At some point, life gets real for most of us. Dreams dwindle, passions fade, and the weight of responsibility can sometimes force us to make decisions that we never intended on making in order to meet what we perceive as acceptable societal standards.
The delusion that the things we once loved were never really that important to us anyway can unfortunately become an all too comfortable notion for many of us, and chalking up our dreams as childish and unobtainable can become all too common. Local artist Blair Berger is not one of the people wondering where he lost sight of what he envisioned for himself, and he never intended to be.
Heading into his junior year at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Berger was enrolled in all history classes. He had just returned from a trip to Bali, Indonesia. That’s when everything changed for the now up and coming artist.
“I went to two of my history classes and I freaked out,” he remembers. “I called my mom, she’s an artist so I knew she would understand. I said I’m going to be an art major or I’m going to drop out and leave the country.”
Within 15 minutes, Berger had filled out the necessary paperwork to change his major to art. Upon walking into his Drawing 1 class he met Joe Piasentin, his professor who he now attributes much of his success to.
“I knew I was in the right place,” Berger explained, “He was the happiest guy and had such good, positive energy. He actually reminded me a lot of my mom.”
Heading into his senior year, Berger wondered how he would stack up compared to artists that had been painting their whole lives in Pepperdine’s senior showcase. He went to Piasentin looking for some insight and ended up showing him a drawing of a Balinese god that he had done on his surfboard.
“From there our minds started working together,” Berger claims. “Within a week I was putting acrylic paint on surfboards and sawing them up and putting them together into larger pieces. I wanted to make it all look like it flowed together.”
After graduating from Pepperdine, the young artist started trying to get his name — and his pieces — out there. He started emailing galleries and clothing companies to see if there were any opportunities. He wasn’t having much luck in LA, but he did start generating interest in New York.
“It’s such colorful art,” Berger tried to rationalize his east coast success. “It’s so different for New York. It’s what they need in their life. There’s not as much sun light as there is in LA, for them to have bright cheerful art — people want what they don’t have.”
A.Jain Marunouchi was one of the first galleries to express interest in Berger’s psychologically compelling pieces, inviting him to his first professional art show in Manhattan last April. Despite proving himself wrong in the past, he again doubted himself, and wondered how he would stack up to professionals with more experience - but again he delivered in the wake of his own apprehension. The gallery ended up featuring Berger's pieces front and center.
“Same thing I was thinking for the senior show,” he reminisced. “I was thinking how am I going to stand up to these people. I was probably the youngest by 20 years.”
Berger ended up signing a four year contract with the contemporary gallery, agreeing to show his pieces once a year and have them featured on the gallery website. Soon after, another gallery contacted him and ended up entering his work in the Asia Contemporary Fair in Hong Kong this past May.
“I’ve always doubted myself, I think that’s what makes me continue to push it,” he tried to explain what drives his motivation.
Berger didn’t end up attending the event in Hong Kong. Instead he grabbed his surfboard and bought plane ticket to Bali, looking for another hit of inspiration from the place that had sparked it all before he had even knew what “it all” was.
For over a month, he left everything behind in search of a new experience and a new perspective. He surfed, he traveled, and he immersed himself in the Balinese culture.
“It’s just great to be in a place where all your stimuli is so foreign,” Berger explained his creative process. “Your driving a motorbike on these crazy roads with these crazy drivers in this strange land. Everything’s just so different. It’s so good for your creativity to be around things that are so different.”
If it wasn’t for an expiring Visa, he probably wouldn’t have returned home.
“That trip to Bali kind of killed LA for me,” he claims. “It made me realize how much soul Bali has compared LA.”
Eventually making his way back to Fenwick, he picked up his paint brush and directed his focus back on his artwork, expressing his unique experiences on blank canvases. Not long afterwards, more galleries started calling.
Berger is currently signed on with multiple galleries for shows in New York, Miami, and Lisbon, Portugal starting as early as this March.
He also recently signed on to work with Rythm Clothing based out of Irvine, Calif., on implementing some of his designs. With advertising campaigns like “the sound of change” and “off the well worn path” the collaboration seems almost inevitable.
“I thought it was a good fit,” he explained. “They’re into the music scene and mainly a surf company. I like their style. It’s cool and under the radar.”
While Berger has submitted a black and white acrylic piece entitled “Ghosts” to be used for t-shirts, trunks, a five-panel hat, and iPhone cases he is still unsure of what the final products will end up looking like or when they will be released.
“It’ll be a good common ground between both of our artistic visions.”
In the meantime, he splits his time between pushing the limits in his studio in Easton and jetting down to Fenwick when the surf picks up. While it may not be easy to get by while he waits for that “big break,”giving up and joining the rat race has never been an option.
“My whole life it was always there,” he claimed after discussing a piece that he had created when he was eight years old in the program Paint. “It was always in me somewhere before all that [expletive] lacrosse. I always learn something from the last piece I did that directly influences the next one.”
To see more of Berger’s art visit www.blairberger.com.