The Fabric of Our Journey Closes April 17, 1-6 PM

April 13, 2011

Closing Party: The Fabric of Our Journey

Sunday, April 17

1 pm to 6 pm

Poetry Reading at 3 pm

Readings from Walking Through A River of Fire:

100 Years of Triangle Fire Poetry

Readers include:  Amy Partridge

Matthias Regan

Francis Scudellari

Lew Rosenbaum

Ahndrea Sprattling

and more . . .

B1E Gallery   6902 N Glenwood @ Farwell

Rogers Park

more information: phoebemoon@mindspring.com

Read more about the Triangle fire and the poetry anthology

by clicking here

The Fabric of the Journey: Artist’s Statement

“I know your wheat fields and copper mines and hobo jungles.  I’ve left sweat on your prairies and, as an eagle, perched on the pinnacle of your Rocky Mountains, I’ve seen your splendid beauty from Kansas to Oregon.  Grant me one wish. Be more good than beautiful. Show me yams and cotton and steel and coal unstained by corruption and tears.  You would be a gentle thing without your thugs and lynch mobs.  Some day I’ll tear out your claws. come close and love you.”

Nelson Peery, Black Fire, 1993

The Fabric of the Journey is an exhibit of fabric constructions using fragments of discarded denim blue jeans which are sewn together and stretched over stretcher bars (a frame) to be a composition in which the worn and faded material becomes the pigment as well as the support. In that sense, they are “paintings”. While some of the resultant constructions take on the appearance of aerial landscapes, others become abstract narratives of the history of work.  This is because the worn and frayed denim points to the time spent and the physical work or play experienced in wearing the jeans. There is a story unfolding before us as we look at them.

I am fascinated by the history of blue jeans as a functional article of clothing for work, leisure, high fashion and pop culture — so much woven into this cloth. In this series, the fragments of blue jeans are a metaphor for the fragmented lives spent in search of the myth of American renewal.

In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner wrote that the principal American archetype was the continual expansion of the frontier and its corollary of always being able to start over by moving on.  Turner, and others before and after him posited that the American frontier was a vast empty landscape waiting for American development and American Democracy to unroll like a giant carpet from “sea to shining sea”. The concept of an open waiting frontier persisted in the American imagination in spite of the reality that many civilizations with rich, diverse cultures had inhabited the land for centuries. The broken treaties and clashes over territory and land rights did nothing to diminish misguided hopes and dreams of wave upon wave of western settlers, cowboys, gold rush miners, developers, entrepreneurs (like Levi Strauss) and politicians.  “Nothing was permanent, failure was only a temporary state of existence. . . the perennial optimism engendered by the frontier was nothing less than the seminal characteristic of American society”. (“The Resurgence of Frontier Politics” Non-Partisan 9/19/06).

The 20th century saw the geographic frontier fill up with cities and disappear. With its going, the first period of American history closed.  The next period of American history continued to seek imperial frontiers through  expansionist policies in Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and The Phillipines.  New frontiers also developed in science, art, literature and cinema.  John F. Kennedy campaigned on the slogan  of “A New Frontier”.  The close of the frontier era was the beginning of the American culture’s romantic creation of a frontier myth.

This romantic frontier myth is as embedded in the denim fabric of our blue jeans as is the grit and sweat of 2 centuries of labor that farmed the land, built the railroads, mined the coal and worked in the factories.  Because of the durability of denim and the uniquely functional design created by Levi Strauss, blue jeans, still, are the clothing of work and leisure for everyone: rich or poor, urban or rural, farmland or Indian reservation, and everything in between. The idea of endless frontier and renewal is particularly interesting in this historical moment of our national debate over migration and immigration.

We fall in love with our blue jeans.  We seek the perfect fit. We wear them until they are in shreds or we buy them already distressed, stone washed or pre-worn vintage. Blue jeans are the symbol of our complex and often contradictory American character.  Ralph Lauren advertises his designer blue jeans in the large, western landscape.   Levis Inc. appeals to the average beer drinking, hard working guy with their ads, while Calvin Klein sets his designer jeans in a sexy, seductive challenge to pursue personal success and individual freedom in the upwardly mobile urban frontier.

In this exhibit, I focus on the aspirations of people struggling to pursue their vision of a promised land.  In reassembling fragments of blue jeans, I look for the “story” of working class people through the metaphor of fragments of denim, much of it rescued from dumpsters in the alley, discarded, like a broken dream.  Within the warp and weft is the fierce need for renewal in a land of hope and dreams. The beautiful patination of the washed blue dye tells of happier moments, family celebrations and material achievements, but there are also the torn knees, frayed  holes and faded patches that point to hard work, disappointments, losses and setbacks. Some of these compositions explore our work on the land in the settling of the frontier and the building of cities. In others, I have concentrated on the narrative of migration and the recognition of the hardship of workers seeking their “promised land”.  Denim is the fabric of our collective journey.

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The Fabric Of Our Journey

March 13, 2011

Closing Party: Fabric of Our Journey

Sunday, April 17

1 pm to 6 pm

Poetry Reading at 3 pm

Readings from Walking Through A River of Fire:

100 Years of Triangle Fire Poetry

B1E Gallery   6902 N Glenwood @ Farwell

Rogers Park

“I know your wheat fields and copper mines and hobo jungles.  I’ve left sweat on your prairies and, as an eagle, perched on the pinnacle of your Rocky Mountains, I’ve seen your splendid beauty from Kansas to Oregon.  Grant me one wish. Be more good than beautiful. Show me yams and cotton and steel and coal unstained by corruption and tears.  You would be a gentle thing without your thugs and lynch mobs.  Some day I’ll tear out your claws. come close and love you.”
Nelson Peery, Black Fire, 1993

The Fabric of the Journey is an exhibit of fabric constructions using fragments of discarded denim blue jeans which are sewn together and stretched over stretcher bars (a frame) to be a composition in which the worn and faded material becomes the pigment as well as the support. In that sense, they are “paintings”. While some of the resultant constructions take on the appearance of aerial landscapes, others become abstract narratives of the history of work.  This is because the worn and frayed denim points to the  time spent and the physical work or play experienced in wearing the jeans. There is a story unfolding before us as we look at them.

I am fascinated by the history of blue jeans as a functional article of clothing for work, leisure, high fashion and pop culture — so much woven into this  cloth. In this series, the fragments of blue jeans are a metaphor for the fragmented lives spent in search of the myth of American renewal.

In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner wrote that the principal American archetype was the continual expansion of the frontier and its corollary of always being able to start over by moving on.  Turner, and others before and after him posited that the American frontier was a vast empty landscape waiting for American development and American Democracy to unroll like a giant carpet from “sea to shining sea”. The concept of an open waiting frontier persisted in the American imagination in spite of the reality that many civilizations with rich, diverse cultures had inhabited the land for centuries. The broken treaties and clashes over territory and land rights did nothing to diminish misguided hopes and dreams of wave upon wave of western settlers, cowboys, gold rush miners, developers, entrepreneurs (like Levi Strauss) and politicians.  “Nothing was permanent, failure was only a temporary state of existence. . . the perennial optimism engendered by the frontier was nothing less than the seminal characteristic of American society”. (“The Resurgence of Frontier Politics” Non-Partisan 9/19/06).

The 20th century saw the geographic frontier fill up with cities and disappear. With its going, the first period of American history closed.  The next period of American history continued to seek imperial frontiers through  expansionist policies in Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and The Phillipines.  New frontiers also developed in science, art, literature and cinema.  John F. Kennedy campaigned on the slogan  of “A New Frontier”.  The close of the frontier era was the beginning of the American culture’s romantic creation of a frontier myth.

This romantic frontier myth is as embedded in the denim fabric of our blue jeans as is the grit and sweat of 2 centuries of labor that farmed the land, built the railroads, mined the coal and worked in the factories.  Because of the durability of denim and the uniquely functional design created by Levi Strauss, blue jeans, still, are the clothing of work and leisure for everyone: rich or poor, urban or rural, farmland or Indian reservation, and everything in between. The idea of endless frontier and renewal is particularly interesting in this historical moment of our national debate over migration and immigration.

We fall in love with our blue jeans.  We seek the perfect fit. We wear them until they are in shreds or we buy them already distressed, stone washed or pre-worn vintage. Blue jeans are the symbol of our complex and often contradictory American character.  Ralph Lauren advertises his designer blue jeans in the large, western landscape.   Levis Inc. appeals to the average beer drinking, hard working guy with their ads, while Calvin Klein sets his designer jeans in a sexy, seductive challenge to pursue personal success and individual freedom in the upwardly mobile urban frontier.

In this exhibit, I focus on the aspirations of people struggling to  pursue their vision of a promised land.  In reassembling fragments of blue jeans, I look for the “story” of working class people through the metaphor of fragments of denim, much of it rescued from dumpsters in the alley, discarded, like a broken dream.  Within the warp and weft is the fierce need for renewal in a land of hope and dreams. The beautiful patination of the washed blue dye tells of happier moments, family celebrations and material achievements, but there are also the torn knees,  frayed  holes and faded patches that point to hard work, disappointments, losses and setbacks. Some of these compositions explore our work on the land in the settling of the frontier and the building of cities. In others, I have concentrated on the narrative of migration and the recognition of the hardship of workers seeking their “promised land”.  Denim is the fabric of our collective journey. {Click here to see the facebook album}

The Moon Series

June 1, 2010

#1 Cold Moon, oil on canvas

#8 Corn Moon, oil on canvas

#9 Harvest Moon, oil on canvas

#10 Blood Moon (Gathering the Wisdom of the Crones), oil on canvas

#12 Long Nights Moon (The Full Moon's Gift of Light), oil on canvas

Diana Berek writes: I began the moon paintings because I feel a strong connection to the moon in all of its phases, but especially the full moon.

Many groups of people who paid attention to the sun, the moon and the stars, have special names designated for the full moons.  For example, Green Corn Moon is the name that the Cherokee give to the full moon which falls in June.  The Choctaw call it the Windy Moon, and the Dakota call it the Moon when Strawberries are Ripe.

I chose to begin my series on the full moons with the Celtic names of the full moon which are noted in my daily calendar.  These names inspired me to try to express visually the significance of the moon in my daily life. After I completed the moons for a calendar year I began to do additional full moons.  There were full moons that marked a lunar eclipse. There was also a blue moon (the 13th moon in a calendar year) and some other moons that had special significance to me such as the “Guardian Moon Over Dingman Mound”.

Dingman Mound is an ancient mound in Wisconsin that Lew & I visited following a map we found in a cafe in Spring Green. I stood at the base of the mound thinking about the thousands of years that moons have shone down on this place where people gathered to observe an annual ritual of great significance to them.  I imagined the moon as a silent witness to the people who built this mound — this legacy of their culture which is largely mysterious to us now, but which stands as a continuing presence and testament to their lives, their labors, their joys and struggles. In it’s constant presence to the earth, the moon connects us to all the ancestors.

Guardian Moon over Dingman Mound, oil on canvas

Phases of The Moon, oil on canvas

Mandala for the Healing Moon, oil on canvas

#11 Mourning Moon, oil on canvas

Prairie Moonrise (Oil and Cray-pas on Paper)

#2 Quickening Moon, oil on canvas

#4 Wind Moon, oil

#5 Flower Moon, oil on canvas

#6 Strong Sun Moon, oil on canvas

#7 Blessing Moon, oil on canvas

Weclcoming Moon (Return to Dingman Mound), oil on canvas

Seven Paintings by Diana Berek

May 29, 2010

A mandala For the Working Class, Gouache, 15"W x 15"H, '98

Cheecagou oil 20h x 16w

Facing the Millenium, Acrylic 42" H x 30"W, '99

Been A Long Time Comin' But I know A Change is Gonna' come, Oil, 48"W x42"H, '92

Deep Strivings, Oil, 36"W x 24H, '03

Our Somewhat Annual Letter Returns

January 18, 2010

Back: David, Téa, Diana; Front: Dayshawn, Amanda, Zach & John

Courtney and Grandmother Susan (at Diana's big birthday bash)

Dear Folks,

Berek Family Reunion

We”ve been a little outof the “annual letter” loop of late.  Seems Facebook and the new Chicago Labor & Arts Blog have hijacked our time and attention.  So we take up pen and keyboard to compose this more than annual reflection and begin by honoring the memory and life of Lew’s sister Greta who died November 9, 2008.

Over the past 15 years, we were enriched by the many visits, our correspondence and phone calls.   We are especially grateful that we were able to spent a week with Greta and Mert in May 2008.  By starting this way we recognize also her continuing presence in our lives, recognize the travails and losses that many of our friends have gone through since we last wrote.

There is no way to give adequate thanks to all our friends, relatives, comrades who

Zachary

have been so generous in the past 18 months.  A warm and supportive family gathering celebrated Greta’s life in November, 2008.  An outstanding Berek family reunion graced our spring 2009, including people who had not seen each other in scores of years, some who had never met.  A remarkable California visit led us from San Francisco to Los Angeles and places in between, allowing us again to see the extraordinary communities of which we are a part.  As the year drew to a close, we celebrated Diana’s 65th birthday and looked forward to her retirement, now barely a month away.

In between those events, we’ve seen grandchildren grow, welcomed another new grandchild into the fold (David’s third child, Navea Rose) and reconnected with David’s first (Malik).  Tea, Zach, John (Courtney’s three) are now in a new and more nurturing school.  Both Courtney and David struggle with the economic environment we find ourselves in, but continue to make progress.

Lew & Diana, with Flora Martinez (Planada, Ca.)

Téa and John, at the "Winter Scene" tablecontinue to make progress.

When the Chicago Academy for the Arts did not renew Lew’s high school teaching contract, he embraced “retirement” by getting more deeply involved with organizations in the educational field emphasizing social justice and by using new technology to develop and expand our networks through the Chicago Labor & Arts Festival — the newsletter now adapted to the Festival blog.  Looking back at our last 18 months makes us celebrate the variety, the activity, the strength, and the intellectual acumen of the people who make up our networks.  The blog and facebook in particular have helped us have conversations with many people regularly.  And, remembering that conversations imply a listener and a talker, it has allowed us to play the listening role many times, without feeling the need to say anything ourselves.  For listening (different from hearing) and learning go hand in hand. And communities are made up of both.

Téa and Courtneyhearing) and learning go hand in hand. And communities are made up of both.

Diana, on the verge of “retirement,” leaves Presbyterian Homes where she has found a home for the past 2 decades.  What happens now is not set in stone.  But she and her artists network have been building an active community of artists in the neighborhood and throughout Chicago.  There will be more time to devote to this and, more directly, to her own creative spirit on canvas and fiber and wherever the muse takes her.

One thing is certain:  what we have both done for a living does not define us.  We are

Dayshawn

entering something that neither of us has ever experienced before. We’ll be on vacation from February 21 to March 8.  But on March 9, neither Diana nor Lew will have to go to the job.  From that point on, we determine our time and our work.  Two people with fiercely independent ideas of who we are; with fiercely collective views of how we envision the world to become.  It is as our brother and comrade Nelson Peery said at our wedding — our ties to, love for each other are necessary; but our relationship is stabilized by the connection to the broader movement for human liberation within which we each play our role. We are grateful to that broader community of friends, of relatives, of comrades.  Our mutual and renewed connection to that community is our best gift to each other, year after year.

David and the new born Navea Rosecommunity of friends, of relatives, of comrades. Our mutual and renewed connection to that community is our best gift to each other, year after year.

Tea, Diana and Dayshawn (who is trying to make a "silly face")

Malik (with four legged friend)

Diana and Ray, with San Francisco overlook

Lew & Diana, with (Los Angeles friends) Lorraine, Nancy, Patrick, Adrian