Get an insider’s glimpse behind the scenes with this artist studio tour and interview with Downtown Los Angeles contemporary abstract artist Clara Berta.
Clara Berta shares her ideas, inspirations, and techniques in her usual enthusiastic, bubbly and open manner. Talking about her focus on colorful abstract mixed media modern art and her love of teaching, her optimistic attitude reveals her serious business side, and her dedication to her work. A newcomer who has already achieved sales success through the monthly DTLA Art Walk and gallery representatives that carry her, Clara shares her appreciation of support from the locals, and in particular the DTLA Art Walk Board. BertaArt Studio Gallery is open to the public on every Second Thursday Art Walk, or otherwise by appointment.
Vibrant Strokes – A Visit to BertaArt Studio Gallery
by USC Journalism Student Brooke Gignac
As the elevator creaks to a stop, steel doors inch open to reveal a hallway, with walls barely visible behind a cluster of paintings. Approaching me is a canvas, no shorter than a Volkswagen Bug, and a bush of crimson hair peaking over the top. “I’ll be just a minute!” a voice yells from behind the painting, “make yourself comfortable.” To my left, an open door reveals a long folding table cluttered with paint bottles and brushes, an empty easel, and dozens of canvases—in every stage of completion—leaned against the walls. A gentle breeze drifts through propped-open windows and the sound of traffic fills the room.
I am standing in BertaArt Studio Gallery, the work-and-showplace of abstract artist Clara Berta, one of several artists who has found a home in downtown Los Angeles. Like most artists in the area, Clara opens her studio to the public every second Thursday of each month for the Downtown Art Walk, which attracts an estimated 25,000 visitors every month. However, her studio bares little resemblance to the pristine galleries of Robert Reynolds or Gloria Delson, located just a few blocks away. It is clear she uses her space also to create, not just display her art.
“Hello!” The voice cries out again in a decibel much too loud for the size of the room we are in, or for the 5-foot-2-inch frame of Clara, the woman to whom it belongs. Ignoring my extended hand she wraps her arms around me in an enthusiastic hug. “I am so excited to talk to you,” she says. Before I can utter a response, Clara is racing around the room with the energy of a labrador puppy, wrapping paintings in plastic wrap and scribbling her autograph on the back of canvases. Seven paintings are going to a gallery today that represents her work – Artspace Warehouse at 7358 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.
The abstract pieces which fill Clara’s studio are vibrant yellow, red and overwhelmingly blue, which she admits is her favorite color. One of the paintings displayed on the wall, “Whisper,” immediately draws my attention. Like the rest of her collection, the subject of the work is left up to interpretation. A cloudy sky, a violent ice storm or music notes swirling through the air are only some of the things Clara envisions when she looks at her paintings. Though the pieces which fill the airy studio are strikingly different, all provoke intense reflection. If the goal of art is to make you feel something, Clara has far surpassed rudimentary success. Her style is a marriage of abstract and mixed media. Fabric, yarn, and recycled paper add dramatic texture to massive canvases. Drama is exactly what she is aiming for. She grabs my hand and leads me to the piece resting on her easel. “I think I am going to make it more colorful,” she says “because it’s nice with the blues, but I want it to be more ‘wow.’ ”
Born in Romania, the award-winning Hungarian artist did not envision a future in art. After earning a degree in psychology and working as a secretary, Clara pursued a career in acting to fulfill a creative void in her life, but it was not until her husband died that she seriously pursued a career in painting. “It’s not easy, it’s competitive. There are a lot of artists out there, so you have to stand out,” she says.
Clara works sunup to sundown most days, but she also finds time to teach. In addition to teaching art classes at a local elementary school, Clara holds workshops in her studio each month, and is always willing to do an artist studio tour. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “There is an energy about Clara that is not only exhilarating, but is transferred to all of those who are blessed enough to be in her company,” Sarah, an attendee, wrote in a Yelp review.
Clara is just one of over 50 artists who participates in the Downtown Art Walk. The event was developed in 2004 with the goal of increasing exposure for local artists. According to Clara, the efforts of Director Qathryn Brehm and the rest of the Downtown Art Walk team, are not in vain. Although only a few people wandered into her studio, this month’s art walk led to the sale of two paintings. She’s hoping to find even more success next month. “I think with time, I will do even better,” Clara says.
Brooke Gignac, Digital Journalism
Annenberg School for Communication Journalism
University of Southern California