American Pastoral / 2004 / New York

Artist Statement

Placed in the context of an "American Fantasy" setting, the idealized female is portrayed at the juncture of myth and social realism. Through a language of culturally specific symbols, the paintings explore both female identity and broader cultural shifts.

The romanticized suburban setting is used not as a record of a specific place, but as an iconic backdrop to an exploration of the fears and uncertainties that nip at the edges of the post-feminist landscape. By referencing the mid-20th century—a time period that exists in the cultural subconscious as an almost mythical time of American optimism and prosperity—the immediacy of the issues are removed from our current cultural climate and allows for emotional distance and perspective.

Bergman's work probes a loss of cultural optimism and the ongoing irresolution of such post-feminist issues as sexuality versus intellectualism, passivity, and acquiescence versus ambition. The work courts irony and the inner narratives are playful, yet confront the conflicting expectations of contemporary culture and the intricately complex ways in which we form our identities.

Any text used is taken directly from advertisements. Using actual advertising text provides a cultural touchstone that while used in a humorous or sarcastic tone reflects on the barrage of messages with which we are bombarded that partially inform and define our identities, our gender roles, our body images, and our merit in society as a whole. While much of the narrative is intensely personal, the underlying themes remain universal. The finished paintings are a pastiche of references and emotionally charged symbols that ultimately the viewer will respond to through their own personal history and emotional landscape.