Natalie Bergman Is Merging Her Music & Art With 1 Message: Love
I first saw the band Wild Belle perform five years ago at Webster Hall in New York, and found musical duo’s Elliot and Natalie Bergman’s soundscapes mesmerizing. Since then I’ve been following their music and journey. Several months ago, I noticed Bergman had been posting photos of her visual artwork on Instagram, and I became obsessed with her collages. I needed to know more.
Long story short: Milk stopped by Bergman’s Los Angeles studio to talk more about the messages behind her collage work, and how those relate to her music.
When did you first move to LA? What was it like making that transition from growing up in Chicago?
I moved to LA six years ago. I have family here, and have been coming on tour since I was 16. The first venue I played was Spaceland. Now known as The Satellite. I had to wait in the van until we went on stage because it was 21+. I was on tour with my brother’s band at the time. As touring artists, we are nomadic peoples, we move around a lot. Transitions are really our forte. Movement is what makes me comfortable. Brings me sanity.
When did you start making visual art and music? Have you always done both? How does each pursuit connect with the other?
I started making collage when I realized I sucked at painting. It became an escape for me (as cliche as that may sound). A distraction, really, from music and other things that pollute my brain. Music has been with me since the beginning. It’s a gift from the Creator, so in return I need to act as a messenger of love. It’s important to put love at the center of all we do—love the subject, love the material, and then hopefully your audience can feel the love you’re emanating, and it can act like a wave and carry on.
In terms of technique, will you walk us through your process for creating the collages from inspiration to execution?
I am always looking for paper to collage with. My friends started giving me their vintage magazines and my grandmother gave me her entire geographic collection from 1950s onward. I basically started seeing all paper as an opportunity to cut, rip, crumble and fold. That shit gets me off. I like to take things apart and put them back together in my own way. The new series I’m working on has everything to do with integration and humanity. I’m using a lot of hands and mouths. Singing, shouting, praising, rejoicing. The body of work is called Freedom Now.
What themes do you attempt to address in your collages? Who are some of the artists you reference in these works?
I am a big fan of Sister Corita and her political messages of love. She was bold. A real leader. She taught her students to look at everything. Pretend you are a microscope. Make a movie with your eyes. Look hard. Always be around. Read everything you can get your hands on. I like her philosophy on learning. I’m inspired by people that have a real lust for living. My pastor is an inspiration to me. Laura Truax. She reminds me of the importance of living now. Really living. Doing your best work here on earth. Come alive! Love your neighbor. Sing a lot. Be present. Be kind.
You mentioned that unity and togetherness are integral to your artwork. Will you share more about that?
As an artist you have the ability to bring people together. I really value and cherish the moments I can be on stage with my band … before an audience of beautiful people. We have some seriously cool people that come to the shows. It’s generally very positive in the room. I’m into family. I think if we started acting like everybody was a part of the family we’d all be happier. This crazy racist drama wall building hooligan monkey president we have. He probably needs the most love, after all. There’s a lot of people hurting in the world. We can do something about it.
How does your music inform the visual art you create?
It all comes from the same person, you know. My music and my collage share the same heart. I think this album we are about to put out is our most uplifted, celebration of music. It’s also lyrically my most political body of work. I’m editing the video for our next single, Mockingbird, right now. The song touches on issues of police violence in the United States. But the song is also a celebration of love and togetherness and protecting your people. I think the lyrics on this album go well with my collage. We have a street campaign leading up to the album release and we’re wheat pasting my work alongside some of the lyrics on the record.
What do you like most about the creative scene in Los Angeles?
There are so many radical mother fuckers in this city. You get to run into them, and maybe dance with them one night, make a song with them the next day. Tell a painter you like his work, and suddenly it’s hanging in your house. There is no shortage of creative beings here. It’s pretty inspiring in that sense. And now home base is the studio Elliot built this year. It’s so beautiful, and it’s fun to have that be the new club house in the neighborhood. All are welcome.
What do you like to listen to while you’re collaging?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Debussy and Erik Satie when I’m feeling sad. But I’ve also been dating a Brazilian composer , so I have a lot of Jorge Ben spinning. Very very good to dance to. Listen to his song, Brother, on the album “A Tabua De Esmeralda”.
What are your favorite places to go and get inspired in LA?
The flower market on Wall & 7th. Colombo’s on Colorado for weird open mic night. Man are there some freaks in LA. It’s like being in a David Lynch film in that restaurant. Old timers tap dancing and shit.
What’s up next for you creatively?
Working on another record. I’ve got a song with Rodrigo Amarante coming out next week and we shot a fun video on super 8 when I was on tour with him in Italy. I’d like to do more filming and directing. I really love it. Not just music videos, but an actual feature film in the new year.
Images courtesy of Alix Luntz
Stay tuned to Milk for more west coast artists we love.