A lot of people must wonder if Tatiana Berg, SoA ’14, is a big fan of “Groundhog Day,” since her new show is called “Bill Murray.” The exhibit, which opened at the Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden on Sept. 26, is a mélange of paintings on paper and canvases stretched around three-dimensional supports. She talked with Spectator about her carefree artistic philosophy.
Channing Prend: Could you describe your time at Columbia and how it has shaped the artist you are today?
Tatiana Berg: Before coming to Columbia, I had started to feel a restlessness in my work. That was part of the reason I applied to graduate school. I felt like my work wanted to change, but I needed the sustained focus and time to make that happen. I painted many abstract pieces in the time between college and grad school. But then when I got here I was away from all my friends, so I had the freedom to try new things without being questioned. I made a lot of really terrible paintings last year. But that’s OK, because I was trying to work through something new, and it takes time.
CP: How did you come up with the title “Bill Murray”?
TB: I stumbled upon a great Bill Murray quote a few years ago. He said that improv at Second City prepared him for SNL because he was so used to dying on stage that he no longer feared death. This quote really resonated with me. I make my paintings literally very quickly, and therefore I have a certain percentage failure rate. When I was younger, I lived and died with every painting I made. When I made a good painting I felt like I was on top of the world. And when I made a bad painting I felt like I’d never make a good painting again. But now I’ve come to realize that I can only take myself seriously by not taking myself seriously.
CP: Can you talk about the pieces that we’ll see in the show?
TB: There are several-dimensional works that I call “tents.” They require a lot of time and planning to actually build as opposed to a crazy painting that you mess up and throw away. I enjoy these two modes of working. I’m not as good at the slow, thoughtful, measuring aspect. But then when I put the canvas on, I treat them the same as any other paintings. I also painted several portraits. They’re not of specific people. I don’t have a plan when I go into it. I discover their personality in the making, and they keep me company.
CP: Did you say that the paintings keep you company?
TB: Yes, I anthropomorphize my work very strongly. They had such strong personalities to me. Especially the tents, which occupy a person’s physical space. When I first moved into this studio space at the beginning of August most of my classmates were out of town, and the building was totally dead. It was unbearably lonely, so the first thing I did was make a giant face painting. That piece is going to be in the show, actually.
CP: What are your hopes for this show and your future?
TB: I guess the easy answer is that I want it to go well. I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of my peers. I moved to New York to be near the painters that I admire, and I’ve had the great pleasure of working with some of them at Columbia. I hope they think it’s good and that people ask me to do more shows so that I can keep painting.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
“Bill Murray” is on view through Nov. 2.