Sonya Berg was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, and credits her experience of the Northeast for her interest in landscape. Berg earned an MFA in May 2010 from the University of Texas at Austin, and a BA from Messiah College in Grantham, PA. She has shown numerous times in Pennsylvania and Texas, most notably at Art Palace Gallery in Austin, TX. She is a 2010 recipient of an Arch and Anne Giles Kimbrough Fund Award from the Dallas Museum of Art. Berg lives and works in Austin, Texas.
In my recent work I make images of empty swimming pools. My drawings of the pools function as metaphors for containment, control of the landscape, the unknowable, and the void, both in a material and psychological sense. I look to provoke a sense of anxiety with figure/ground reversal and gestural drawing. The pool images are about the emptiness, the space between the viewer and the far landscape, the void between the place where one stands and the edge of the chasm. I want to provoke a sense of fear and anxiety, as well as a sense of enclosure or entrapment. The concern of how deep is the deepest part, or what hides around the dark corner, or how to exit the pool or building can create apprehension. The pool can be dangerous and uninviting, or produce a sense of claustrophobia. I make large graphite and charcoal drawings to enhance the feeling of deadness, emptiness, and abandonment. The simple black and white contrast functions as an abstract structure in which to consider composition and an emotive style of mark making. Formally, I attempt to contrast active and gestural marks with spaces that flatten out, and empty paper with areas covered in layers of graphite. I am interested in creating a “flip” for the viewer between a deep perspective and a flattened space. I use figure/ground reversal and flatness as devices to unseat rational and believable space. This reversal is to enhance the viewer’s emotional reaction to the work. All of the recent pool imagery positions the viewer in a centralized place with a one-point perspective. The viewer is solitary, stationary, and enveloped by the scene. I want the viewer to feel like he or she is standing on the bottom of the pool and must maneuver through the landscape to exit. I am also interested in creating site-specific drawings using translucent tracing paper with conte crayon frottage, hung to create an abstract or slightly representational image. In a physical and metaphorical sense, I am interested in the contrast of the fragility of the tracing paper and rubbings, with the grandiose and threatening power of waterfalls or empty pool imagery. I am also interested in the interaction of the viewer with the tracing paper, especially as they may have to traverse the space and view the work from various angles with different lighting. This site-specific work ties into my overall interest in metaphors I can develop and explore within the landscape.