Stepping Out

Exploring PuzzleArt at Long Island Children's Museum

Putting the pieces together with Alli Berman

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She’s known as “the Puzzle Lady” throughout the Five Towns. That would be artist Alli Berman, who is a familiar sight around Woodmere, where she lives, and the surrounding area, as she pops in and out of local shops in her signature painting shirt.

Berman, a longtime Woodmere resident, has exhibited her unique PuzzleArt throughout the world. She is introducing area families to her art at Long Island Children’s Museum, where “Swirls, Waves & Puzzles” is on view at an interactive 3D exhibit through May 8.

The artist explores the connections between her abstract paintings, interactive puzzle art and recent realism pieces she has created in this exhibit, all while giving visitors a peek into her creative process. “I create art that has a purpose,” Berman said. “My mission in life is to help people connect to abstract art through my PuzzleArt.”

PuzzleArt is a concept developed by Berman that consists of modular art pieces that can be rearranged to create varied artistic interpretations. Berman’s artwork combines vibrant colors, imagery and numerology with her passion for family, love and life’s unending elemental connections.

These hands-on works are covered with highly textured abstract squiggles and swirls in bright acrylic colors on multiple squares which, when placed next to each other, equal a single larger painting. The smallest is nine inches by nine inches, and others are as large as eight feet by 25 feet. The individual squares are intended to be manipulated by the viewers, who become ‘doers’ when they rotate, move and re-place the PuzzleArt pieces until they have reached a personally satisfying stopping point. 

  Bermans’ works are displayed in both the museum’s lobby and KaleidoZone gallery. In the lobby, there are four series’ of nine abstract paintings. Colors swirl over the nine canvases and connect in a variety of sequences. Visitors can then move to the KaleidoZone gallery where the artwork falls into three categories, Swirls, Waves and Puzzles. Swirls consist of abstract paintings that are full of color and movement, Waves are realistic seascapes and the Puzzles section are modular art pieces that visitors are welcome to rearrange to their liking creating their own masterpieces alone or alongside others.

  “My PuzzleArt and seascapes are three-dimensional,” said Berman. “The thick, raised paint is intended to be touched so viewers feel the movement and depth. All my artworks are layered, with a built-up impasto technique in the acrylic works, and thick layers of paint in the oil paintings.”

The exhibit also offers visitors a look into Berman’s creative process. Items include a worktable from her garden, paint-speckled drop cloths, stacks of paint jars and several shirts she’s worn while painting, which visitors are welcome to try on. The space also contains a drawing bench where Berman encourages visitors to draw or write whatever they would like to share.

  Berman’s PuzzleArt developed out of a stroke she suffered about 20 years ago, when in her mid-30s. “I wasn’t doing anything remotely similar at that time,” she said. “I began my interactive modular art to find the connections. I went into the studio and began to put pieces together. I started feeling better about myself. I feel that I understand now what happened to me all those years ago.”

What started as a simple artistic exercise to help Berman find some personal answers has grown into an interactive art form that has evolved into a passion for Berman. She now travels the world, exhibiting internationally and conducting workshops and arts-in-education programs. As Berman explained, ”In my attempt to connect all the pieces [of my life], I came up with a new art form.”

Now Berman brings people together through her art “to help people connect colors, shapes, and textures.”

While the Nickelodeon set is fascinated by her use of color and texture, and the opportunity to stack, move and sort the various pieces into combinations, Berman’s intent is to reach out to all ages. “On a deeper level,” she said, “I help people connect to art to bring it into their lives and teach through the PuzzleArt process that everyone can be creative in their every day lives.”

The result, Berman explained, is a more positive outlook on life. “I don’t want people to be mired in the every day,” she said, “I want people to see the possibilities all around them. If you see life from a different perspective, you will understand that there are many possibilities. My art gives hope and tools to problem-solve.”

Berman’s art works are intended to be touched, not merely viewed, so that exhibit-goers can become involved in the creative process.

That approach is an outgrowth of Berman’s life-long love of art. “When I would go to a museum as a young child, I would stick my nose up to the canvas,” Berman said. “I got thrown out of many museums because I came up very close to the art to try and understand texture, brush strokes, colors, etc. Guards were always pulling me away from paintings. I promised myself back then that someday I would create art that people could touch and connect to.”

That connection to art, Berman explained, leads people to take a different approach to their own lives. “When people connect to color,” Berman said, “they become more creative themselves and happier. Kids that do my PuzzleArt find that it ignites their imagination, which helps them in all areas of their life.”

The impact of art on perceptual and learning skills has led Berman into collaboration with behavioral optometrist Dr. Susan Fisher of North Bellmore. She and Dr. Fishers developed the PuzzleArt Therapy System to help others with perception and oculomotor disorders.

The therapy concept, which was clinically tested for over two years, has grown into a three-module system that is used by therapists in 13 countries and is in two optometric schools in the U.S. “Therapists of all kinds can use it,” Berman explained,

“vision therapists, occupational therapists, art therapists, educators and psychologists, and brain trauma professionals. They also use my hands-on original PuzzleArt. Called WallWorks, it’s a smaller version of my PuzzleArt wall in the museum. I’m grateful my PuzzleArt can help others.”

As Berman travels throughout the U.S. and internationally, she shares her art and spreads her message of creative brain-power, hope, and positive thinking. Her motto – “Create your best day. If not now…when?” – reflects her journey as an artist and her triumph over disability. “I’ve been given a new lease on life and I’m not going to waste it,” Berman said.

Families can meet Alli Berman when LICM hosts a Meet-The-Artist workshop on Thursday, April 21, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Kids, ages five years old and up, are invited to come and learn how Berman creates her masterpieces and then create pieces of their own.

“I will help kids develop their own creativity, Berman said. “They will leave the workshop very different from when they first came in.”

The program is limited to 25 participants and requires tickets that can be obtained at the LICM Box Office on a first-come, first-served basis.

Swirls, Waves & Puzzles at LICM

Now through May 8. With a Meet-The-Artist Workshop, Thursday, April 21, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Museum admission: $10 for adults and children over 1 year old, $9 seniors. Additional fees for theater and special programs may apply. Museum Row, Garden City. (516) 224-5800 or visit www.licm.org.

For more information on Alli Berman and PuzzleArt, visit www.bermanarts.com or www.puzzlearttherapy.com.