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Mia Bergeron, a classically trained portraitist and figure artist from Chattanooga, Tennessee, is our January Artist of the Month.
by Edith Zimmerman
2006, oil on linen, 22 x 26.
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Our January Artist of the Month is Mia Bergeron, a painter living and working in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Describing her philosophy on painting, Bergeron quotes 19th-century French writer Guy de Maupassant: “The realist, if he is an artist, will seek not to show us a banal photograph of life, but to give us a vision more complete, more seizing, more probing than reality itself.” For Bergeron, this translates into the challenge of portraying her subjects with both technical prowess and sensitivity to the intangible. “Each sitter comes with a unique personal story, and it is the combination of the medium’s subtle flexibility and the wonderful opportunity to connect with people that has led me to pursue portrait painting as my primary focus,” she says. “I look to artists such as Sargent, Velázquez, Zorn, Sorolla, Rubens, Van Dyck, and Degas as inspirations to naturalistic paths of expression.”
Although the artist prefers to work from life, many of her subjects are too young to sit for several hours. “If a model can manage to sit for me, the outcome is much more impressive and enjoyable, but sometimes this is impossible,” the artist admits. “In those cases, I take pictures of them in my studio, which has a north-facing window with very cool, constant light.
2005, oil on linen, 24 x 36.
“If I work from photos, I usually insist on finishing the painting from life,” Bergeron explains. “There are certain qualities of a face—an attitude that only the eye is capable of capturing. Fortunately, I’ve found that most people are intrigued by the rapport that develops between artist and sitter, and are hence more willing to give their time.”
Bergeron was trained in, and often employs, the sight-size method for capturing life-size likeness. “Every portrait begins differently,” she says, “but I always try to look for an interesting pattern of lights and darks. Having a studio that faces north helps control the values and colors.”
Although she works almost exclusively in oil, Bergeron is broadening her scope by experimenting with watercolor. She also hopes to paint more nudes and figures outdoors, “as I think it would be the next step in truly capturing something of the human condition.”
Bergeron studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, and at the Charles H. Cecil Studio, in Florence, Italy, where she also taught portrait-painting.
Edith Zimmerman is the editorial assistant of American Artist.