We had the good fortune of connecting with Beverly Kleiber and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Beverly, what do you want your legacy to be?
I’ve been here in the computerized, dematerialized, digital creative space since it began. I was one of a handful of artist-pioneers, and one of the very few women, on the bleeding edge of a new artform, cyber art, the computer-generated art of the time. Those of prescient reflection recognized our innovation. Others smirked. The world has now come full circle, and this genre, 40 years in the making, is the new rage, supported by the blockchain, a potentially egalitarian “decentralized” paradigm. I’ve learned that the choices we make on our early path determine what we will finally become. No exceptions. This is particularly true of artists. I can tell you what my legacy will be, I am quite sure. My artistic beginnings were shaped by my grandfather, renowned etcher, painter, and U.S. Forest Ranger Hans Norbert Kleiber. My compass and artistic path were calibrated and paved by my earliest formal art professor, the much acclaimed and collected pop artist Corita Kent (formerly Sister Mary Corita) of my Los Angeles alma mater, Immaculate Heart College. The spark that propelled me forward came through a new device, the Commodore Amiga computer. The pieces of digital art that this device enabled excited me in the mid-’80s. I did work in other visual disciplines. My large stained glass pieces were installed in significant commercial buildings and some homes. I created huge neon works, one of which lived in the lobby of an Atlantic City casino. My computer art, however, was my most innovative work and defined my artistic individualism. The digitally-driven pieces that I and my friends Lucia Grossberger Morales, Roman Verostko, and others created spanned everything from interactive video to digital movies to code-generated works. Some could be printed to paper; most were available only on a screen–at that time a clunky CRT– that was connected to the computer. We created the first NFT-ready art, if you will, but had no blockchain with which to engage. I collaborated with computer programmers, engineers, and audio-visual technicians and my programmer genius son to discover how these computerized works could be projected onto large screens and walls. My installations were mostly interactive, even though that nascent interactivity was clunky and unpredictable in its performance. My Burning Man computer/video installations of 2004 and 2005 tantalized those who ventured to interact at “the foot of the Man”. My efforts brought me a compliment as one of the 100 most influential persons in the computer industry in 1995 in Microtimes. That was satisfying, but many people still didn’t know what to make of art that lived only on a computer. We were left wondering how to make our Cyberart available to a wider audience. Authors and cultural observers Frank Popper, Linda Jacobson, and Steve Wilson, among others, lauded certain of us in their books, still considered important and forward-looking in this new, reconstituted digital age. The new melding of art and technology had changed its costume and awaited its world stage Now, almost a half-century later, I find myself again in the middle of using technology that wasn’t intended to be dragged into the art world to produce artistic expression. New tools, or toys, I guess–an iPad Pro and the app Zoom– allow me to pay homage to an electronics-based genre that may best describe what I’m creating today, glitch art. The controlled clashes and merging of images invoke the human condition’s relation to our sometimes delicate environment, allowing me my latest body of work, Zoom Hallucinations. I find myself at the nexus of new ideas, new devices and tools, and a new paradigm in digital art. Again. So I sit here watching the worlds of NFTs and blockchain and cryptocurrency merge with the concepts of cyberart and the extensions of virtual reality and immersive digital experiences. It’s rather amazing to watch what I helped create expand and finally gain its audience. I find it interesting that my professor Corita Kent is celebrated still today in popular fashion through the use of her work by the fashion house Chloé, I find it exciting that John Perry Barlow, so prescient in his observations of today’s digital world and who influenced so many cyberartists like myself, was born about 100 miles as the crow flies from my grandfather’s well-loved muse, the Wind River Reservation. I find it deliciously curious that my legacy will be the electronic art that I’ve created, and that one of my last collections: Zoomhallucinations.com reaches into the past to be new. Again.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My largest footprint of artistic expression is in the realm of digital and interactive art, as a pioneer of the genre. My early installations used the first computer/video technology and exhibited in art galleries and museums in San Francisco, Frankfurt, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, Montreal, Tokyo, and New York. I pushed hard for recognition and a position amongst all the boys in the digital space, and even harder for anyone to recognize what we did. I spent 14 years as the president of YLEM-Artist Using Science And Technology to help push our efforts forward. I once asked a Wyoming rancher (Wyoming has been my second and ancestral home) how he got horses across the Badlands, a six-day trip. He answered, we only thought about where we were going to camp that night.” That’s probably the biggest lesson I learned, and I’ve remembered those words every step of my creative journey. The journey was peppered with missteps and tragedy, but there was also much joy and camaraderie that fueled my efforts. And the effort paid off. Microtimes, a ground-breaking computer publication of the early digital age, listed me as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the computer industry in 1995. Decorated Franco-British art historian, technologist, cultural theorist, and curator Frank Popper discusses my work in his critically-acclaimed book Art in the Electronic Age. He references my artistic innovation as embodied in my interactive and digital creations. My newest and most likely my last (but ya never know!) collection, “Zoom Hallucinations”, was created with an app that was never intended for art, on a device that could be used for art, but not the way I used it! If there’s one thing about me that defines my brand, it’s that I’ve always done odd an innovative things with the unthinkable. Recently I interviewed 22 contemporary artists of the Big Horn region for a series for the Brinton Museum in Big Horn, Wyoming. I wanted them to ahve a record of their wonderful creative lives. Kenneth L. Schuster, the director and chief curator of the museum, curated the group.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, I take everyone to the Asian Art Museum. The treasures there are unbelievably awesome. And the special exhibits are absolutely breathtaking. My art degree is actually in museum curation, and Jay Xu, the museum director, creates a place of beauty and wonder. If you’re going to have a cocktail, you come to my house and we’ll have champagne. Oo-la-la! If we’re going to eat, well, the Bistro at the Brinton Museum in Wyoming is amazing. Of course that’s a long commute, so we’ll just go to the Cafe at the Asian Art Museum. Still one of my faves in San Francisco. Along with too many to tell about in Hayes Valley, just blocks down the road.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Other: Interview by Luc Sala, Amsterdam, 1997– https://youtu.be/qZ3cR9avj2k ; pastel paintings — https://youtu.be/9PmWbzzX_BQ ; Burning Man, 2004– https://youtu.be/WSw1pJsnckY ; Mac World, with Luc Sala — https://youtu.be/n1V6WzLR_e0
1.) my work “We’re Not In Kansas Anymore”; 2) my photo of my grandfather’s coffee grinder; 3) and 4) my photos of my garden, just outside my studio; 5) Mark McGothigan, of my interactive work; 6) my work “Surreal Floating Face”