"I want to link the heart with the eye so that the invisible speaks through the visible."
I begin with an idea in nature, in the internet, or in the city. Seeking fleeting images to evoke the ephemeral and the transcendent, I collect passing visions. Onsite, I use a digital camera as a snapshot reference. On the computer, I color modify, crop, or combine the images to create a digital collage, and then create drawings in graphite, pen, or charcoal on paper or directly on the canvas. Finally, layers of textured acrylic paint are applied to the surface of the canvas with brushes, trowels, and palette knives.
These paintings embrace the movement of life flowing and interconnecting through the city and nature. Everything is in flux, amidst instances of recognition. And even what is acknowledged, transforms itself before the eyes. I am drawn to the ever changing reflections of water microcosms, and the vibrant morphing city streets, always searching for harmony within the action. The energetic bonds between city and nature can be felt with a visceral vitality. The colors are amplified to emphasis a heightened experience, and the compositions are abstracted to inspire discovery in the mystery. Color and light emanate from the mind, as much as they convey a physical location.
Justin Bernhardt grew up next door to artists on either side of his childhood home in Kalamazoo, MI. From an early age, he would visit their houses to watch them work, and create with them. His focus has been on painting since 1989 when he transitioned from practicing the violin into the visual arts. Around this time, he was greatly inspired on a trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. by the bright and dramatic Hudson River School landscape painters. His recent work goes beyond the tradition of American landscape painting to embrace a contemporary ideology and natural abstraction. Bernhardt graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in 1999. In 2013, he earned an MFA from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. After graduating from college in 1999, he traveled the United States in his van and painted the landscape for exhibit in shows. From 2001-2005 and 2007-2008 Bernhardt owned two art galleries in Kalamazoo exhibiting his own work and the artwork of other artists. He has won several awards including three Purchase Prize awards, a Best of Show, First Place in Painting, a Merit Scholarship to study at Ox-Bow School of Fine Art, and the Lang Scholarship to study at Guilford College. Bernhardt’s work has been collected by hospitals, colleges, schools, businesses, and private collectors worldwide. Inspired by Michigan waterways, he began the water microcosm series in 2009. He has instructed art courses at Kalamazoo Valley Community College since 2002. Currently, he creates from his studio and home on a partial wetland lake in Southwest Michigan, where he lives with his wife and son.
5% of the profits from every painting sale on this website goes to the Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, Inc., which "is a non-profit, primarily volunteer organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and effectively managing Michigan’s vast treasure of inland lakes and streams as well as advocating for the protection of riparian property rights."