One of the most famous American expressionist artists in history, Jackson Pollock once said, “Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.”
As art has shifted from movement to movement throughout history and taken the form of new styles and mediums, Pollock’s words remain true. Art is a form of self-expression that has the ability to tell a story without words. It’s a channel through which emotions can be conveyed.
For some artists, like Houma resident Nadjah Bergeron, the emotional story her art chooses to tell is her own.
“It feels like I’m being used as a channel to paint through me…I’m just following instructions and doing what feels good,” Nadjah says. “I go with no expectations. I use the colors that feel good.”
When Nadjah moved from her home country of Panama to Lafayette after receiving her degree in industrial engineering over 25 years ago, she pursued a career in the oil field. She would later end up in Houma, where she met and married her husband Billy.
With one child, Jacob, from a previous marriage, Nadjah decided to become a stay-at-home mother. After giving birth to her second child, Bella, she began to experience a period of postpartum depression.
It was then that she decided to give art a try for the first time, with no prior artistic experience under her belt.
“I always loved art, but I didn’t think I could do anything. I didn’t think I could paint, but deep down I [thought], ‘Maybe we can give it a try,’” Nadjah says.
She drew the inspiration for her first piece from a magazine cutout of a striped design that Bella had shown her while making her own artwork. The linear design she created represented calmness and a search for peace, Nadjah says.
After that, Nadjah says she was “hooked” on art. Her approach to figuring out what to paint next, and throughout her entire career, would involve waiting patiently until she feels an idea flow through her.
As her confidence in herself began to grow, she would develop her first series, which represented that growth: a group of paintings of bright flowers known as the “La Flor series.”
“The funny thing is, at first, the flowers were kind of like neutral colors, and as time went by, I started feeling more and more confident and allowing my real personality to come through, because I’m from Panama, and I have that Latin personality, so I love bright colors,” Nadjah says.
Nadjah said her flowers had a huge significance in her journey, as they helped her through that difficult period in her life while she battled postpartum depression. The progression of her flowers also represented a progression toward peace within Nadjah herself.
She had originally planned to paint 250 flowers, but when she reached her 100th flower, she knew that something had changed.
Nadjah created that flower using a different method from the other 99, opting to paint the background first before adding the flower on top of it. She says the more transparent final design felt like a rebirth within her, and many women who saw her work shared the same sentiments.
In the middle of her internal battle, Nadjah says the flowers brought life back to her and gave her a purpose.
“I’m very spiritual…so I try to connect more with my intuition and who I really am, and when I got to flower 100…I was in the point where I was like, I can either go by what everyone expects to keep doing, or I could go my authentic self and venture into something I’ve never done before, and just take that step and see what happens,” Nadjah says.
When Nadjah turned 50, she underwent another period of internal changes.
She made the decision to quit social media and take time to work on herself and her personal growth. After a brief break from art, Nadjah felt an urge to start painting again, but this time strictly with tones of blue. She noticed that her work began to resemble water, going so far as to use actual water in creating some of her pieces.
With that, Nadjah’s next series was born: the We Will Sea series.
Nadjah says that the transition to water represented another significant phase in her life, in which she allowed herself to let things that came her way flow through her.
According to an introduction to the series on Nadjah’s website, the overarching idea behind her newest paintings was that “…synchronicities, signs, ideas and inspiration will start to present themselves and ‘We Will Sea’ our very own path begin to show itself to us.”
“If you see the art I created last year during that time, it’s like a lot of force…It’s like a contradiction because that force brings me peace inside. [It] makes me feel calm,” Nadjah says.
The choice to follow a particular color scheme sparked from Nadjah’s belief that colors have vibrations that attract people to them based on the color they are craving in their life at the moment.
For Nadjah, color also represents a blend of the two vibrant cultures to which she belongs.
“The way of living here in Louisiana is so similar to Panama. Family’s very important. Food’s very important. Enjoying life is very important,” Nadjah says.
When she felt it was time to move forward from the We Will Sea series, Nadjah rejoined social media and began to revisit the idea of using multiple colors in her work. She says the courage to go out of her comfort zone with her next collection came from what she learned through her We Will Sea series.
Thus, a multicolored Abstract series became her next set of creations.
Nadjah says that her paintings feel as though they take on a life of their own as she creates them. While Nadjah would be interested in continuing her sea-inspired and abstract creations, she understands that certain eras of her life have come to an end.
“I don’t know if I’m going to paint more flowers, to be honest,” Nadjah says. “If I want to be honest and true to myself, I think that’s an era that’s finished because I feel like it did its purpose, it helped with my life, and now I’m going through an evolution.”
Nadjah’s story is one of internal growth and following one’s heart, wherever it may lead. All around her, she has watched people close to her find the courage to follow theirs.
She hopes her art can inspire that same courage in people who learn her story.
“I hope that inspires people to start following their own heart, following their own desires and trusting that… so I think my art kind of does that to,” Nadjah says.
The next chapter of Nadjah’s artistic journey is a mystery as of now, even to her. In the meantime, she is choosing to wait with no expectations for whatever inspiration comes to her next.
“I don’t want to plan. I want to allow it to come through, like I did with the water, and if it means painting more of that, I’m open.” Nadjah says, “I’m just allowing whatever comes through me to flow and show itself on the canvas.” POV