All Things Bertoia

A new exhibit of the work of Harry Bertoia has arrived in the lower gallery of Cheever Hall, giving MSU students an opportunity to experience the famous artist’s work. His daughter, Celia Bertoia, will be speaking about her father’s life and work in Reid 105 on Friday, Sept. 19 at noon.

“I am happy to have this opportunity to share my father’s work,” Celia Bertoia, the daughter of the artist and designer Harry Bertoia, said. Celia’s passion ignites the presence of her father’s work.

Bertoia worked with many metals, screenprinting and perhaps most interesting of all “sounding sculptures.” Each one of his “sounding sculptures” is made to be touched; in fact, playing with these sculptures is encouraged. His work is in many ways still alive, inspiring many and filling space with beautiful sounds.

Celia begins by showing off each work of art, demonstrating the musical pieces and saying a quick word about each piece. Celia has given talks and presented the work many times, but it is clear that as she looks at each piece, there is a mysterious experience, as if each time she looks at a drawing or sculpture, she sees something new. When I walked around looking at the pieces myself, I knew what I was seeing and hearing was unique — everyone at the exhibit has a different experience.

“He didn’t like putting a name on his pieces,” Celia explained. Bertoia believed each piece should be interpreted by its viewer without any preconceptions of what a piece means. “He felt he was merely the vehicle for creative juices to come out, so why should he put claim to one man’s piece,” Celia said

His musical pieces are made for anyone to play. You don’t have to master the playing of a Bertoia piece as anyone who wants can become a musician by simply touching or moving an art piece. Bertoia designed his work for individual experience. “He felt that the creative juices came directly from his hands, to the source, to the paper. He just sort of went by instinct,” Celia said. His work was created as a unique experimental process and to this day his work is still being experienced by each individual’s new way of seeing it.

“He would work all day with public commissions, and after dinner he would take a short nap, then go back to work and experiment all night. He would have fun and mess around and do what he wanted to do,” Celia explained He was in a constant state of experimentation and exploration with new materials. Each small experiment is a beautiful work of art on its own.

“When I started to become involved with my father’s pieces I wanted to make his work available to the common man. Most normal people cannot afford his work,” Celia explained, “We created an affordable line of jewelry to make some of his work more accessible.” Celia shares a passion for showing the world about this great man’s work. Her passion is obvious and looking at the work of Harry Bertoia, it’s clear to see where she got it. She has helped him live on through the years, despite his death in 1978. She mentioned one of the beautiful synchronises between her father and herself when talking about the jewelry: “It wasn’t till many years later I was reading through some old papers of his and realized he had the same idea.”