For many reasons, 2020 was the perfect time for Mary Bergs of Wisconsin and Lisa Hochstein of California to initiate a long-distance, mail-based collaborative project. Having previously worked together on a site-specific installation while in residency in Minnesota at The Grand Marais Artist Colony, they viewed this challenging year as an opportunity to collaborate again, using a shared interest in mixed media collage as a starting point. Due to their geographic distance, reliance on the U.S. Postal Service was essential to exchanging work, exploring ideas, posing questions, and sharing humor and insights. Aside from occasional phone conversations, this dialogue took place almost exclusively through visual means.
Each month, Bergs and Hochstein sent one another an incomplete work or a selection of materials from their studios. The recipient responded by making modifications or creating a new piece, then sending the work back to the originator. While agreeing to these very basic parameters, both artists felt it important to maintain an open-ended quality to the exchange. This process allowed a visual conversation to emerge, revealing differing as well as common perspectives and points of reference.
The exhibition mixes a large collaborative work with smaller individual works from each artist. Central to their creative process is the gathering and arranging of distinct elements, and the discovery of relationships between seemingly disparate materials and objects. Their large work, Correspondences, was created using materials like note and scrap papers, different types of tape, and pieces of cardboard and string. As the final step in the process, the artists determined the arrangement of the works and installed the exhibition together in the Museum’s gallery – mirroring the collaboration at the heart of the project.
Mary Bergs is a visual artist and curator who resides in rural Benton, Wisconsin. Her work includes mixed media work on paper, installation, and public art projects. She holds a BA in Social Work and Psychology from University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, a Master’s Degree in Social Work form the University of Louisville, and a BFA from the University of Minnesota. Bergs has exhibited her work regionally and nationally. She has had artist residencies at Vermont Studio Center, Jentel, and Kimmel Harding Nelson. She lived in Minneapolis for many years where she mentored emerging woman artists, was an artist consultant to healthcare organizations, and was the curator at Gallery 71.
Lisa Hochstein is a visual artist, based in Santa Cruz, California. She holds a BFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a major in painting and a minor in art history. Her 2- and 3-D works in collage and mixed media have been exhibited both locally and nationally, including solo shows at the Santa Cruz County Museum of Art and History, Monterey Pacific College, and the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, California. She served as a juror for the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County’s grants panel and for the visual arts panel for Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. Hochstein’s work has appeared in publications including New American Paintings (#109) and the Catamaran Literary Reader. Since 2011, Hochstein has attended artist residencies annually, including Ucross, Monson Center for the Arts, VCCA, Jentel, and Ragdale.
Selected Works From the Exhibition
All images: Mary Bergs and Lisa Hochstein, Correspondences (detail), 2022, mixed media, courtesy of the artists