Artist Terry Berlier on Thinking Outside the (Tzedakah) Box

Terry Berlier, Variation on Soma Cube: Empty Center, 2015. 
Wood: walnut, maple, cherry, ash, red oak, ipe, basswood, 
7 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. Photo by Johnna Arnold.

In conjunction with The 2015 Dorothy Saxe Invitational: Tzedakah Box, The CJM invites participating artists to give insightful chats in the gallery. Artists will discuss their work in the larger context of craft, design, and how the invitation to create work on the theme of tzedakah affected their process. Get to know artist Terry Berlier, who will be speaking at The CJM on Friday, April 24 from 12:30–1pm.

1. What inspired you about taking this traditional Jewish object and creating a new work of art?
onestly, I had a very challenging time with it at first. I don't usually like making functional objects so it took me some time to come up with something that felt relevant to the Jewish object as well as to my own practice.

2. What approach did you take to creating a work of art inspired by a tzedakah box (ie: conceptual, functional)?
Mine is conceptual, though in the end I decided to make it slightly functional. I wanted to come up with a piece that conceptualized charity rather than just creating a box to hold money. It was important to come up with an object that would integrate giving into your existing structures as opposed to a one time donation action. I have been interested in the SOMA cube, a seven piece three dimensional puzzle that makes a perfect cube. There are 240 different ways you can reconfigure the pieces to make a cube. I also had the quote "out of many, one" in the back of my head so I made each of the seven pieces from a different type of woodwalnut, cherry, ash, ipe, red oak,  maple, and basswood. I made a alteration to the original SOMA cube design by removing one section of one of the blocks. This allows for a empty center in the cube which could function as a container or hiding place for something. This removal action also effects the original function of the SOMA and the number of different ways the cube can be reconfigured (I'm hoping a mathematician will let us know how many of the 240 possibilities are eliminated in the new form...). I also like the idea of a box that can be rearranged and that it is not static but can always be changing and supporting itself in a variety of ways, much the way a community or family or friendship works. Generosity effects everyone not just the person receiving or giving and I wanted my response to the tzedakah box to contain all those ideas

3. In six words, describe your creative practice.
Discovery, learning, playful, inventive, engaging, queer, ecologically concerned.

4. In your own words, what is a tzedakah box.
Spontaneously giving back. 

5. How did your involvement in The 2015 Dorothy Saxe Invitational come about?
I'm not sure exactlyI had been invited to participate in the last one so I guess I am on some list.

6. What are you working on now?
I'm working on an outdoor piece for the Montalvo Arts Center. It is a walkable platform fifteen to twenty feet in the trees. You can climb up a rope ladder to a flexible bridge structure where viewers are invited to walk the infinity looping platform that intertwines two redwood trees on the Montalvo property. The piece is a meditation on the definition of infinity, being without finishor endless. 

Installation view of The 2015 Dorothy Saxe Invitational: Tzedakah Box. 
Photo by Stephanie Smith.

About Terry Berlier

Terry Berlier is an interdisciplinary artist whose sculpture and expanded media works are often kinetic, interactive and sound based. Born in Cincinnati, OH, she now lives and works in Oakland, CA. Berlier received her MFA from University of California, Davis in 2003. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows at Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA; Fine Arts Gallery, San Francisco State University, San Francisco; Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga, CA; Recology, San Francisco; and San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA. Berlier’s work is held in in several private and public collections including Bildwechsel Archive, Berlin; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA; and Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA.


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