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Prayer & peace
Laura Bergren's art captures images that matter to her heart
"The heart in the center is an openness to things that could come into your life, being more open to change, being more loving in all aspects of life. ... the Christian agape love."
-Laura Bergren

by Norma Smith Olson

Practice and prayer-these are two distinct descriptions of cover artist Laura Bergren's artwork.

She defines "practice" as creating "art for art's sake," painting and drawing people or landscapes to improve her skills or "just to create something that will look nice hanging above someone's couch."

Her second style of painting is like a "prayer." Bergren paints from the heart, from her inner world. Love, kindness, nurturing, mothering, "all of those tender things," she said, are the elements of her artwork.

Nurturing and giving support to her family is key to Bergren, who has a daughter, 11, and a son, 9. As a full-time mom, it was important to Bergren to take a timeout from art when her children were young. She knew that someday they would be on their own and she would pick up her paintbrush again.

"Grace," the artwork on the cover of this month's magazine, was painted in the fall of 2009 after her son started full-day kindergarten.

"I was very sad. I missed [my children]," she said of that time period. "But at the same time, I could embrace art again. It was a blessing, with some sadness as well."

For Bergren, the tree in "Grace" represents the nurturing, strength and growth she experienced as she painted about the changes for her children and herself.

"Butterflies are a symbol of transformation and change, freedom, almost like a new life. The heart at center is a symbol of love, but not romantic love. It's the deep love of a mother or father for their children or even God's love for us," Bergren said. "Being always open to love and change is transforming and sometimes requires an added measure of grace."

'Bethesda, Central Park'
While in New York City in the summer of 2012, Bergren's imagination was captured by the statue in Central Park of an angel who was said to have blessed a pool of water in Jerusalem that was called Bethesda, giving it healing powers. Upon returning home, she sketched her thoughts for a painting, but then set it aside. In September, when news of the crisis in Libya erupted, Bergren returned to her Bethesda sketch and began painting.

The painting, "Bethesda, Central Park," is all about unity, Bergren said. "That event ended up being my prayer painting for peace. Bethesda represents a place where all people, [of all religions,] would come together for healing," she said. "I just felt like I needed to paint that."

Bergren has a studio space at the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis. In addition to doing her personal artwork, she also is a substitute teacher with a master's degree in arts education from the University of Minnesota. She often teaches at Hope Academy, an interdenominational, inner-city school in Minneapolis with a mission of fostering education that works for justice, harmony, hope and joy.
FFI:www.laurabergrenart.com, www.hopeschool.org


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