Borrowing inspiration from a mélange of artistic styles, Chicago-based Berger’s work accomplishes the effect of being of nowhere yet speaking to everyone. Berger’s women—flat, colorful, and full of movement—can be found in murals around the world (for example, Ace Hotel in Palm Springs) as well as the pages of pages of publications such as the New York Times, and galleries around the globe. We caught up to the artist to talk creative process, the mystic, and of course, Instagram.
You live in Chicago—how does living there impact your work, your references?
Chicago is an incredibly diverse city with so many cultural influences, which is incredibly inspiring. There’s also a lot of change throughout the year with the intense weather shifts, so that can have a big impact on work, too, in terms of both a general mood and also lifestyle. As much as I struggle to get through the winter, it really can be a time to sort of huddle in and be intensely productive.
Your influences are incredibly dynamic—Gustave Klimt, Native American leger art, Japanese prints—what compels you in an artwork, how do you distill these disparate styles into your work?
I think inspiration is largely a subconscious thing, and very much a collaboration of forces. We’re just naturally drawn to or moved by certain different things. Our upbringing, our experiences, our brain chemistry and natural inborn personality, the people we have interacted with throughout our lives—all has an impact on the things we find compelling. And of course, that all changes and evolves as we get older, too. I’ve always loved traveling and it’s a huge part of my life, so all of those visuals and feelings mix up together with all of the other elements of who I am, and then I suppose some kind of combination of everything comes out in my work.
Illustration in the age of Instagram seems to be more popular than ever, did you find it difficult to stand out in the beginning? How do you set yourself apart?
It’s definitely a double-edged sword, isn’t it? I am so grateful for the ability to share my work and connect with people from all over the world using that platform; it really is a huge blessing in that way. On the other hand, I generally find social media to be largely unhealthy and it causes so much skewed comparison, over-saturation/overwhelm, and just generally weird feelings for people. So, I have always chosen to take a very pulled back approach with it, which is what works best for me. I have to remind myself that I should post something like once a week [laughs]. Everyone has different feelings and approaches on this topic so I really think it’s just a matter of using these avenues in ways that feel authentic and genuine to oneself.
Your often include references to mystic or esoteric practices—explain a bit about your interest in spiritual practices and how that influences your art.
Everyone has their own definitions of spirituality; for me it means any practices or experiences that help me to connect with my true self, and fostering beliefs that make me feel more grounded in who I am and at peace. In that I would include yoga, meditation, making art and looking at art, love, nature, music, reading, learning, dancing, animals, travel, self-care, and caring for others. Probably some other stuff, too.
I got really sick at the beginning of this year and have been slowly climbing my way out of it since. It has forced me to get back to a devoted daily meditation and yoga practice, and that has been a huge gift from an otherwise really difficult experience. I think we spend so much time pushing and hustling and looking at screens—there’s not a lot of space anymore for those ideas and images to just flow around. Being able to make time to have some open ground in my head and to actually connect with what truly matters is the most important tool I can think of for creativity and being able to make things from an authentic place.
This story has been edited for clarity.