Expressionist artist Miriam Beerman was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1923, and has now been creating art for over 60 years. Her formal artistic training began when she studied painting under John Frazier (American, 1899-1966) at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), earning a BFA degree in 1945.
Frazier, one of the most beloved instructors and directors in the school s history, ʼ instilled in Beerman a fondness for paint and working in an abstract style. After RISD, Beerman had a brief stint at the Art Students League in New York. At the League, Yasuo Kuniyoshi (American, b. Japan, 1893-1953) provided Beerman with the objective teaching style under which she flourished—a learning experience focused on mastering materials, not how or what to create. Kuniyoshi was known for his paintings and drawings of solemn, contemplative images in somber colors and filled with symbolism. His figural compositions featured poignant images of human suffering brought on by World War II. Beerman continued her artistic training with a foray into printmaking instruction during a year of study with Abstract Expressionist Adja Yunkus (American, b. Russia, 1900-1983) at the New School for Social Research.
From 1954 to 1956, Beerman received two consecutive Fulbright Scholarships to study in Paris under Stanley William Hayter (British, 1901-1988). Hayter, part of the Parisian avant- garde, was someone whose work and intellect Beerman greatly admired. However, she found his studio, Atelier 17, too unruly and aggressive to foster her creativity. Instead, for the first year Beerman worked in her small hotel room. At the start of her second year, she befriended another American artist and they shared a spacious apartment/studio. The building, once occupied by Picasso, was ideal for painting, with large walls and abundant natural light from a wall of windows. As part of the scholarship, Beerman was required to have her work critiqued monthly by French art historian Marcel Brion (1895-1984). Brion, an avid writer on various periods of art history, from the Italian Renaissance and Dutch Baroque to German Romanticism and French Expressionism, encouraged Beerman s process of painting on paper. ʼ After Paris, Beerman returned to the United States, moving to Long Island to teach art classes. Teaching afforded the artist her independence and time to build on the individual artistic voice she created while in Paris. Within a few years, her purely Abstract Expressionist quality morphed into Expressionist figurative work with a heavy surface quality that more consistently addressed worldly events.
During the 1960s and 70s, Beerman s personal life evolved—she married, ʼmoved to Brooklyn and gave birth to a son—while she continued to develop her somber images of figures and animals and solidified her characteristic style of abstract brushwork, textured surface and dark colors. These formative years brought about today s larger than life canvases that demand to be seen, ʼpondered and remembered. After 13 years in Brooklyn, Beerman and her family moved to Montclair, New Jersey. Within a year, her husband unexpectedly died.Beerman s work continued in much the same vein—giving form and faces to the ʼprimal scream of humanity. In an interview for an exhibition brochure (Miriam Beerman: Witches, Demons & Metamorphoses, Montclair State College), Beerman emphatically stated, “There are some who feel they have to bear witness, and I happen to be one of them.” With a firm grasp of her personal approach to art-making, Beerman has continued to achieve great milestones and receive numerous honors. In 1971, her work formed the first female solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. To date, Beerman s work has been recognized for its brilliance in 31 solo exhibitions. ʼ Additionally, she was awarded residency fellowships in Ossabaw Island, Georgia (1978); Burston Graphic Center, Jerusalem, Israel (1980); Cassis, France (1980); Virginia Center for Creative Arts (yearly, 1984-1998, 2000-2002); Banf Center, Alberta, Canada (1987). Additional honors include, New Jersey State Council on the Arts Grants (1978, 1983, 1987); Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant Award (1994); and, Pollack- Krasner Foundation Grant (2000).
Beerman is almost obsessive in her chosen subject matter; for over 40 years she has thought about the trials and atrocities of humankind and reacted to them by creating paintings, drawings, artists books and collages. Canvases have layers of paint; collages and artists books have layers of torn drawings, pages of text and ship. Beyond the subject matter, the viewer finds a pictorial world of texture, symbolism and fluid lines, in summation, a strange glow of beautiful sympathy for humanity. In addition to the Everson Museum of Art s collection, examples of ʼ Beerman s work are represented in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of ʼ Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Newark Museum, New Jersey State Museum atTrenton, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts and Corcoran Museum of Art.
Marisa J. Pascucci, Co-Curator, Miriam Beerman: Eloquent Pain(t), The Everson Museum of Art, 2006