  Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.] I'm sure it's quite a change going from a place where you had worked for so long, you know, to come—

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  To come to a totally different—

MS. BEERMAN:  Nobody knows me here.

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right. [They laugh.]

MS. BEERMAN:  They don't bow when I come in the room or anything like that.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, they will soon enough, I'm sure.

MS. BEERMAN:  [Laughs] And so, yes, I miss my friends, you know, my artist friends and so forth. But a few of my former students—I used to teach you know.

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right.

MS. BEERMAN:  Taught on the college level. And my students keep calling me, you know. Every so often I hear from a different one.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, that's wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  So some of them have been coming, and we've been going to museums together.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, that's great.

MS. BEERMAN:  So it's been very nice. And then call me from time to time to see how I'm doing.

MS. BERMAN:  And are they off working as artists.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, that's great.

MS. BEERMAN:  One is a very realistic landscape artist.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  Very realistic. [They laugh.] And it's very interesting, you know, that she should still want to— You know she's come here, and she's photographed my work and so forth.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, wow.

MS. BEERMAN:  And then, let's see, the other one has also been very—seems attached to me for a long time.

MS. BERMAN:  I'm sure many of your students are, you know, having taught for so long. When did you stop teaching?

MS. BEERMAN:  I stopped teaching about six months ago. Maybe a little longer than that. But around—sometime last year.

MS. BERMAN:  And where had you been teaching?

MS. BEERMAN:  I was teaching in Fairlawn, New Jersey, where one of my models had a studio space for me.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  And she arranged that, you know, I could teach there. So my students, I found many students who were interesting in working with me. And we had some good students working there. But after a while I got very tired, and I decided to—I was about ready just before I went to the hospital. So I stopped teaching.

MS. BERMAN:  Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.] And do you miss it?

MS. BEERMAN:  I do. I enjoyed the teaching, you know. I enjoyed it very much. But I put too much energy into it, you know. I put love and energy and everything, you know. I'm just one of those hardcore lovable—loving—

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right. Enthusiastic teacher.

MS. BEERMAN:  Not lovable, but loving. [They laugh.]

MS. BERMAN:  Now I know we spoke about this before. But just to sort of recap. You had been teaching for quite a while.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  And you had started in what year?

MS. BEERMAN:  I started in the ‘50s, I think—late ‘40s or ‘50s.

MS. BERMAN:  And did it continuously through.

MS. BEERMAN:  Of course it—what?

MS. BERMAN:  And you taught continuously then up until six months ago.

MS. BEERMAN:  No, I never stopped.

MS. BERMAN:  And most recently before that studio space you were at—now I have this. You had been teaching at—was it in Montclair [NJ]?

MS. BEERMAN:  Hmm. I was teaching at Montclair State University.

MS. BERMAN:  And when did you finish there?

MS. BEERMAN:  I taught there for about a year and a half or two years. I can't remember. And then I just stopped doing that. I think that what happened was I was on my way to Europe again. My memory is very bad. And I can't remember why I was going to Europe.

MS. BERMAN:  Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.]

MS. BEERMAN:  But anyhow that's the reason why I stopped teaching.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, I know since we spoke, right around the time we spoke last, I know there were a few shows going on. I mean you've had some since then. You know you had—I guess right when I saw you there had been a solo exhibit at the Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts [Chautauqua, NY]?

MS. BEERMAN:  Oh, yes. Uh-huh. [Affirmative.]

MS. BERMAN:  And then perhaps a group show at the William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. So I think I was—

MS. BEERMAN:  And I had a solo show there.

MS. BERMAN:  Yes. Exactly. And that was—

MS. BEERMAN:  And they acquired several of my—they acquired a couple of my books.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, okay. Wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  I make artist books.

MS. BERMAN:  Right.

MS. BEERMAN:  And they acquired some of those. And it was a very pleasant experience.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, good. And it was that—now you also had a show, I guess at the same time you had a show at Corcoran Gallery of Art [Washington, D.C.]. That was a group exhibit?

MS. BEERMAN:  One of the curators at the Corcoran, who is not there anymore—

MS. BERMAN:  And who was that?

MS. BEERMAN:  What?

MS. BERMAN:  And what was their name?

MS. BEERMAN:  His.

MS. BERMAN:  His name?

MS. BEERMAN:  I can't remember. But my son knows.

MS. BERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BEERMAN:  If you call him, he can tell you.

MS. BERMAN:  But so he came to you.

MS. BEERMAN:  And he came to my house, and he picked out one work on particular that he liked. And it was of two swimmers and a fish. Two swimmers on their side coming in, and the fish sort of coming down from up there. And that was the painting that's in their collection now.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, good.

MS. BEERMAN:  They had it on view for a long time.

MS. BERMAN:  Mm-hmm [Affirmative]. And then in 2005 you had an exhibition at the Everson Museum in Syracuse [NY].

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  And I think that's right when I saw you. And how did that come about?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, my son has been very good about contacting different places. And for some reason or other he chose the Everson to contact. And they came, and they looked at my work, and they wanted to, you know, were very anxious to put a show up. So that's how it happened.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  And they were very nice and cooperative, and it was a good experience. One of my paintings is now hanging permanently in the front—on the first floor of the museum.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, that's great.

MS. BEERMAN:  It's been there for a long time now.

MS. BERMAN:  And which is that?

MS. BEERMAN:  It's called Solitary. It's probably on my—

MS. BERMAN:  Website.

MS. BEERMAN:  Website, yes.

MS. BERMAN:  And the other, I guess, 2006 you had a show at the Aljira Gallery in Newark [NJ], a solo show.

MS. BEERMAN:  Aljira.
 
MS. BERMAN:  Aljira. Now how did that show come about?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, I've known them for quite a while, you know. And one of my close friends knew them also. So they came to dinner one time. I invited them to dinner. And I suggested that they look at my work some more. And they seemed to be very enthusiastic about putting on a show. So that's what happened.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, well, that's wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  It was a wall collage that I had mainly up there. It was curated by—if you leave a blank space, I'll think of it in a minute.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  He was the man who wrote the catalog for my Aljira show.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, okay. Then I know we have that somewhere.

MS. BEERMAN:  It begins with an S.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. We can come back to that, too. And then the most recent things that I have, or know of, in 2007 you had at the Queensborough Community College Art Gallery [Queens, NY], you had a solo show.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  And then one at the [Gering] Lopez Gallery in New York.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  That was part of a group exhibition.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, that was a group show.

MS. BERMAN:  And are those the most recent shows you've done?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  And again, those came about through your son? Or did you—

MS. BEERMAN:  Came about what?

MS. BERMAN:  How did those shows come about?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, the solo show in Queens, I had been teaching at Queensborough Community College for quite a long time. So I knew the director. And he always liked my work. And so he suggested that I have a show there at that time. And the other one was through a gallery that my son had contacted. I've forgotten the name of the gallery right now. But he can tell you the name of the gallery.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. Do you recall what years you were teaching at the Queensborough Community College?

MS. BEERMAN:  I think I left sometime in the ‘90s. And I was there for about four or five years. I was teaching drawing and painting.

MS. BERMAN:  And how did you find that experience, teaching there?

MS. BEERMAN:  I liked all my teaching. I always enjoyed teaching. It's always a different kind of experience with different kinds of students. And it's a challenge to me to meet with them and to find common ground. And I enjoy the whole experience of teaching. I show a great deal of interest in my students, and they appreciate that.

MS. BERMAN:  What kind of students do you find are the most enjoyable to teach? Or seem to grasp what you're trying to get across?

MS. BEERMAN:  People who like to work in drawing and painting. And they're all different. I don't expect any one particular kind. That would be boring. So what we have is, you know, a great variety of—I try to encourage a great variety of personal interest and personal interpretation. And the works come out in various ways.

MS. BERMAN:  Have you noticed that students' attitudes or practices have changed much over—you know, since you started teaching in the ‘50s up 'til now?

MS. BEERMAN:  I don't think so, because my attitude hasn't changed. My attitude is one of tremendous interest in what they're doing and interest in them. Kind of devotion to my students, and they know it and appreciate it.

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right. What about—have you noticed a change with the administration of schools or with art departments? You know if there's—if they—

MS. BEERMAN:  I don't pay much attention to administration. I'm my own administrator. [They laugh.]

MS. BERMAN:  That's a good way to be. Did your teaching sort of influence your work at all?

MS. BEERMAN:  Oh, yes, I'm sure it does, you know. But I'm never quite sure how or why because it goes so swiftly. And I was looking through some pads that had some plans for certain classes and things that they should do. And I was amazed at the kind of things I was asking them to do. But anyhow.

MS. BERMAN:  In what way?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, you know, I was asking them to search their imagination in many different ways. And to increase their interest in many different ways. I can't remember exactly what. But at the time it applied to the class and to the situation.

MS. BERMAN:  Do you remember any of your favorite lesson plans or exercises that you would—

MS. BEERMAN:  They're all good, you know. And I enjoy working especially with the model and with the students who draw from the model. And so we get a lot of different interpretations of what the figure is doing and how to draw the figure and so forth. And we're not very uptight about anything. I mean there's no plan—there's no anatomy lesson or anything of that sort. Well, they've all been drawing before. I mean they've all been artists of their own abilities for quite a while. And they came to me because they knew I was a good teacher and that they wanted to study with me.

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right.

MS. BEERMAN:  And I was sorry to leave them, but— I don't even think I said goodbye.

MS. BERMAN:  I'm sure they think about you. I know I've instructors I think about even though I haven't kept up with. Now did you— When you were doing these shows as well, did that— You know did you sort of create your work separate of these shows. Or did you anything specifically for them?

MS. BEERMAN:  No, no. The exhibitions were chosen by the curators. And they were all works that I had already done.

MS. BERMAN:  And did they ever, though, inspire you—you know seeing your work, you know, through an exhibition, did it change the way you went about doing something the next day? Or inspire future work?

MS. BEERMAN:  No way. I'm very one-minded. And I'm on a definite path that I seem to follow, instinctively follow, that path in my work.

MS. BERMAN:  And how would you describe that path?

MS. BEERMAN:  [Laughs] Well, first of all, I don't plan the image in advance, that I'm going to make, either in painting or drawing. So that I am—what's the word I'm trying to think of? But I simply draw from the subconscious onto the page. And whatever comes out, you know, just keeps coming out and keeps drawing and so forth. And I fall into a kind of a state of meditation in a way. And the work is a result of all of that.

MS. BERMAN:  I know you said that you were, you know, working on this one painting in the other room—how long do you often work with an image? You know do you stop and come back? Or do you complete it?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, you know, it varies. It varies a lot. But I have a tendency to go back and back to them and back to them many times before I can really feel that I'm finished with them. So I work on them from time to time. I may work on other things and go back to them again. And, you know, I will be approaching them from different points of view and different moods and spaces and so forth.

MS. BERMAN:  So you often, then, have a lot of—a number of things sort of going at once.

MS. BEERMAN:  Oh, yes. [They laugh.]

MS. BERMAN:  Keeps you busy.

MS. BEERMAN:  I guess many artists say that.

MS. BERMAN:  Yes. Right, right. And have you noticed, you know, again, I guess, as you've picked up collage, has that changed, the way you deal with collage or the way your deal with printmaking versus painting versus drawing?

MS. BEERMAN:  I don't think about those things. I don't think about the process and how I'm doing it. The process just occurs, and I accept it if it looks good. Doesn't look good, I throw it away.

MS. BERMAN:  And when you—you know when you first started out, you know, you first started any work at all, I guess, did you really feel draw to one thing over another—in terms of process?

MS. BEERMAN:  When I first started out?

MS. BERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BEERMAN:  I first started out at age seven. So I wasn't really drawn to anything in particular except to make marks on the paper. And I lived in Rhode Island, and so I went to the Rhode Island School of Design as a child in the summertime and on Saturdays. And I worked from the model even, you know, at nine years old; I think I was nine years old when I worked from the model. So, you know, I've always been an artist, and I've always known more or less what I was doing.

MS. BERMAN:  And did you sort of— Did you want to experiment with many different types of—

MS. BEERMAN:  Did I what?

MS. BERMAN:  Did you want to experiment with, you know, process? Or did you know then— Even in terms of subject matter, did you sort of know even at a young age that you really did want to work with live figures?

MS. BEERMAN:  If I'm experimenting, I'm not aware of it. Until I get finished. I try not to think in advance about what I'm going to do or how I'm going to do it. I would prefer that the mind sort of work its way into the drawing or painting. And that I work through the emotion. So I'm not being too analytical anything.

MS. BERMAN:  How, over the years, you know looking back on your work, have you seen it change? You know have you seen it really develop in a path that you thought it was going to be going? Or have you really seen it change?

MS. BEERMAN:  I've seen it change because I've been working now from the unconscious. So that I will start with a mark and then just keep going until I'm finished. I've been making books.

MS. BERMAN:  And this is one of your books from— from when is this?

MS. BEERMAN:  This is one of the books. So, you know, I never know what it's going to be. I never think of it in advance. What were you going to ask?

MS. BERMAN:  And this is a book entirely of ink on paper?

MS. BEERMAN:  Of what?

MS. BERMAN:  Ink on paper, this book is.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. Yes. I don't remember who this—I usually write the name of the quote of the person I'm quoting. But that one I haven't used—I haven't done that.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, this is great.

MS. BEERMAN:  Anyhow, you know, this is more or less—and I never know what it's going to look like until I get finished with the drawing. So in a way it's sort of fun because it's a surprise to me. And I'm not struggling to come out with, you know, a definite plan. So if you're struggling to do that, the drawing looks struggled. I don't want it to look struggled. I want it to look like it's another aspect of my thoughts.

MS. BERMAN:  And once you get it out there, you know, get it out there, do you often then look at it and think, oh, this is sort of where that came from? Or do you analyze it really?

MS. BEERMAN:  No. I don't like to do that.

MS. BERMAN:  At all, okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  I like to leave it alone. And I like not to analyze it either before or after the work is done. Because it's there. It's part of my spirit. I know what I'm interested in. I'm interested in animals and in sea creatures. And I'm interested in people who have been through some kind of distress.

MS. BERMAN:  Where do you think that came from?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, I've been through a lot of distress of my own, and I think it's just a reflection of my own background. And the animals, I just fell in love more and more with animals. And now I'm, you know, I am a protector of animals in a fierce kind of way.

MS. BERMAN:  Right.

MS. BEERMAN:  And I just lost my cat. My cat died.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, I'm so sorry.

MS. BEERMAN:  Of a kidney disease. But I'm going to get another one.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, it's very hard.

MS. BEERMAN: Hmm?

MS. BERMAN:  That's very hard, you know, when a— My dog, who was 18 died last summer.

MS. BEERMAN:  What?

MS. BERMAN:  My dog who was 18 died last summer.

MS. BEERMAN:  Your dog?

MS. BERMAN:  Yes. It's hard. Well, now, do you think that, you know, was it always this—even as a child did you sort of feel that you were drawn to figures who had experienced distress or animals? Or is that something that has come as an adult?

MS. BEERMAN:  I was not allowed to be near animals as a child because I was asthmatic.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  So I was kept away from animals.

MS. BERMAN:  So perhaps that's where your—

MS. BEERMAN:  Kept away, yes. So then I was always curious about them. And now, of course, I am the most sympathetic. I'm so sympathetic with, you know, their kind of thinking and their feelings and so forth.

MS. BERMAN:  Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.] And that has sort of developed, I guess, with time.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  What about the human figures? So much of your work is of, you know, human figures who have been through some sort of distress and often, say, the Holocaust or something like that.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Where did that sort of come from?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, it came from the fact that I'm very sympathetic towards human suffering.

MS. BERMAN:  As you were saying, because you had experienced it yourself.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Did you set out to do, especially with the Holocaust, did you set out to sort of go into that area in your work? Or did it just kind of happen naturally?

MS. BEERMAN:  It just happened. It just sort of grew on me. Well, I lived in New England. So Jewish families in Providence, Rhode Island, were a few. And so we were always aware of certain prejudices against us, I think. And I must have decided to champion the Jewish people, even though I didn't go to synagogue or anything of that sort because my parents couldn't afford to send me. It was during the Depression. So I began to feel very sympathetic towards what happened to the Jews during the time of the Holocaust and the Nazi period. And of course artists suffered, too, but I don't think they suffered quite as much as the Jews did. And I had a very good friend here the other day who was sitting here, and she has helped to push my work into museums and paid for the work and sent them to museums.

MS. BERMAN:  What is her name?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, I don't think I want to give her name.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay, that's fine.

MS. BEERMAN:  But she is a wealthy woman. She and her husband are both very wealthy, and they both really believe in my work, and they're very helpful to me. Now, what was I going to say about all of that? Oh, she was sitting here, and she suddenly said, "I don't believe that we need to talk about the killing of the Jewish people during the Nazis." Or something like that. But she said it in a way that made me feel sort of self-conscious about the fact—she knows a lot of my work is based on this in a way, you know, as a kind of homage to them. Even though I'm not making anything too illustrational, it's still an homage. So I was really surprised to hear her say that because she's a very religious Jewish woman. And she doesn't believe that I should carry on the way I do [laughs] in my work.

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right.

MS. BEERMAN:  [Laughs] But that's just another story, and I don't see any way of resolving it. So I just thought I'd mention it.

MS. BERMAN:  Right. Because it does seem to be such an important aspect of your—or a very present part of your work.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. So when she said all of that to me, I just nodded my head and agreed with her. I wasn't going to carry on a big argument at that point.

MS. BERMAN:  Right. Do you find that most—or some—people interpret your art as you sort of put it out there? Or do people misunderstand? How do you find the response to what you've done?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, most people don't know what I'm doing. And a lot of people talk about certain idiosyncratic aspects of my work. And they think that they're, you know, talking about my work in general and that they're very perceptive, and they can tell what I'm doing because I show a lot of teeth when people are smiling. Or something like that. But it doesn't have anything to do with that. I think very few people understand what I'm doing. And I really don't care. I don't want to explain it. I think that the work should be resolved in the mind of whoever is looking at it.

MS. BERMAN:  So it's not hard for you then to see—if somebody does say, oh, you know, there are teeth showing when one's smiling or she’s doing this or that.

MS. BEERMAN:  No, I just take it as a kind of—well, if it's from another artist, which this one was from, I felt there was a kind of jealousy there. And that she was being a bit sarcastic. But, you know, I'm used to other artists being jealous also. So that's not new. [Laughs]

MS. BERMAN:  That's got to be hard to work with, though, I suppose, you know.

MS. BEERMAN:  What do you mean?

MS. BERMAN:  I guess other artists being jealous. I mean do you find as many being supportive are there are those who are jealous?

MS. BEERMAN:  I have very supportive artists. As a matter of fact, I recently—and I don't know why I should tell this and maybe you can eventually take it out of your recording and decide. But a good friend who called me every day, who was an artist and who gave me—who was the director of a gallery and who gave me a big show at the Trenton Museum [New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ] in the ‘90s. So she was very much in touch with my work. And apparently she had asked to have one of my works in her studio. And I was so honored that she wanted it, that I just sort of sure, take it. And then another one, which she gave me a check for $6,000; so she bought the painting. But $6,000 was hardly an amount that I would—it was worth much more than 6,000.

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right.

MS. BEERMAN:  But I accepted it. And then I was sort of sorry afterwards. Well, they came to visit me, she and her husband. And she talked about the painting again that's in her house. And I began to feel more and more that I wanted that painting back. So what happened? Well, we had a few words about it. And I said I would give her the $6,000 back if she would give me the painting. But she did not answer me. And she didn't say anything one way or another. Which only infuriated me more because if she had answered me and replied in some way or another—

MS. BERMAN:  Certainly.

MS. BEERMAN:  —I would have, you know, felt a little more relieved. But she didn't answer me. And then she said something to my son about wanting to give the work to a museum. Well, I felt like she was owning it too much. At any rate, it was unpleasant, and we are not speaking with each other anymore, and we were very close friends.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, no. I'm so sorry.

MS. BEERMAN:  I don't know how that came about. I don't know what your question was.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, it was about, you know, how—what your feeling are, you know, how different artists respond to your work, whether jealousy, you know. I was asking if as many were supportive of your work as were jealous.

MS. BEERMAN:  I had many people, many artists, who imitated my work in one way or another. And I don't know whether I was being self-conscious and, you know, thinking that they were doing it and actually they weren't. But I think they were because I could see aspects of what I was doing in what they were suddenly doing.

MS. BERMAN:  What aspects in particular?

MS. BEERMAN:  I can't recall what it is. But now like with these books. This person whom I just mentioned has been doing a lot of things that I've been doing that she never did before. Like she started making books after she saw my books. Which is okay. I mean a lot of artists are making books. So that's not unusual. She can't draw. She can't render a figure realistically. Don't mind me if I just keep looking up in there.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, no. It’s okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  It helps me to think.

MS. BERMAN:  Of course, of course.

MS. BEERMAN:  And so she would do that if she could. But she tries to do whatever I have done in one way or another. I put certain paintings up on my wall in a certain way. I go to her house, and there she had put them up in the same way I had put mine up. Which I don't mind, I guess. But, you know, it was a little disturbing. So anyhow, I don't know. What else? I think that certain artists are a little jealous of me and a little envious and a little—friendly at the same time. [Laughs].

MS. BERMAN:  Mm-hmm [Affirmative]. I suppose that probably is the case for many people in many areas of the work. And have you found— Are you still in touch with—I know you said you're still in touch with students. Are you still in touch with other artists either from New Jersey or have you found any here that you've been working with?

MS. BEERMAN:  Some of my students who are living near me here are the ones I'm seeing now.

MS. BERMAN:  Right, right. That's what you said.

MS. BEERMAN:  So I see them. And they managed to track me down. What was the question?

MS. BERMAN:  About sort of the community of artists. Do you still keep in touch with artists in New Jersey or in New York? Or have you found others?

MS. BEERMAN:  I've never been in touch with communities of artists. I've tried to, but it's never worked for me. So I know artists individually. Some I know by name. Some I know by sight. Some I know from past experiences, friendship. And so it goes.

MS. BERMAN:  And when you were saying—when you were telling me about wanting that painting back from a friend, I made me wonder—do you ever have a hard time, or is it easy for you, to let pieces go? You know whether you're selling them or giving them to a museum. Are you protective of individual pieces, or is it a struggle to let them sort of out of your hands?

MS. BEERMAN:  It's a struggle to let them go because, you know, one puts a lot of one's emotions and thoughts and background and so forth into them. And, yes, they're like children. I'm sure you've heard other artists say the same thing.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I'm sure it's very hard to let, you know, and you, I guess, think about them when they're not with you anymore.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Do you have anything currently going to any new collections? Or do you have any shows coming up?

MS. BEERMAN:  No, I don't. I would like to have some shows coming up. But I haven't done anything about it. I haven't approached anyone. Although I did approach some people at the Smithsonian [Institution, Washington D.C.]. And they know my work now. A few of them know my work. But I don't know. They haven't offered me a show. And I've got a lot of work. If they would come here to my studio, they would see some of it. But actually most of my work is in storage. So I would have to bring them to New York to see my work.

MS. BERMAN:  Right.

MS. BEERMAN:  Which is a very sorry thing. It bothers me all the time. That the work that's in storage can't fit into this space.

MS. BERMAN:  Was that work that you had had in your house in Montclair got put in storage when you moved here?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. Did you see the storage room?

MS. BERMAN:  I believe did. Yes, I guess did when I was up there.

MS. BEERMAN:  I had a big storage room there with racks and so forth and everything put away.

MS. BERMAN:  Yes, yes, that's right.

MS. BEERMAN:  And then I had drawers full of drawings there and in the other room. I have loads of drawings. And then in storage there must be a pile of drawings of about 500 drawings. [They laugh.] I do a lot of drawing.

MS. BERMAN:  That's easier to store, I suppose, than big—bigger pieces.

MS. BEERMAN:  No, you know, well, yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, we'll take a break right here. Thank you so much. Let me just pause this.

MS. BEERMAN:  Would you like to have some—

[Audio break.]

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. Now we're back, and we're starting again. And you wouldn't to speak a little bit more about your interest in animals.

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, because I never had a pet, and because most people even today don't approve of my having a cat—I love cats especially, although I would like to get to understand dogs a little better. But I'm interested in all the animals of the world. So I read about them all the time, and I think about them. And I love to look at photographs of them. As you can see, I used to draw—you know there's one over there.

MS. BERMAN:  Yes, that's a very big image.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, you can go over and take a look at it, if you want.

MS. BERMAN:  It's really wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  And I have another one in my bedroom.

MS. BERMAN:  And that is of?

MS. BEERMAN:  What?

MS. BERMAN:  This one is of a—

MS. BEERMAN:  This is of a man.

MS. BERMAN:  Right over there.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  This one right here—the framed one—is of a chimpanzee.

MS. BEERMAN:  I was talking about that image over there, a man laughing.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, okay. And now what is in your bedroom?

MS. BEERMAN:  I have another one of those animals if you want to see. I've done a lot of those drawings of animal heads.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. Let's pause, and I can go right—

[Recording while Ms. Beerman is showing Ms. Berman painting in bedroom.]

MS. BERMAN:  I was just going to ask you what do you think are the aspects that all good drawings have?

MS. BEERMAN:  Originality. Originality of imagery. Philip Guston and so many others, you know, so many other artists.

MS. BERMAN:  Have there been—over the years have you noticed that different artists at different points in your life have influenced your work or inspired you in any way?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.]

MS. BERMAN:  And who are some of those? Or at what points did some show up?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, [Pablo] Picasso and Guston and—my memory is just so bad these days.

MS. BERMAN:  That's quite all right. Take your time.

MS. BEERMAN:  It's been a lot of artists. I've looked at the work of a lot of artists. And I used to go to galleries constantly when I was living in New York or near New York. Now I'm—I feel like a foreigner in this area. I'm not quite sure about taking the subway and so forth. And unless somebody brings me to a gallery, I don't go. And I really miss it because I found that I could be inspired by what I saw. And then go home and draw more avidly.

MS. BERMAN:  I can imagine that's difficult, you know, to have that part of your—

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, yes.

MS. BERMAN:  I guess sort of your work taken away. Or something that was so central.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Have you seen any shows recently that have—have there been any?

MS. BEERMAN:  I saw the woman artist. What's her name? I can tell you in a minute.

[Pause in conversation. Ms. Beerman looks for name.]

MS. BEERMAN:  Louise Bourgeois.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, Louise Bourgeois, yes.

MS. BEERMAN:  I saw her show recently. Well, a couple of months ago.

MS. BERMAN:  Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.] And did you come home and, you know, draw more?

MS. BEERMAN:  No, I didn't like her drawings at all. I thought she couldn't draw. I mean I thought she didn't have a real fantastic comprehension of drawing. She was a sculptor. And her drawings were lacking, I think, in many ways. It made me very nervous to look at them.

MS. BERMAN:  Really? I guess having—whether it's I suppose a positive or negative experience of looking at something like that—it's nice to just have the experience. You know not having been around it for a while.

MS. BEERMAN:  Hmm.

MS. BERMAN:  Have there been any other shows that you've wanted in particular to see?

MS. BEERMAN:   I think there was a show of drawings recently at the National Gallery [of Art, Washington, D.C.]. I don't know whether or not it's still there. I think I would like to see that. I will look at anything that's around. Not anything. But I like to go into some galleries and not know what I'm going to find. I heard that the Smithsonian had a very interesting show recently. The artist who was here who has my painting, came in, and they had—she and her husband—had been to that exhibition at the Smithsonian that they liked very much. Are you connected with the Smithsonian?

MS. BERMAN:  Well, you know, the Archives of American Art is part of the Smithsonian.

MS. BEERMAN:  What is that?

MS. BERMAN:  The Archives of American Art, for which we are doing—

MS. BEERMAN:  Oh, you represent the Archives of American Art.

MS. BERMAN:  Exactly. And they are part of—it's a division of the Smithsonian. So within the Museums and Research Division, there's this one, the Archives of American Art.

MS. BEERMAN:  My son tells me that these recordings will then be playing at the Smithsonian.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, they will be—here I can pause this.

[Audio break.]

 MS. BERMAN:  We were talking about an exhibition of Anne Truitt's work at the Hirschhorn [Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C], which is really a wonderful exhibition.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  So the Smithsonian really has some great shows to see, you know. And it's nice here in Washington because so much of it is free.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  You can just go to the museums and see, you know, see things.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. Well, I've been spending most of my time, you know, drawing or painting. So if I, you know, I'm not ready to go out and squander my time in any other way.

MS. BERMAN:  Right.

MS. BEERMAN:  On the other hand, I would find those periods of looking at work in galleries as the most precious thing I could do. [They laugh.] So I call it squandering and precious at the same time.

MS. BERMAN:  Right. And do you travel back to New York often?

MS. BEERMAN:  No, I haven't been back to New York.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, wow. So that's a very big change.

MS. BEERMAN:  Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.]

MS. BERMAN:  And you had lived most of your life in that area.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  And that’s where you raised your family and where you taught the most.

MS. BEERMAN:  Mm-hmm. [Affirmative.]

MS. BERMAN:  So it is quite a big change.

MS. BEERMAN:  [Laughs] I also taught upstate New York before I got married.

MS. BERMAN:  Uh-huh.  [Affirmative.]

MS. BEERMAN:  I taught in the public schools. I used to drive around to different schools. Did I tell you about that before?

MS. BERMAN:  Perhaps. But it would be great to hear about it again. So you taught in the public schools, I remember your telling me. And that was at a grade school or high school.

MS. BEERMAN:  I taught from high school down to first grade.

MS. BERMAN:  That's quite a range.

MS. BEERMAN:  I taught all the grades. [Laughs] And actually my beginning with these cutout images and so forth came from working with cutouts with children.

MS. BERMAN:  Really!

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, wow.

MS. BEERMAN:  This is all a result of that.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, isn't that interesting that it stayed.

MS. BEERMAN:  It's not what I would do with them, I mean what I have here. But, you know, I began to do some homework before I would see the class. And I'd begin cutting out things and pasting them and, you know, things that I think might interest them. And before I knew it, the scissors and the paper became, you know, a very important part of my work. And when I lose my scissors, I nearly go crazy. I have to look all over the house for them. And I've had a few scissors that were stolen by the cleaning ladies when they were here.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, no!

MS. BEERMAN:  So I'm not going to keep them out in full view anymore so they can't get at them.

MS. BERMAN:  Are you currently—currently you're working on a lot of books as well, artist's books? Or are these older pieces?

MS. BEERMAN:  I have a quite a few of these. I have some others. This one I did—this one I think you should probably look at. This was done—how do I open it?

MS. BERMAN:  This is Faces [2000-2001], which I believe—I think I saw this when I came to see you last. It's really beautiful.

MS. BEERMAN:  You did see this. Okay. Then if you've seen it. Okay. Well, this was a print project.

MS. BERMAN:  And how long did this take you to complete?

MS. BEERMAN:  Oh, about six months or so, off and on.

MS. BERMAN:  It's really wonderful. And how many copies—there were 11 copies of this?

MS. BEERMAN:  I think there are 11 copies.

MS. BERMAN:  What started this project?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, I always drew heads. I've always drawn heads. I majored in portrait painting in Rhode Island School of Design. So the head is, you know, the head is an important thing for me to draw because that's the seat of the brain and the spirit and the imagination.

MS. BERMAN:  These are really wonderful. There are quite a few images of human heads with then something, you know—

MS. BEERMAN:  With other creatures in there.

MS. BERMAN:  Yes, from the natural world.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. I'm very much interested in the natural world, in addition to just animals. I'm interested in nature in general. Insects, for example, I've drawn a lot of insects.

MS. BERMAN:  And there are a lot of teeth that show up.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, [laughs] I guess there are. [They laugh.]

MS. BERMAN:  What do you feel—what do you feel that the, you know, that the teeth sort of represent? Where do they come from?

MS. BEERMAN:  I don't know. I just thought it gave interest to the drawing of the head in general.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, this is really wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  Okay. Thank you very much.

MS. BERMAN:  It's a project.

MS. BEERMAN:  So I've made lots of books. And as I said before, I've, you know, I've drawn—I've done everything very automatically. Never know what the page is going to look like until I get finished with it. So every page is different.

MS. BERMAN:  And are you often surprised, or are you—

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  So you aren't sort of thinking, oh, that's how, you know, I guess sort of—it is a surprise rather than you're thinking, oh, I'm not surprised that it turned out this way. That it was predictable.

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, I'm not surprised and surprised at the same time. I feel both effects of these things. But it's always fun, you know, to draw all of these. And I don't know if you'd seen these or not.

MS. BERMAN:  I think I've seen some of your books, but I don't know if it was these two particular ones that are really wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  Apparently going to get put in there eventually.

MS. BERMAN:  With the books, do you keep coming back as well and putting more stuff, you know, saving pieces?

MS. BEERMAN:  Sometimes I do. But mostly I'm finished with them, for the most part.

MS. BERMAN:  This one looks like it was 1998 and then again 2003?

MS. BEERMAN:  Two thousand five.

MS. BERMAN:  Two thousand five.

MS. BEERMAN:  I went back into it. I guess these things were done in 2005. So I have many more of those books, too.

MS. BERMAN:  Do you think that you will stick with collage for a while? Or is there something else you've been wanting to get back into or try your hand at?

MS. BEERMAN:  That's an interesting question. I can't really answer it. I don't know.

MS. BERMAN:  I guess that's sort of how it goes. You sort of let the work take you, where it's supposed to take you. Well, is there anything else that you want to add, you know, that we can touch on?

MS. BEERMAN:  Not at the moment. If you had told me that I, you know, should have thought about that, I would have thought about it. But at the moment I can't think of anything that I should add to this.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, for right now, then, we'll end here. Thank you so much for going over all of this. It's really been wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  Uh-huh. [Affirmative.]

MS. BERMAN:  So I'll turn this off.

[END OF CD 1.]

MS. BERMAN:  We're back again.

MS. BEERMAN:  Okay. What I do want to talk about are all the paintings that are and drawings that are in storage.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.
                                                                               
MS. BEERMAN:  That's the body of my work. And I find that I'm cut off from that.

MS. BERMAN:  Is it hard for you to produce other pieces without—you know being removed from the pieces that are in storage? You know, do you find a lot of your inspiration is being close, physically close, to former pieces so you can still see it.

MS. BEERMAN:  No, it's not that. It hasn't got anything to do with what I'm doing now. What I am doing now I will always continue doing spontaneously. But I want the work around me. Like I mean I have over here—I can talk about some of these paintings that are over here if you want to put that on again. I don't know if you do.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, Perhaps we should— Now which painting—now these are all of those there, how did you decide what to bring here and what to leave?

MS. BEERMAN:  I did not decide. My son decided.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  I was just coming out of the hospital, and I was, you know, not able to do much packing. So he cleared out my whole studio, which was quite a job.

MS. BERMAN:  I can imagine.

MS. BEERMAN:  And he picked out the works that he wanted to bring here. And what he did was, he picked out a lot of very early works. Those are some very early works.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  Of animals. I think I had a one-person show at the Brooklyn Museum [New York City], and I was the first woman to have a one-woman show at the Brooklyn Museum.

MS. BERMAN:  And this was in '71—1971?

MS. BEERMAN:  Something like that.

MS. BERMAN:  And that was "The Enduring Beast"?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. So these are—the works that are here in this apartment are from that show.

MS. BEERMAN:  Some of those are, yes. Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  But you would have preferred to bring more recent works that are in storage, is that correct?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes. I did a whole series called—a whole series based on the plagues, the Plagues Series [1986]. And that I think, you know, it would be good to show those paintings because those are my latest and what I consider, in a way, my best.

MS. BERMAN:  How do you feel that they're your best work?

MS. BEERMAN:  That's very difficult to say. There are so many different reasons why they are. Well, you know, you look at a painting, and it's either finished or it's not finished. And very often, most painters, look at their work, and they say it's not finished. And they want to go on with it. Which is okay, too.  But these were finished paintings quite some time ago. And I stopped them. And I was living in Brooklyn at the time and painting in a bedroom.

MS. BERMAN:  These works being from the—

MS. BEERMAN:  The animal paintings.

MS. BERMAN:  The animal paintings from "The Enduring Beasts" show.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  And they were very—I was very inspired doing them. Those were my first animals that I, you know, painted. And so I became more and more interested in the animals as a result of all of that.

MS. BERMAN:  But you were saying about the Plagues Series that you thought they were your best.

MS. BEERMAN:  The Plagues Series, I think, you know, is my best of the latest series that I've done. And I have not shown it enough. I showed it in my show at Queensborough.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay. Okay. And you feel that they were sort of your best, for one of the reasons being that they were more complete than others?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, no, the interesting was that I was staying at an artists' colony in Virginia called—

MS. BERMAN:  The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts [Amherst, VA]?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. And I had been there many times. And I was there for like 24 days or something like that.

MS. BERMAN:  And this was around—

MS. BEERMAN:  And I painted the Plagues Series at that time.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  And I did them all in about two weeks.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, wow.

MS. BEERMAN:  I did ten of these huge paintings. [Laughs.]

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, my goodness! That's quite a lot of work.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, I was very inspired to do those paintings. And as a result, you know, they show that inspiration.

MS. BERMAN:  And this was in the ‘80s, late ‘80s or early ‘90s?

MS. BEERMAN:  It must have been in the ‘90s.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  Did I have ‘80s attached to them?

MS. BERMAN:  No, I thought I had seen that it was—that you were there in the late eighties. But I suppose you were [inaudible].

MS. BEERMAN:  I was there all the time. I was there every year practically, starting in the ‘80s.

MS. BERMAN:  My mother was actually there.

MS. BEERMAN:  Your mother was there?

MS. BERMAN:  Yes, I think a couple of years in the mid- to late ’90s.

MS. BEERMAN:  What is her name?

MS. BERMAN:  Kathryn Bailey.

MS. BEERMAN:  No kidding!

MS. BERMAN:  Yes. She does a lot of collage, mixed media.

MS. BEERMAN:  Does she know me?

MS. BERMAN:  She knows of you, but I don't know if it's from—I didn't ask her—if it was from was just from knowing of artists. So those works you felt, The Plagues Series, were really inspired pieces. And did you ever continue adding to that series? Or was it just in that one 24-day period that you started and completed the series?

MS. BEERMAN:  I did them all there.

MS. BERMAN:  Okay.

MS. BEERMAN:  And I kept doing one right after another. Huge paintings, 90 inches tall. They were huge. But anyhow, there was one artist who was, you know, very interested in my work. And I was always a little worried that she was too interested in my work. [They laugh.] And she would come in and say, "I can't see. I'm going blind." She would say all these things. The poor woman is dead now. So she probably wasn't—she wasn't well. But she'd say all these dramatic things to me right while I was in the process of making these works, which I think is interesting.

MS. BERMAN:  Do you think the works brought her to do that?

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Just because they were sort of—

MS. BEERMAN:  She wishes she had done it.  

MS. BERMAN:  Ah.

MS. BEERMAN:  I'm sure.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, how did you choose the plagues as something—as subject matter to explore?

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, the plagues are in the Passover service. And I never experienced that as a child. We were not very religious in my house. But after I got married, I went to many Passover Seders, and I learned about the plagues. And the plagues seemed to fit right in with my work. [Laughs] So, you know, there was no question.

MS. BERMAN:  It was a natural.

MS. BEERMAN:  Right. Yes.

MS. BERMAN:  Do a lot of— Do you prefer or are you comfortable doing a series of things, you know, something with such a definite beginning and end as the Plagues Series over 24 days?

MS. BEERMAN:  That was unusual to do that.

MS. BERMAN:  It was?

MS. BEERMAN:  Because I had to think in advance about what I was doing, which I never do, you know. I usually start with nothing. I mean that's why I'm suffering with that painting that's in the studio right now because I don't know where it's going or where it should go. It's driving me a little crazy. But I will eventually come to a conclusion with it.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, what about something like these early pieces, the animals, you know.

MS. BEERMAN:  Those I did very quickly. I knew that I was drawing animals. And I knew that the curators at the Brooklyn Museum were interested in my animals. And so all together, you know, the whole thing came together very nicely. And I just worked with much ease.

MS. BERMAN:  It must be comfortable to be able to have, in some respects, have a beginning and end so that you're not continually struggling.

MS. BEERMAN:  And these curators were women, two women.

MS. BERMAN:  Ah.

MS. BEERMAN:  So I have to say that women have helped me a lot in my career.

MS. BERMAN:  That's wonderful. That's wonderful.

MS. BEERMAN:  Including you.

MS. BERMAN:  Well, thank you. I've enjoyed listening. I don't know how helpful I've been. But hopefully—

MS. BEERMAN:  Well, just the very fact that you're asking me these questions and you're recording them, I'm very appreciative of that.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, well, we're so appreciative that you're willing to do it. You know it's so important to get into—you know to understand where someone like you is coming from and how your work has developed and informed and things like that.

MS. BEERMAN:  I don't know if I've explained it very well to you, but—

MS. BERMAN:  No, you've done a wonderful job explaining, you know, and telling how different things have sort of come up.

MS. BEERMAN:  For example, that was one over at the museum—at the college—Montclair State University.

MS. BERMAN:  This collage? Or the print here?

MS. BEERMAN:  No, this was a print. And I had a plate, and I just rolled some ink on the plate.

MS. BERMAN:  This is called After Blake [Nebuchadnezzar (After Blake), 1985]. Oh, I see.

MS. BEERMAN:  What?

MS. BERMAN:  This is a monotype, Nebuchadnezzar.

MS. BEERMAN:  Yes, the figures on top are [William] Blake figures. And I've always been fascinated by those figures. I've drawn them quite a few times. And so I drew that with my fingernail into the black ink.

MS. BERMAN:  Oh, wow.

MS. BEERMAN:  And then I printed it right there on the spot. So it was fortunate for me that there was a printing press in the room at the time. And that was a nice thing about living near the college, that I could go over there and do those things.

MS. BERMAN:  I can imagine. A lot of your sort of images or beings kind of blend both animal—an animal creature sort of thing and a human creature. You know even if it's distinctly a human or distinctly an animal, it still has elements of the other.

MS. BEERMAN:  Oh, really? Yes, that's interesting.

MS. BERMAN:  I think so. But again, you know, I don't know if you—

MS. BEERMAN:  But that's interesting because I've thought of that myself from time to time. But I wasn't quite sure about it. So it's interesting to hear somebody else say that.

MS. BERMAN:  I think so. Well, thank you so much for doing this. I'm going to pause this now.

[END OF CD 2.]

[END OF INTERVIEW.]


This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Miriam Beerman, 2009 Dec. 28, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.