Artist Rachel Berkowitz Bridges the Divide Between Fine Art and Design
The internationally renowned artist presents an exhibition at San Diego's Pacific Beach/Taylor Branch Library Gallery
Entering 2023, the world is recovering from a planetary pandemic that continues to impact travel, trade, and the way we carry out our daily lives. Not surprisingly, there has been powerful artwork created over the past few years highlighting our sense of separation, instability, and sadness.
“The pandemic brought forward a lot of things. Like everyone else, I was in isolation, dealing with feelings of fear — fear of death, fear of loss. I was working through that mental instability with the rest of the world, but I wanted my work to be uplifting, to be helpful in getting through,” says Rachel Berkowitz, a 29-year-old artist of international renown with a pronounced interest in biophilia, a design concept that includes elements of nature in the built environment, from natural forms and textures to natural light and materials.
“For me, nature has a meditative quality and provides a sense of grounding. I’m very interested in how my artwork can bring that to a space,” explains Berkowitz, who rediscovered her connection with nature and the natural environment while traveling across the United States in 2016.
That was the concept Berkowitz had planned to explore when she began an artist residency in a chateau on the French Riviera just prior to the pandemic in early 2020. One of the things Berkowitz enjoys about residencies is that they allow her to focus on her work with few distractions. Right then, however, there was a distraction so overwhelming that it had the attention of the entire world.
“A lot of my art stems from emotional constructs, and as I painted, the work became a kind of spiritual meditation,” says Berkowitz, who was born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised in London. “When someone sees it, I want them to have that same spiritual moment.”
Berkowitz returned to the United States to attend art school at UCLA and has lived in Los Angeles ever since. But even before attending college, she had a powerful West Coast connection in her grandparents, who live in San Diego and whom she visited nearly every summer while growing up. As a result, Berkowitz is familiar with most of the beaches between Carlsbad and Coronado, as well as the vast array of museums that grace Balboa Park. She created a significant body of work during her isolation in France, and since returning she has spent considerable effort finding the right place to display her most recent pieces, which include a series of large, abstract, mixed media paintings that will be on display beginning February 1 at San Diego’s Pacific Beach/Taylor Branch Library Gallery.
“The space was very captivating for me, especially the light, which changes throughout the day, highlighting the work in different ways,” says Berkowitz, who despite her primary focus on painting and photography has always maintained an interest in sculpture, which is evident in the way she uses paint.
“I really enjoy the art scene in San Diego. It’s part of the sense of community,” she says. “People are open to discovering new ways to look at art, which is meaningful to me. It’s important that there are artists who create serious, even disturbing political art. But I want to reach people who view artwork as a meditation, as a way to be at peace, especially in their homes.”
Some of the inspiration for Berkowitz’s latest paintings comes from her experiences working with interior design firms, which she believes don’t always care about the art or artist. “But then I thought, that’s really significant,” explains Berkowitz. “A piece of artwork going with a piece of furniture to create a sense of peace and calming — that’s extremely valuable. It’s also a way to bridge the gap between design and fine art.”
The result is a group of works created specifically to become more and more cherished the longer they are enjoyed. An opening reception is set to take place on February 4 with musical performances at the gallery from 3 to 5:30pm. rachelberkowitzart.com/newsletter