Bas relief by sculptor Meredith Bergmann

Meredith Bergmann is a sculptor who seeks out public commissions that explore issues of history, race, human rights, disabilities, and the power of poetry and music. Her work deals with complex themes in an accessible, beautiful and stimulating way. Her largest public commission is the Boston Women’s Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston’s Back Bay, unveiled in 2003. She is currently creating the FDR Hope Memorial for Roosevelt Island, NYC and a slavery memorial for NYC. Her articles, essays, reviews and poems have appeared in many journals, and she was Production Designer on five feature films.

I got the idea for my bas-relief sculpture after the 2012 massacre of children and teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter was the 20-year old son of a single mother, a “gun enthusiast”, whom he murdered before driving to the school in her car. Reports at the time described her as trying to “reach’ her disturbed son by buying him guns and taking him to shooting ranges. After his rampage, he shot himself.

Mothers are Dangerous Women, because their feminine influence on the thinking, feeling and behavior of humankind is so pervasive. It’s so profound that we have, traditionally, referred to our largest and most powerful vessels, ships and nations, as “she”. We have visualized our nations, in allegory, as strong, nurturing, watchful and fertile women: mothers. My allegorical Mother might be America, teaching her children to wield real weapons.

As a sculptor, I delve into the history of art for the most powerful weapons I can employ to link past and present. I use beauty and skill to slow people down, to give them time to think about the symbolic resonances that emerge with time and to address complex issues without simplification. The traditional imagery portraying the Madonna and Child is full of realistic, delightful and poignant details: the mother’s hand holding the child’s foot, the child playing with a bird, fruit or flower, the mother’s glance full of premonitory sorrow. I made my sculpted Mother both proud and wary, although one of the gifts of bas-relief sculpture is its responsiveness to lighting, and her expression changes with different angles of light.

As an artist, I look for opportunities to make art embody social justice. I have consistently sought ways to make art for the world at large. My Boston Women’s Memorial has become an icon and site for celebration. My Memorial to September 11th, based on a sculpture I made just after the attack, was installed in New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine and is a magnet for those seeking strength and inspiration to work for peace.

I’m a mother, too. I have a 21-year-old son who is severely autistic and unable to live by himself. He was mute until age 12 and now communicates only by spelling, but is so bright that we were invited to bring him to visit the University of Edinburgh in August, 2013, to meet his professors in the Philosophy and Critical Thinking course he’d completed online. I know how much influence I exert over his sense of self, his confidence and his optimism about his life. I feel it is a dangerous amount of responsibility, and I try to model the balance between guidance and independence that I would wish to find in my government and my world.


Response to Random Murder III: December 14, 2012, Newtown, CT, 28 dead

(Mother and Child with a Glock)

Meredith Bergmann 2015

22“ x 18“ x 2“

resin mixed with marble dust