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The following descriptive commentary on the work of Marie Krane Bergman/Cream Co. was written in 2007 by the American artist and critic Lionel Train, who has granted Song Song permission to reproduce it. Images of the paintings are found below.

In the tradition of the still life, Marie Krane Bergman takes as her subject flowers she cuts from her garden. In these large color-field paintings comprised of thousands of single repeated marks, however, paint is not the vehicle for depicting an embodied, sensorial impression of a flower, as it is in a conventional still life picture. What is represented in these paintings, rather, is the flow of time through the flower.

The artist keeps a cut flower for many years, closely observing the course of its life, death, and slow decay by abstracting and recording from these moments the flower's colors. This color-record becomes the basis for an algorithmic pattern of mixing pigment and applying marks to canvas; the totality of marks generates a field of subtly shifting color; now enlivened in bloom, now sapped in decay, it plays along the threshold of perception and reads as an abstraction of passing time.

For these paintings, the ideal may be the representation of time itself. But, as the Aristotelian view has it, time exists only in objects; it cannot be extracted from the material world. The choice of the flower as object, however, should not be viewed simply as a compromise of the artist's ambition, for it is a thing replete with cultural resonances that support her objectives. Past representations of the flower as the symbol of fleeting beauty, life, and love are reinstated in Bergman's work, but here these associations are stripped of their Romanticist trappings. These historic symbolizations are both preserved and made new.

It’s a pleasing image, this picture of a sensitive woman who finds the inspiration for advanced art in her garden—and it’s not an untrue one either, from what I can tell. But it depicts no more than half of the reality behind the artwork at hand; there is another story, wholly independent of the first, and, depending on your values, perhaps threatening to its integrity. It is this doubling, wherein two realities exist together but independently in the space of the same art, that leads me to conceive of Krane Bergman’s practice as lenticular; turn the picture of the Garden Lady to a another angle and a new image is revealed in its place; turn it back and see the first again.

And what do we find at this second angle? Marie Krane Bergman is dissolved into Cream Co., and lo and behold, contemplative solitude is consumed and displaced by the frictions and synergies of interaction.

Krane Bergman does not paint anymore—at least she doesn’t paint anything that one will find in an exhibition. She pays people to do that, a whole group of them—far more than the market demands, in fact—all gathered under the moniker of Cream Co, if not unified in it. “As straight-forward as the process of these paintings appears,” she has said, “their actual construction and who deserves credit for it remains a divisive issue, both inside and outside the studio.” We are mostly acclimated to the idea of the artist’s studio that is filled with employed assistants, relieving the artist of the burden of production to a greater or lesser degree, and erasing her hand in the process. And so this notion holds little threat to our understanding of the hierarchy underpinning such an artist’s work, but the particular exchange of labor for money one finds at Cream Co. is not circumscribed by this concept of a studio, though some choose to describe it thusly.

If this “employment” leads one to think “business,” then one is being mislead. For when one thinks business, one imagines a profit-making enterprise that privileges task-mastering and rewards efficiency, reprimands mistakes and discourages waste. A day in Krane Bergman’s studio is all it takes to see that this is not the Cream Co. model. I have spent some days there, and I found that the notion of employment was being pushed to the extremes of perversion. Cream Co. has a product, namely these distinctively constructed paintings, but the producers are given reign to distort the process to the satisfaction of their most nuanced desires, with no preference given to the lofty over the base.

The basic unit of the work, the mark, is an unreal, ideal form that is indelibly distorted by each personality that wields a brush. Krane Bergman fosters these eccentricities, these variances, encouraging them through her refusal to interfere, which can be maddening. For that matter, productivity and “wasted time” have equal weight in the studio, as do patriotism and dissent, good faith and bad; she supports the whole with an unflinching commitment that astounded me until I understood that she wants to cultivate and expose the resulting contradictions all this leads to, not eradicate them, nor camouflage them.

In this way, the figure of the individual is asserted on the ground of the collective, though the structure of the operation keeps this distinction indefinite. Turn the image back to the first angle, see it as the record of a contemplative mind practicing an idle philosophy of time in a pleasure garden; now turn it again, see it as the expression of an individual’s time, unguided and unchecked, filled here with their meditative attention, here with their pleasurable distraction, all suffused with the melody of their changing relationship to their work, their world, themselves.

-Lionel Train
Albuquerque, NM, 2007