Barbara Bernstein encourages people to live creatively.
“Whether it’s through visual art, or through writing, or somebody who’s a really fantastic cook,” Bernstein said, “what I really encourage is to live a creative life.”
Artist, educator and administrator Bernstein will speak at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3 at the Hultquist Center as part of the Visual Arts Lecture Series. She will discuss her students’ work, as well as her own, and her public arts projects for the state of Virginia.
Bernstein is currently teaching undergraduate and honors courses at the University of Virginia’s Department of Art. She taught at Chautauqua’s School of Art in 2006 and 2007, and Bernstein said she’s “delighted” to have been asked back for the lecture series.
As an educator, Bernstein said she encourages her students to travel as much as possible.
“Traveling in general, and being challenged … is really a form of gathering information about how one navigates oneself in different situations,” Bernstein said. “Whether it’s in a new town or a new country.”
Bernstein resided in Israel, Italy and Austria, as well as a number of U.S. states. Traveling, she said, is “always about … how do I navigate my feelings, my thoughts, what I see?”
Bernstein said she was particularly struck, when traveling to China, that the world map “was reversed” from those in the America-centered west. Even on the plane ride, she said, the map had a noticeably “different orientation.”
Bernstein has returned to Italy more than any other country, but said the home of the Eternal City never gets old.
“When I look at a painting, it could be the same painting,” Bernstein said, “The painting hasn’t changed, but I have, depending on who I am and where I am in my life looking at that particular painting.”
When Bernstein visits Italy, she said, she is “renewed, refreshed and also reminded.”
In addition to her travels, Bernstein is influenced by mythology. She was first exposed to the subject in elementary school or junior high. From there, she went on to explore myths outside the Western canon, particularly those from Chinese and Japanese cultures. Currently, Bernstein is studying African mythology.
“One of the things I think is impactful about myths is how impactful, personal and universal they are,” Bernstein said. “That is what art is — it’s a universal language.”
Bernstein is interested in how mythology connects to art and, more generally, the world we live in.
“We have to know who our own dragons are and how to slay them,” Bernstein said. “And sometimes that slaying is with love and compassion.”
During her career, Bernstein has designed courses for Yale University, Carnegie Mellon University and the Rhode Island School of Design. She said she was lucky to have teachers growing up that “certainly propelled” her to continue as an artist.
“I feel extremely grateful to those teachers and their teachers,” Bernstein said, “who allow students to become who they are.”
One of Bernstein’s own teaching mottos is “inquiry, not indoctrination.”
“The inquiry is ongoing,” Bernstein said. “As an artist, the work tells you where to go next.”