"She's kind of on fire." That's what Robert Lange of Robert Lange Studios says of artist Mia Bergeron, whose first solo show opens at the gallery on July 5. Though she's new to being completely center stage, her works have won over many artists and enthusiasts alike. "Mia is like a painter's painter. Every artist I know loves Mia Bergeron's work," Lange says. "You have to see it in person because she has this lush, buttery paint, and it has this texture where the closer you get, the more you feel a human being."
Lange and his wife Megan first welcomed Bergeron into their Queen Street gallery in 2010 as part of their Women Painting Women exhibit. Bergeron was one of just over 50 women chosen from 360 applicants to join what was, at the time, their largest show. Her impression on the couple was lasting and the Langes invited her back, this time for a show all her own called Gradual Thaw.
"Gradual Thaw refers to both what happens in spring time, just before plant life blooms, but also to a mental state," Bergeron says. "I had all these rules for being a person, a painter, etc. I think I'm in a transitional stage of my life, as many people are, and some of those previous rules and ideas about myself and my work are melting away to make room for new growth."
Among the works that Bergeron will showcase are "Familiar," which depicts a scene at the front door of her home, and "Elasticity," a painting that shows "how flexible one needs to be to make and view art," she says. Another piece, "Anarchist," generated a massive response on the RLS-Facebook page when it was featured there recently.
"This [painting] pertains to the rebellious nature of change," Bergeron says of "Anarchist." "We see how things are, we decide to revolt. Then, in the midst of walking into the unknown, we also rebel against ourself and go back to wanting to be comfortable. It's a cycle I think a lot of people go through: catalyst, change, fear, then acceptance."
Until the past six months, the Chattanooga-based artist had never painted a coherent series of works — it's a task Bergeron admits was challenging. However, the experience helped inform her painting while she explored her vulnerabilities as a painter. The result is an investigation of mood as well as the evolution of an individual.
"Generally speaking, life circumstances heavily influence my work," Bergeron says. "Walking by someone who is worried, a twist of an eyebrow, the colors of a landscape just before it is totally dark. I also seem to pay attention to conflicting emotions and visual matter. Subtle but sharp, dark and cheery, hopeful and disillusioned, lush but lonely."
According to Lange, Bergeron's works allow for viewers to inject their own story. Though viewers can sense strong emotions like vulnerability in Bergeron's work, her art still possesses an ambiguous nature that allows one to ponder what's really going on. Lange loves this element of mystery she's able to create.
"She's one of those people who breaks the mold," he says. "She's very cool, and she's got a hip vibe about her. She's got a lot of personality. She's also very open and loving and very romantic, and it's great to see that kind of show up. Her personality just shows up on the canvas."
The gallery's excitement for this exhibit is clearly matched by that of the artist. Bergeron looks forward to returning to a place that receives its guests so gladly.
"Above the door at Robert Lange Studios is painted, 'All Are Welcome.' I believe this to my core," she says. "I regard public art as the highest form of art, and in a way, showing at Robert Lange is just that."