48 color plates

The Linens

Paintings by Ciel Bergman, 1970–1977
By Ciel BergmanStuart AshmanPeter FrankAngie RizzoPeter Selz



The Linens are a groundbreaking series of forty-eight acrylic paintings on unstretched Belgian linen made from 1970 to 1977 by Ciel Bergman, begun at age thirty-two. Ranging from a starkly minimal aesthetic to representations that explore ideas of philosophy, The Linens began as a meditative practice to eradicate symbolic representation from Bergman’s art. She called the process “emptying out,” and after a deeply affirming conversation with Georgia O’Keeffe in 1972, she wrote, “I knew I had to become empty of the symbolism I had been using.”

Although Bergman simultaneously struggled with and embraced symbols, they would appear again beside themes and philosophies that would remain in her work for the rest of her life: feminism, sexuality, and gender. The Linens established the success of Ciel Bergman as an artist—an artist remembered as vibrant, prolific, and tenacious, much like this series, which so well defines her.

Subjects: Art

Contributor Bios
Ciel Bergman (1938–2017) exhibited nationally and internationally and spoke extensively about her spiritual path. In 1973 Bergman earned an MFA with Honors in painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, studying with Fred Martin. After eighteen years she left her tenure as full professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and moved to the quiet wilderness of Northern New Mexico, and in 2006 she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico.