Brooklyn-born artist Bruce Lieberman moved to Water Mill on the eastern end of Long Island over two decades ago. Since then, his work has been covered by numerous publications, including the Huffington Post and the New York Times. While Lieberman’s portfolio is wide ranging, much of his work brilliantly captures daily life on Long Island that is drawn from personal experience and inspired by stories that play out, as well as big human dramas. New York City Monthly was honored to speak with him recently…
You were first on display at the Parrish Museum in Southhampton back in the ‘80s…
I had a very small pastel in a big group show. Helen Harrison mentioned it in a review in the New York Times. “Unpretentious..” I was so excited. She is a very smart lady.
How has life on the East End influenced your work?
Everybody talks about the light, but that has become an empty cliché for me. Of course the place is still very beautiful but…the East End, back when I first moved here, it WAS so beautiful. It was a place that I came to surf, to be with artists and to be in the “country,” as my older NY friends called it. Back then I had the ability to actually get out and paint undisturbed. The landscape held a magical energy – a “vibe” and it often still holds that power over me. But as I mentioned, my NY painter friends who lived here back in the early 80’s influenced me. These people inspired me and took me into their fold – that connection was my greatest influence and of great importance to me.
How would you charatcerize your style of painting?
In the 80’s my work was called neo expressionist and then narrative, now it is often described as Painterly. I don’t think too much about it. I do what I do – Paint! That sounds a little snarky? So a characterization: My own personal vision seeking to be a form of contemporary realism that is gestural and process oriented, anti-photographic, perceptually based and fused with ideas, formally constructed, and ultimately about about Paint and Painting.
Is there a single work that you are most proud of? Why?
I’m proud of tons… but unless you do some huge special project that is career changing, that’s a very hard question to answer, if it is possible for me to answer at all… I’m very emotionally connected to my work. Then down the road they are like photos in an album – memories and souvenirs of my life. At that point I care more about my new work. My work is very personal, filled with my own symbolism and history. It is sort of what drives me. So when I look back at work, I see things others don’t see. I see the whole journey like it was yesterday, the problems I solved, or should have. I’m hard on myself.
Your work has been exhibited for over twenty years, is there one installation in particular that holds meaning to you?
All meaningful, a little bit of that ol’ 15 minutes of fame over and over again. My last show looked stellar and it is meaningful since I can remember it clearly! Maybe I’m getting old. But meaningful were the people and exciting times I had during or after shows, while on that 15 minutes of fame high. It all helped to make the event a life experience.
What do you hope people will feel when they look at your work?
That’s another hard question to answer… I don’t think at all about anyone else when I paint. Certainly I want people to feel a connection, to love my work and understand it.. Not to mention BUY it! I have given up worrying about people. Like democracy, painting requires an educated population. So one can only hope they can get it.
“Call First – Water Mill Summer” seems to capture an all too familiar Hamptons scene of poolside lounging. Does the painting carry any deeper significance?
The ideas, and some of the figures, come from Venetian painting and particularly Bellini that is significant to me since I have a life long interest in certain artists and a type of painting. It is also about that “fun in the sun” feeling, with an undercurrent of family, privacy and interruptions complete with the inevitable corresponding resentment. It is about a self imposed exile, hiding from the world with the folks you love. It is also about Painting and the history of painting.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I just had two consecutive one-man shows. So now I have to just get back into the studio, keep working and growing. Same old, same old.