Do What You Love: An Interview with Artist Vicki Berndt

Published on March 30th, 2008 in: Art, Feminism, Interviews, Issues, Music |

big eye art
By Blonde Blythe &
Jasmine Becket-Griffith

Popshifter: In terms of the Big Eye art book [Big Eye Art: Resurrected and Transformed] that’s coming out in April, what would you like to say about your involvement with that?

Vicki Berndt: I haven’t seen the book yet, but they contacted me and asked me to contribute to the book. I sent them a CD of my Big Eye paintings for them to use. I think it’s kinda cool that people are organizing stuff around the Big Eye thing. Especially since Margaret Keane is still alive; that’s so great for her. [Margaret Keane’s husband Walter took credit for all of her earlier works. In 1965, she divorced him and successfully sued him in Federal court for the right to paint under her own name.—Ed.]

Someone sent me an email the other day that production has started on a movie with Kate Hudson playing Margaret Keane. It’s an independent film. [According to IMDB, Big Eyes, directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, is scheduled for a 2009 release.—Ed.]

Popshifter: Wow, that sounds really cool!

Vicki Berndt: I thought that was great. So many people are doing Big Eye art now, too. In galleries like La Luz de Jesus. . . the whole lowbrow art thing.

Popshifter: I think they call it “outsider art” because it’s outside of the art school tradition.

Vicki Berndt: Yeah!

Popshifter: I like that because then it gives people access to show their appreciation for something without having to say, “Oh, I have a degree in this.” It’s that real DIY, punk aesthetic in a way. The feeling of wanting to do it is more important than the technical skills.

Vicki Berndt: Oh yeah, I would say the punk rock aesthetic thing. . . that’s my number one thing from the start. I was in a punk band when I was in high school. I was a singer but I couldn’t sing. And then I got a camera and I was a photographer and I was learning how to take pictures while I was taking them. Everything I’ve done has just been like, “I want to do it so I’m going to.” Not that I know how to, or that I’ve been to school and I have a diploma showing that I can. And that’s from when I was fifteen until now.

punk rock girl

Popshifter: Would that be your advice for people who want to get into art and photography?

Vicki Berndt: (very enthusiastic) Oh yeah! Do what you love, do what you really enjoy, what you’re hugely enthusiastic about. A lot of times people will say to me, “Oh, I wish I was as talented as you so I could make these paintings.” And I’ll say, “Talent is a really small part of it.” The main thing is time. You don’t need schooling; you don’t need talent, even. You need time to do it. And that’s what people don’t have. They think, “Oh, I can’t do it; I don’t have talent,” or “I can’t do it; I don’t have a diploma.”

Time is 90 percent of it. Turn off the TV (laughs) and take a day off of work. Whatever you have to do to make the time to do it.

I think almost anything that you want to do you can learn how to do. You don’t have to be a child prodigy to have an enjoyment for it. Have an enjoyment for it and your enthusiasm will come out in whatever you produce. If you love it, that’s what matters most. I make things because I enjoy them. I decide who to paint because I love whatever I’m painting. The fact that other people like it, even if it’s that small percentage of the population that get it. . . that’s enough for me.

Popshifter: That’s great! Thanks a lot; this was really fun.

Vicki Berndt: It was fun to talk to you! It’s so fun to talk to people that get it. You’re one of my percentage. “My peoples”. . . you know we all get it. You don’t have to explain it.

Popshifter: I used to call that “The Knowledge.”

Vicki Berndt: Ah, “The Knowledge.”

Popshifter: I remember my parents didn’t get it. I’d say, “That guy doesn’t have The Knowledge.” And they’d ask, “What does that mean?” And I’d say, “Well, they don’t know about this thing or that thing.” And they’d scoff, “Well, I don’t think that’s knowledge.” And I’d go, “Well, you don’t have The Knowledge.”

Vicki Berndt: (laughs) Because you don’t have The Knowledge! It’s like that old biker saying, “If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand anyway.”

Additional Resources:

For more of Vicki’s artwork and photography, please visit her website at link to Big Eye Art: Resurrected and Transformed, April 2008, Merrell Publishers

Big Eye Art MySpace page

Margaret Keane on Wikipedia

Click to read more from Vicki Berndt on. . .

Tiny Tim
Art as commerce
St. Johnny Thunders
The fanzine approach
Photographing bands
The punk rock aesthetic and what’s next

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