Briefly describe the work you do.
In my work, I explore the ways we interact with our environment—how we form relationships with it and how those connections influence our interpretation of the world around us—what marks we leave behind, the experiences—intangible and manifest, and the action of moving through or being in a place.
The concept of claiming space is interesting to me. All of us have different places that we can claim to be our own because of our unique experiences there. The idea of place becomes much more internalized and individual. My work is as much about fantasy and the idea that a map or photograph is merely an interpretation and representation of something, an internal experience of a place.
I am interested in liminal spaces, internal and external—spaces that are transitional and in-between, not quite here or there. Mirages and other light phenomena, states of meditation, suspended moments, and dream states all occupy this kind of territory.
Whether through reinterpreted historical photographs of explorers, vistas of sunrises, interactive installations of flag poetry, or letterpressed artist’s books, I am interested in creating spaces for daydreaming, exploration, and discovery to occur.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Coming from a desert home, I have always been drawn to more desolate, inhospitable, and subtle landscapes—places that seem to only show themselves to those who spend time in them and seek out what they have to offer. For me they have always invited introspection and reflection on the complexity of human-place relationships and our own internal-external manifestations of these relationships. I am particularly interested in mirages and other light phenomena as visual representations of the liminal spaces of these relationships.
Travel and art have gone hand-in-hand for me since the beginnings of my practice. There is something about being exposed to the unfamiliarity of new places that creates a hyper-awareness of the surrounding environment. It always connects me back to myself, which is the basis for most of my work, although not often in a literal sense.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I am constantly collecting materials for my work and thinking about it–particularly when I travel but also just in everyday life. I find that all kinds of things can spark ideas and find their way into my work–something I hear on the radio while driving, a conversation. I use my cell phone camera as a sketch book. I’ve never really been a studio artist or someone who schedules time to be in the studio. I tend to work when I can and sometimes the materials I am collecting and thinking about gain their own momentum and turn into something unexpected. I do most of my work while I’m daydreaming and then make the time to put it together into a tangible form. I also love to collaborate as a part of my practice. That dynamic is exciting to me. Since my work is in multiple media, various places become my studio–the outdoors, my kitchen table, the library. It is important for me to make a space for creating no matter what is going on in my life or where I am and so I find my practice is very adaptive.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I’m not sure I was ever really conscious of what it meant to be an artist as I embarked on this journey. Maybe that is because there are so many different avenues to take as an artist. I have spent a lot of time teaching and being an educator recently and in some ways that surprises me. The role of the artist can be complicated. I often feel as if I am an intermediary of sorts, making connections and interpreting information then offering it to others for their own interpretation and experience. Philosopher, researcher…
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
This really varies for me. I go through cycles with my art making. There are times when I am very productive and then times when I need to just take things in, digest, and withdraw. I don’t schedule time everyday to actively make work but I do consider the time I am thinking as equally important and productive. Sometimes that thinking time is structured and sometimes it isn’t.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I’d like to think that my work now is a bit more subtle in conveying ideas and not as literal as it might have been in the past. Although, I go back and forth between using humor and the obvious and then drawing upon things that are intangible and hard to articulate. What is most interesting to me is that from very early on to the present, there is a common thread thematically in my work without it being purposeful in some cases, even though visually the work is very diverse. My style may be more cohesive now and more sophisticated but the basic questions I am asking are still the same.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Everyone around me influences my work in some way. I reference all of these things in my work–particularly historical photographs and events in my “Explorers” series, other artists (isn’t that inevitable?), and philosophers and writers in my text and flag pieces. I think all of it shows up in subtler, subconscious ways too.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I think when I first became really interested in art in high school I never saw it as something I could actually do with my life. I spent a lot of time trying to talk myself out of it in college–dual majoring for a while in environmental science. I always came back to art. Then I realized that it wasn’t a choice for me. I love to cook and bake and could probably be very happy doing that. I would love to write and maybe someday I’ll put my energy into that (that’s a lot like being an artist though). My other passions are travel and language–I find a way to incorporate that into my artistic practice as often as I can.
Megan Berner is a visual artist living and working in Reno, Nevada. She earned her MA and MFA in Intermedia from University of Iowa. Megan is currently a lecturer at the University of Nevada Reno where she teaches photography and video classes. Her work is greatly influenced by the landscape of her native Nevada home as well as the vast prairies of the Midwest, being a twin, mapping and exploration, and countless hours of daydreaming. She creates site-specific installations that incorporate video and sound and constructs performative scenes that ultimately exist as photographs. Other forms her artwork takes include artist’s books, collaborative interactions, textile projects, and narrative videos. Megan’s work has been shown nationally and internationally and is represented in both private and public collections in the US and abroad.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.