Show Preview | William Berra

Santa Fe, NM
Nedra Matteucci Galleries, June 24-July 22

William Berra, Finch 2, oil/metal leaf, 8 x 10.

William Berra, Finch 2, oil/metal leaf, 8 x 10.

This story was featured in the June 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  June 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

This month Nedra Matteucci Galleries unveils 30 new oil paintings by Santa Fe artist William Berra. “This newest show of paintings by Bill Berra is the most dynamic I have seen since I started representing his work nearly 30 years ago,” says gallery owner Nedra Matteucci. “His paintings have new depth, from surprising figurative work to landscapes that contrast both the familiar and uncommon. His current, varied technique and style in oil, with some on gold-colored metal leaf, create exciting paintings of people, birds, cattle, and colorful vistas near and far.” Entitled Inspired by Nature, the show opens on Saturday, June 24, with an artist’s reception from 1 to 3 p.m.

Collectors familiar with Berra’s work will recognize his signature style of intensively researched motifs that go straight to the essence of a particular entity or landscape. In a process he’s employed for decades, Berra investigates a particular motif until he knows it so well he can paint it from memory, then explores it in a variety of paintings. Visitors to this show can expect to find some familiar motifs—cattle, landscapes (both domestic and European), and cloudscapes—as well as several brand-new ones.

“Last summer we had this Jack-and-the-beanstalk sunflower,” Berra explains. Passing by it on walks throughout the summer, one day Berra was attracted to a finch perched upside down on the flower. “I’ve gotten into sumi-e painting, very quick, painted usually from memory,” he says. “That finch and sunflower evolved into a sumi-e brush motif.” (Sumi-e is the Japanese word for black-ink painting, a technique developed in ancient China that combines painting and writing using brush, ink, and paper.) Once he started, the artist studied not only the bird and how it flies and interacts with the wildflower, but also the flower itself. “I had to educate myself on how that flower grows. You learn the language of the plant and the finch and memorize that language in your work,” he says.

Berra notes that, for him, sumi-e painting is an extension of his own inspiration from nature. “I get inspired by something, and I observe it and learn about it, imagine it, then I paint it,” he explains. “At that point, the painting takes over and tells me how I am going to treat the subject.” Another motif debuting at this show are swimmers suspended in water. This one presented itself immediately after the finches, when he and his wife took a snorkeling trip in Hawaii.

Regardless of the subject matter, Berra says, “I like to learn about what I am painting and pass that along to the viewer so they can be informed, entertained, and inspired.” He mentions a tree by the side of the road as an example. “You can drive by a cottonwood every day, but if it’s painted, you’ll see it differently,” he explains. “You’ll learn something from the way the artist painted it. You walk away with a memory.” —Laura Rintala

contact information
505.982.4631
www.matteucci.com

This story was featured in the June 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  June 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

MORE RESOURCES FOR ART COLLECTORS & ENTHUSIASTS
Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook

COMMENT