John von Bergen was born in 1939 in Stockholm, Sweden and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1963, and after a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard, he studied at the Art Students League, receiving his MFA from Pratt Institute in New York City in 1967. Among von Bergen’s awards is a National Endowment for the Arts Grant for an Art Foundry, an Arts Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Ford Foundation for the Arts Grant, and a Yaddo and Hand Hollow Foundation Fellowship. He has taught at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Hamilton College, and Colgate University. He has received numerous commissions in the Norhteast and his work is in collections throughout the US. von Bergen is a co-founder of Sculpture Space and he continues to serve an active role on its Board. He has two studios, one on the Maine coast, the other in Clinton, New York, and now devotes full-time to making sculpture.
“Peels represents one of the first large steel sculptures that took advantage of the studio space I rented from the Utica Steam Engine and Boiler Works (now Sculpture Space). Charlie Fisher introduced me to the space and we worked together to make it a proper studio for the two of us. For the first time, the new studio afforded me things necessary for building large metal sculpture: a paved, level floor, hoists, and the fabrication facilities across the yard at the Boiler Works. My previous work had consisted of smaller, abstract cast aluminum and figurative bronze sculptures; now I was able to move into large-scale outdoor steel sculpture.”
“As the co-founder of Sculpture Space — and the first official resident — I experienced all the unique excitement and challenges of its early development along with the enormous stimulation provided by other sculptors using the studio. After Charlie Fisher and I cleared out the initial space, I invited Richard Friedberg to the studio. He had the idea of scouting out a grant from the State council on the Arts through his contact with critic and historian, Irving Sandler. After receiving grant support through the auspices of the Kirkland Art Center we finished clearing the building and began inviting other artists to join us: James McDermid, Jan Pardee Fisher, James Iritani. When a Board of Directors was formed in 1976, we were on our way. Art critic, Clement Greenberg became a supporter thanks to Board member Marty Abelove and began recommending our studio with its metal forming machinery to some very well established sculptors. Sculpture Space became a center for contemporary sculpture and a very exciting place to create — which has remained the case for the over 400 artist residents who have worked there for over thirty years.”