Artist of the Month – March 2015

Gretchen Bierbaum and collage titled Tucson; photo by John Howard Sprenkle.

Gretchen Bierbaum and collage titled Tucson; photo by John Howard Sprenkle.

Gretchen Bierbaum

Jacqueline Cohen

If you ask Gretchen Bierbaum, she will tell you she is not an artist but an administrator and educator. Be that as it may, Gretchen has mastered the fine art of collage and has played an active role in changing this misunderstood medium from that of a craft to its rightful place, the only new modern fine arts form of the twentieth century invented by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in 1912.

The only child of Dorothy and Colonel Robert George Bierbaum, Gretchen, who was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while her father was stationed at Fort Francis E. Warren, was given the title First Baby of the Third Regiment. This would be the first of many titles she would receive throughout her life. Upon her father’s return from World War II the family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. There Gretchen began a unique path that would encompass the arts, statistics, administration, education and several languages for many years.

Gretchen attributes her artistic beginnings to her creative mother’s support and her Junior High School Art teacher’s encouragement. From her Junior and High School art classes and her frequent visits to the famed Cleveland Art Museum, Gretchen was motivated to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kent State. With her thirst for knowledge unsatisfied and her father’s insistence to pursue sciences, Gretchen obtained a Master of Arts degree in Tests and Measurements at Kent State, thus creating her own degree, Master of Art Administration and Education.

Gretchen became accomplished in many art forms. However, she had no opportunity to explore watercolor until 1976 when she hired prominent northeast artist, Fred Leach, as her tutor. It was Leach who taught her watercolor and collage. Gretchen took what she learned from Leach and collage masters Romare Bearden and Kurt Schwitters and made it her own.

What excites Gretchen about collage is its three dimensional construction of layered applications of watercolor and transferred images to create distinct artwork of richness and depth. Gretchen’s collages can be found in three museums, many private collections in the United States and other countries and even in a U.S. nuclear submarine.

As a dedicated educator Gretchen wrote scholarship tests for Kent State’s Honors College. After leaving Kent State, she has had a successful career as a self-employed art educator. Gretchen has taught collage workshops in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. A lecturer, exhibitor and author, Gretchen has written two books, Collage in All Dimensions and Techniques to Alter and Transfer Images. She is the founder and president of the nonprofit National Collage Society (NCS), Inc. and has judged NCS juried collage shows nationwide.

Today Gretchen summers in historic Hudson, Ohio and winters here in SaddleBrooke. Shortly after moving to SaddleBrooke she met Karen Brungardt who introduced her to the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild. Thereafter Gretchen became a Guild member and collage teacher.

Passionate administrator, educator, writer and artist, Gretchen Bierbaum truly is a master at creating stunning imageries in collage and sharing her talent and knowledge with us.