I’d thought I would write to you today about Stella and Miriam. Stella’s and Miriam’s works are both expressionistic yet dissimilar. Both oeuvres are of equal significance to me. I have never favored one body of work over the other. I am given solace and restfulness while viewing one of Stella’s installations. With Stella’s work my mind dreams peacefully, expansively. I dream contentedly. I find Stella’s work to be religious. It is a contemporary interpretation of Catholic ritual and spiritual awe. It is also escapist. Yet while viewing a Beerman I cannot dream. Her paintings are so over determined. They profoundly disturb. They are over wrought. But nonetheless they are beautiful, sublime and speak of humanity’s difficult history.
Stella never talked philosophically about her work or of other artists. She maintained a mysterious persona. Miriam doesn’t reveal much about her personal self either. Their frailties seem unimportant when viewing their accomplishments. I learned through my museum work that art was a difficult avenue to pursue. I was always the understanding and gracious one with those I visited as I understood how hard it was to be strong in the face of a market driven art world. I learned that the world was a tough place for all non-blue-chip artists. I usually empathized as I was also under known. Your seriousness Stella inspired me and made me feel secure in my own postmodern expressionism, cooler than yours I thought. It helped me continue to be soulful–not intimidated by the current fashion. I was glad to commune with a philosophy that was greater than we both were. Not make art about the small situation, the unimportant attribute. I know we both look for varying tenors of the visceral. I know we don’t paint with ease. Yet I want the painting to read as an organic object that looks as if an idiosyncratic God were responsible for its existence.
I got to know Miriam Beerman well through organizing her retrospective for the New Jersey Artist Series: Contemporary Arts The New Jersey Context in 1990. For almost a year I visited weekly to look at her painting and talk about their motivations and her life experiences. It was the best day of my week, besides my studio days. An intellectual suffering from depression, she continues to immerse herself in interpretations of violence and evil nonetheless. Jamie Fuller, a minimalist sculptor, saw Miriam’s retrospective in 1991 and remarked that the work was too emotional. Is that why Miriam is relatively unknown? Are they too European for Americans, too rooted in Van Gogh? Do they produce too much anxiety in the viewer? When she paints it is always from the viewpoint of the tortured, though her love of paint, color and surface both tempers and alters its impact. She loves the victims of evil. Her late paintings are paint laden. Each painting exorcizes the haunting anti-Semitism of her youth in Rhode Island she confided to me one day. Miriam’s self-portrait, The Pink Skull, Self Portrait with Muse, is repulsive beauty itself. Areas are both bright and dark, boldly and heavily confronting death. Miriam looming, a dark animal and a skull are all archetypes and muses for victimization, anxiety and soul. For instinct and morality, compulsion and desperation. She pets the aggressor, confronted by the pink skull nearby without looking at it. Horrific.