Artist Interview. Edward Bernstein
April 20, 2016
Edward Bernstein, an educator who has brought his students to Venice since 2000.
Lorenzo de Castro: Ed, is there a particular reason for having decided to take your students to Venice instead of Tuscany or Rome?
Edward Bernstein: I chose Venice and the Scuola for several reasons. I travelled around Italy in 1998 looking for workshops that were well set up and used to having American Students. The Scuola seemed to fit the bill. In addition, both Venice and the Scuola had the tradition of the book and printing which was important for this program since it is both printmaking and artists books.
LdC: Was it difficult to find a balance between studio work and the time needed to take your students to view the arts that Venice offers?
EB: Yes. Our program is very intense since we have two courses giving 6 hours of Indiana University credit in 5 weeks. However, I reserved Fridays for Visits both in Venice and day trips to places like Padova and Verona that provide interesting cultural things for our students. It is always more difficult during the Biennale years. However, I chose Venice in part for the plethora of visual art both historic and modern that Venice has to offer. I think it is better in that sense than Florence or Rome.
LdC: Did the visual and cultural impact with a city of tradition and art influence your students work, or did they tend to stay safer in a ‘comfort zone’?
EB: The curriculum is set up so students’ projects relate to Venice in all its aspects. Obviously, some students may focus on more parochial subjects but most produce amazing books and prints that deal with Venice both artistically, culturally, environmentally.
LdC: How did their experience in Venice influence their art practice, education and culture in the months to follow?
EB: In some cases it has totally changed students work. I think this was true particularly of BFA and MFA graduate students rather than the BA students. For those who had not been out of the US, it really broadened their outlook on the world and the place of the USA in it.
LdC: As a professional artist with a significant experience abroad, what would you suggest to a student who is about to go to study in Venice for the first time?
EB: First of all I would say the preverbal phrase “When in Rome”. In other words, do not think what you have in the US in terms of facilities, practice, living etc will be the same and be open to what Venice has to offer in every way. I think students should read up about Venice and I have several books that I recommend like Mary McCarthy’s Venice Observed, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Finally, learning a little Italian, though not necessary, makes the experience much fuller.
Biographical Profile of Edward Bernstein
Bernstein was Professor of Art and Head of Printmaking (2011-13) and previously, Co-Head of Printmaking at Indiana University, Bloomington from 1991 till his retirement in August 2013. He is the founder and was Director of the “Indiana University Summer Program in Printmaking and Artists Books at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, Venice, Italy” from 2000-2013.
Education includes: MFA, printmaking, Indiana 1973; Atelier 17, Paris; B.F.A, painting Rhode Island School of Design. Bernstein has two regional NEA grants. Professional appointments include: Oxford University (UK), UC Berkeley, and the University of Arkansas. He exhibits in major national and international juried and invited exhibitions and has been a visiting artist in the US, Canada, and Europe.
In January 2014, he had a major retrospective with accompanying catalogue, Almost Illuminated at the Grunwald Gallery in the Hope School of Art at Indiana University, representing 22 years of work created at IU and a two person exhibition at Galleria Arte –Tre in Triese, Italy Still/ Still Life with Italian artist Franco Vecchiet, October 10-NOVEMBER 22, 2014. A solo show in Bloomington: Angels, Ghosts and Inconvenient Events finished February 21, 2016.
In 2012 he was invited by the “Organization Committee for Olympic Fine Arts 2012 (London)” to travel and exhibit “Illuminata,” 40 x 60”mixed media digital print for “The River Thames, The Great Wall of China- Embrace the World,” international juried exhibition for the 2012 Summer Olympics, Barbican Center, London, August 2012.
In Fall 2010 he was Visiting Scholar at the Universidade Federal di Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil and returned in 2012 for research. Residencies include Masereel in Belgium with talks at the Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam. His work is in museums in US, United Kingdom, Italy, and China.
He has given demonstrations, curated international exhibitions, and chaired printmaking panels, most recently: 2008 -2013, Southern Graphics Council International conferences, IMPACT 2009 and 2011, Mid American Print Conference, September 2014, 2016.