Friday, September 17, 2010

More on Deborah Berger, the autistic knitter

After I uploaded my post on Deborah Berger, whose knitted pieces are on exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum, I regretted that I hadn't contacted the museum to see if they could have provided more information about her. I'm glad to say that AVAM answered my subsequent email and sent me three photos of her pieces, as well as a short biography, which I'll include below. (As far as I know, this will post will contain the only information about Berger—other than my first blog post—and the only pictures of her work, available right now on the Internet).


Deborah Berger was born with autism in New Jersey in 1956. She attended residential schools for special-needs children in Pennsylvania and Texas, and graduated from Middlesex County Community College in New Jersey. Berger learned to knit while still a young child, and was soon a knitting prodigy. Before she was ten, she was able to create not only all her own clothing, but toys, games, and complex sculptural forms from yarn. As an adult, Berger was high-functioning enough to live on her own and keep an apartment in New Orleans, but she never held a regular job. She was often in trouble with the police for disruptive or inappropriate behavior in public. Most of her income came from her relatives, supplemented by work as a nude model for artists. A loner, she continued to knit throughout her life, developing an extensive wardrobe of colorful, idiosyncratic pieces in a style all her own, as well as a large collection of masks and mask designs drawn on paper. After Berger died in 2005, her family discovered that her living space was overflowing with her knitted work and began the process of disposing of it. A member of the Arts Council of New Orleans discovered much of it in a pile of trash and rescued it, saving it until a voudou historian helped her transfer it to the permanent collection of the American Visionary Art Museum. This is the first time Deborah Berger’s work has been presented in any museum.

Photos courtesy and Copyright, American Visionary Art Museum.

1 comment:

j. wilson said...

this is excellent! i was just about to contact the museum as well. we saw her work in june and were transported! thank you for your post, i'm adding it to my pinterest!