Kermit Berg ’73 Reflects on a Remarkable Career in Photography
“Leaving the farmland community of Bremen, Indiana, to attend Indiana Central College was my first step on a world journey of discovery.” -Kermit Berg
For Kermit Berg ’73, a solo retrospective exhibition at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery was a true homecoming. Starting with a reception on the eve of Homecoming Weekend, the show traced the creative evolution of a world-renowned artist who began his remarkable journey at the University of Indianapolis.
Berg was raised in the small community of Bremen, Indiana, and his transition to then-Indiana Central College was the jump start he needed to advance beyond the familiarity of his childhood bubble. It would plant the seeds of fascination to comprehend the world beyond the borders of his town, his state, and his own understanding.
As Berg recalled during the unveiling of his exhibit, leaving rural Indiana and becoming part of an international culture in a capital city “began my progress toward understanding what inclusiveness means in everyday life and helped ground me as I later lived in New York, Berlin, and recently Shanghai.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in art, Berg pursued study at Indiana University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In his early work in graphic design, Berg found immediate success, both as an artist and as an instructor. His first digital print was produced in 1985 as a guest instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The core value of inclusion, which Berg learned from his time as an undergraduate, has served his artistic eye, finding connections across cultures. His goal in all of his work is to create engaging photographs that enhance a viewer’s visual vocabulary.
Among the works on exhibit for the retrospective was “Nuclear Family,” photographically documenting a friendship story between a German family and an American one following World War II, with some of the narrative taking place in Berg’s hometown of Bremen. Berg called it “especially gratifying to present this 54-part installation in the DeHaan Fine Arts Center given the German and other immigrant roots of so many alumni and faculty, and the fact that this artwork is based in an Indiana narrative.”
Berg’s work has led him all over the globe, including a recent stay in Shanghai, China, where he compiled a portfolio exploring historic buildings from the 1900s that are scheduled to be destroyed.
After living in Berlin for many years, he now alternates working out of his San Francisco studio with frequent stays in Berlin. Since 2007 the artist has had two solo museum exhibitions in the German capital and completed a major twelve-part work commissioned for the Microsoft Berlin Policy Center. He is currently creating an exhibition for the German Federal Parliament.
“I’ve found it a challenge to buck the trend and not produce the same five photographs for thirty years in a row,” he reflected as his exhibition opened last fall. “Looking back on a career is a bit shocking, even when one is very close to the early artwork as well as current works in progress.”
Berg’s activity is being documented by Iranian-born film producer Sahand Samani, who has been filming him for two years for an upcoming documentary of his life and projects in Berlin. While his work visually appears minimalistic, the complexities of his locations and their cultures inform a greater purpose in his art, something that comes full circle to his formative years in Indianapolis.
“I think my take-away all these years after getting my degree at the University of Indianapolis is the phrase used by [President Robert Manuel] when he was asked why he was leaving his previous position to go to UIndy. Dr. Manuel responded that he had immediately discovered the University of Indianapolis to be very much in the middle of everywhere.”
Berg continued, “I find that this rings true and bodes well with the current leadership for impressive growth—in the arts and in the University as a whole.”
To learn more about Berg’s work and upcoming exhibitions, visit: kermitbergstudio.com