Manna

The Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions all contain an ancient story about a mystical white bread called “Manna.”  Literally translated to mean “What is it?” the ancient Israelites asked this question of the small white substance that laced the desert floor “like frost” every morning.   Sweet, like bread with honey, the story goes, the small grain-like element was miraculously provided by God every morning as food to sustain the tribe of people who were wandering the desert for 40 years.  The people were only allowed to collect the amount needed for a single day (and double portion for Shabbat) reminding them of a certain kind of trust and dependence on this daily form of provision.  If they did not trust the provision and collected more, the food would be rotten and full of maggots by morning, except for the seventh day of the week, when they were granted rest from their labor of gathering. At some point in those 40 years the Israelites complain about the monotony of the manna and lose sight of its miraculous sustenance.

Initially inspired by the description of a mysterious “frost on the desert floor,” this work was born from a daily meditative practice carried out over the last three years. The images originated simply by observing moments in both nature and daily living that visually resonated with this description of manna, and then eventually as the work progressed, metaphorically explored the ideas of provision, sustenance, appreciation, rest, and wonder.  The work continues to explore the synergy as well as conundrum between Wonder and Knowledge.  In wonder the camera beholds the microcosm of nature’s vast life-sustaining power. The lens studies in particular the capacity of incredibly small moments of wondering at nature as restorative and sustaining, even awe-inspiring, for the human souls. The work proposes that art, especially the recording of beauty, can seem a divine provision. Though there is certainly research that supports this theory, it is not just scientific knowledge for care or conservation of ourselves and our planet that produces action to do so. These images propose that wonder (perhaps in tandem, or even in lieu of knowledge) is an underutilized source of inspiration, encouragement, nourishment, and motivation for environmental and emotional conservation.  This exhibition invites you to wander through and ponder what sort of environmental future, human caretaking, or even intuitive knowledge might be born, not necessarily from answering the question, but from taking time to look down, to experience awe, and most of all, to wonder “What is it?”

Fugue In Graphite
7 min drawing animation
2020

Titled “Fugue in Graphite,” The structure of the video references the classical musical form of a fugue.  A fugue starts with a single melodic line or phrase that is then repeated high and low and layered and inverted and passed around and reinvented again and again.  Similarly here, each composition starts with a simple line drawing that then builds and layers and inverts and erases and builds again. While thinking about ancient religious traditions and the continuation of religious practices today over centuries of time, I kept pondering this act of tracing.

Rituals, either religious or secular, have a fundamental structure that is then repeated and retraced again and again and again over time. These animated drawings describe how that re-tracing is never exactly accurate. The line is slightly off or it gets slightly crooked or curved where it wasn’t before.  It expands and expands and expands and then it retracts, and it erases, and we lose sight of the original line, then we might see it again, only to be covered over again and again.  Even as the images draw and undraw, trace and retrace themselves we never completely loose the shape of the overall and underlying composition. We might experience a sense of loss or even clarity and relief as it retracts or erases or un-draws.

The layers also shift dramatically from white to black and back again all the while the pencil line itself remains gray. While editing these shifts I pondered this trope of “seeing things in black and white” and “giving room for gray areas” and thought about how rituals become entrenched in how we think, who we believe ourselves to be, and how we organize the habits of our daily living.  They may be so entrenching that we perhaps find our own selves seeing things in the proverbial  black and white and feel polarized from the “other” when in fact the original lines and structure of our rituals are in this more delicate and nuanced shade of graphite gray that are both simultaneously buried and expanded.

While making a drawing is often a time consuming practice, the finished product is a static object. This video animates and perpetuates time which creates this living form of a drawing that parallels the way that rituals may seem static, but in fact vibrate with vitality when practiced and reinvented and inverted and reacted and retraced over time.  

One Mans Weed

Lumen Prints

2017

These images are created using plants sourced from vacant LRA properties in south city St. Louis.  1 in 3 lots is vacant in the neighborhood of Gravois Park and these spaces are currently associated with blight, poverty, and crime. The Lumen printing process use natural sunlight, plants, and vintage or light exposed darkroom paper to create one of a kind images.  The transformative power of UV light and the creative potential of these materials- paper that is expired and plants normally considered weeds and eyesores- stand as a metaphor for potential life and beauty possible through time, care, and investment within our urban communities.

 Sale proceeds go towards revitalization and youth engagement efforts in the Gravois Park neighborhood.

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Scaffold and Gestures
photographs, paintings, and works on paper.  2013-present 
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three white movements with stones
color room installation
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Site Specific work

Leverage Dance Theater

Cloud Song

Collographs on Handmade Paper, String, Wood. 2013 Connections, continuations, impressions, autonomy, dependancy.....

Teathers 

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Sarah
Bernhardt

 

Sarah Bernhardt is a St. Louis based artist, educator, and administrator exploring photography, video, installation, and social practice.  She received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, taught at University of Missouri St. Louis, and currently teaches at St. Louis University.  In 2013 Bernhardt founded Intersect Arts Center, an arts space focused on nurturing accessibility to the arts and relationship building across diverse communities.  Bernhardt continues to direct the space developing exhibition and education programs, maker spaces, artist studio spaces, as well as community events and projects. 

 

sarah.ruth.bernhardt@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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Ohio Ave.