Katrina Berg is a gracious human. When I first met her over Instagram, I was impressed with the love she gives out to the universe. When I read her article about her painting being accepted into the LDS International Art Competition, I wanted to know her better. Below is an excerpt from my interview with her.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a mother of 5 including twin boys. My husband is a landscape architect— we met in architecture school and then I started painting. I paint with really thick candy-colored oil paints. I like to focus on the colors…tiny bits of colors. When the light hits them, because the paint is so thick, it shines and sparkles like stained glass.
One of the reasons I started painting was to celebrate the goodness of life. Of course not every moment is rosy and jolly— but we have to savor the moments that give us joy. When I say I paint with candy color it’s not just the color I am referring to but also savoring the sweet moments of life.
One of your paintings was accepted into the 2019 LDS Church International Art Competition. It is titled “Welcome Children to the Garden”— what inspired you to create artwork about Heavenly Mother?
For me, I was trying to seek to have my own relationship with Her. And I found it was not just me that was seeking. The YW that I work with at church and also my children were asking me questions about Heavenly Mother. It was important to me to paint Heavenly Mother for my children. I wanted them to better understand their parents…to know that they have both a Father in Heaven and a Mother in Heaven.
There was not enough information easily available and so I began to seek out more information about Her. For me personally, I was thrilled when I learned that the Tree of Life could be interpreted as a symbol of our Heavenly Mother. I wanted to paint the Garden of Eden and so it was easy to put Her as the center of that scene.
I actually have a series of Heavenly Mother paintings that are mostly trees, like the Tree of Life. One painting depicts our favorite tree next to our home — that appears to be ever watchful & protective of us. I did research and found the ancients used ANY tree to represent Heavenly Mother or any part of a tree whether it was in nature or temples. In temples, they would obviously have statues of Her but they also had columns that supported the temple structure— and the symbolism of trunk of the tree or the trunk of the column referred to Asherah or Heavenly Mother.
So I started painting tree paintings… they are Her. It is a fun way to remind my children She is all around and She is aware of them and they can look to Her at any time.
What has been the reaction to your art?
I have been amazed that people have been so drawn to the painting in the church history museum. Whenever I tell them the true meaning of Her there is an immediate floodgate of emotion. And women, especially women but also men, talk to me about their feelings about the painting and their need to seek Her and how it is not being filled.
So while the original painting was for my family and my children, it is filling a need for others as well.
How has the process of creating artwork about Heavenly Mother brought you closer to Her? What has it taught you about Her?
The biggest thing I have realized is that she has always been there. (Katrina starts to cry…) I have always had a relationship with Her, but I just didn’t know Her name. There were experiences when I felt the spirit so strongly and it was Her helping me.
There are some very specific experiences, like when I was pregnant. I have always had hard pregnancies— my body has had a very rough time and every one was difficult for me. But, then, when I was pregnant with twins it was a different experience. I explained to Heavenly Father that I needed help from Heavenly Mother. I felt She understood what I needed and could help me get through this pregnancy. And that pregnancy was a totally different feeling.
I have always been seeking Her but when I started painting, I realized She had always been there. And, like my pregnancies, I have specific experiences that are clearly HER. I can look at those experience and know that it was my Heavenly Parents trying to help me.
The painting process has been a gift. It has helped me realize that there is more here than I previously thought. As I pondered upon Her and Her symbolism as the Tree of Life…my understanding in general of spiritual things has increased because I was thinking of Her. Knowledge of Her is a gift.
My original idea was to find Her and share with my children but I have been able to go deeper and imagine more richness. Like, for the painting in the church history museum, I found thoughts about the Garden of Eden expanding…
As I ponder the culmination of the Garden of Eden…before Adam and Eve were placed there to learn, grow, and tend to its creations…I wonder what may have occurred in that sacred space. Before each of our sacred temples are dedicated, open houses welcome all to visit within. There they receive a glimpse into our Heavenly Parents’ plan for us, our potential, and the great love they have for each of their children. Cultural celebrations are organized over months of planning, testimonies are planted & cultivated, and a night of festivities & worship culminates the event.
Similarly, I imagine the possibility of the animals joining our Parents in welcoming each of their children to the Garden.
How marvelous would that have been!
I would not have experienced this perspective, this deeper connection, and this new idea of the Garden of Eden if I had not been seeking Her.
How has knowledge and a relationship with Heavenly Mother changed you?
A year and a half ago I was preparing for a show. At the same time, my calling was to work with the YW. I was working with the young women on their Personal Progress. I would meet with each one and they would tell me their hopes and dreams, their goals and what they were working on in their lives. Then, we’d see how the personal progress activities could help facilitate what they wanted to pursue in life. It has been really special to me to get to know each of them and hear their successes & concerns. One of the girls I was working with started to come over to my house more frequently. She was a foreign exchange student from Estonia. At home, her mom had remarried and no longer attended church, and no longer lived near her father and younger brother. She loved them all very much and was hoping to become a missionary to her family and friends when she returned. She really really wanted to finish her Personal Progress before she went back. The last time we met, she asked about Heavenly Mother—why we don’t talk of Her. I told her that I’ve had similar questions myself and that it was a righteous desire to want to have a relationship with our Heavenly Mother. I invited her to seek out her own relationship with Heavenly Mother. I was looking forward to furthering this conversation after she’d had some time to ponder things on her own. But, shockingly, a week and a half later, the foreign exchange student passed away in her sleep. It was a devastating experience for everyone. Of course, for her family, who had sent her off to have this adventure, but also for my young women’s group. We are a small group and the exchange student had made such a beautiful impact on the other girls. They knew her goal was to finish her Personal Progress before she went home…and so they each did the remaining tasks that she had left to do. When her parents came, the young women presented her parents with her Young Women medallion. It was a simple way to share the deep love they have for her.
During this very intense experience, the only thing that brought me comfort is the knowledge that she is now with her Heavenly Mother now. My young friend had wanted to seek Her out and now she is in a place that she can work on that relationship in another way. That’s what got me through that… knowing that beautiful conversation… it was so comforting to know she was in the very best of hands.
What advice would you give to those who want to connect with their Heavenly Mother on a deeper level?
It is important to know that we do not need to get scared. If you feel drawn to Her, that is the Holy Ghost is telling us it is ok to seek Her. There is no need to be afraid. The church has an essay on lds.org that states Heavenly Mother is one of our cherished and distinct doctrines. It is fine to speak of Her and seek Her and celebrate this doctrine.