“I love to paint anywhere that is not the norm. I don’t get very creative in an art studio; I love going outside on roofs to paint,” said Solomon Bergwerk ‘21.
An International Studies major with a minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurial Studies, Bergwerk was never really into art until his senior year of high school. “My senior year of high school, I took art as a class to fulfill a requirement. The teacher sat me down because I was misbehaving and slacking off: ‘Solomon, do something different; give it a shot or leave the class.’ I gave it a shot and found my voice.”
Bergwerk specifically used spray paint because it was a medium that was frowned upon and he wanted to be rebellious. “It all comes down to water-based acrylic paint, different types of matte mediums in order to generate different textures and a couple cans of highly toxic spray paint.”
After that, Bergwerk put all his effort into his art. During the next three years, he converted his bedroom into an art studio. “For about a year, I was sleeping in the toxins of my art,” Bergwerk joked.
Bergwerk’s first piece was inspired by a quote by Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” He tore up childhood books and spray painted Picasso’s face over the arranged scraps. The piece is entitled Dyslexic Pablo, representing Bergwerk managing his dyslexia while still holding onto his childlike demeanor.
Bergwerk takes his inspiration from artists like Jackson Pollock and Banksy.
“I found the power of color from Pollock and the rawness of stencils from Banksy,” he said. “I went on to create my own [style] and combined it with collages on different platforms, whether [it was] canvas, cardboard or even a brick wall.”
When questioned further, Bergwerk delved into his deep love and appreciation for the elusive artist Banksy. “Banksy goes against what any art teacher has taught me. I was often taught to follow each technique to the fullest and that the only way to become successful in the art world was to follow the same path,” Bergwerk said. “But maybe I should ignore that and become a ‘vandal’ like Banksy.”
Bergwerks’s high school yearbook quote was “Watch me change the world,” and he lives by that even today. “I always knew I wanted to do something that made me stand out and had a positive effect on people. In this particular moment in time art gives me an outlet to communicate and send a message to whoever wants to listen.” The subject of his paintings are often famous figures that worked in pursuit of justice like Rosa Parks, Lauryn Hill, Mahatma Gandhi and many other pioneers that have influenced major social change.
Bergwerk tends to always stick to three things: having a concrete background usually through collage, using color to promote a theme— often of identity— and creating a stencil to promote a message.
This year, from June 27 to mid-August, Bergwerk got to present his impressive work at an independent gallery in a private event space in Manhattan. The 21-year-old, operating under the alias “Soul the Man,” named the exhibition “Obviously Not” and displayed around 20 of his mixed media works.
When asked if he was worried about the turnout of his exhibition, Bergwerk responded with, “I had people who loved my work and people who thought I was heading directly to failure. I persisted. I got in contact with some galleries but they don’t want to listen to a 21-year-old kid; I persisted. I decided to take a risk … I owe a lot of credit to my Muhlenberg professor Rita Chesterton of the [entrepreneurial] department, who gave me the tools to create a business of my own.”
“I had an opening party with about 80 people,” Bergwerk continued. “I reached out to my close friend Matt Civitano [‘21], who came to perform with his acoustic guitar for the evening. It was an incredible night of celebrating the arts,” Bergwerk beamed.
Bergwerk says that none of this could have been possible without his mother.
“My mother is the one who said I can do anything. She is really the true artist in the family. When she saw the wacky stuff I was doing with art, she encouraged me to go past my comfortable limits. She truly taught me so much.”
Bergwerk truly hopes to see art being involved in his post-college endeavors. “I see my future incorporating art; [I’m] not sure how exactly.” He adds that his main goal is to reframe how street art is looked at in society. “I would love to get rid of the stigma that street art is bad,” Bergwerk said.
Lastly, Bergwerk’s dream is to see art be worth more than its dollar value. “I don’t think art should only be sold at auctions for millions; it should he hanging in public.”
Bergwerk’s work is available to view at www.soultheman.com.