Dreams come to everyone, day and night. Think of all the children who dream of what they want to be when they grow up. Lady Gaga? Batman? A paleontologist? As a young boy, Werner Carl Burger declared that he wanted to be an Abstract Expressionist. The German-born painter never wavered from achieving his dream, no matter what the waking world had in store.
When Werner Carl Burger first began making art, he thought it was just something fun to do. “It was when I started teaching that I really felt something,” the Stockton resident recalls. “I wanted to be a guide and emphasize the intellectual aspects of art for my students, the history and philosophy, knowledge in general.”
And teach he did…for 40 years at Kean University. It was an honor, he says, to be a professor of art. Though Burger garnered numerous awards during his career, he never let it go to his head: “I see other artists’ great work at art shows and always wonder if I’m good enough.” When informed that Leonardo wrote that one moment he’d ask God’s forgiveness for being a lazy lout—and the next moment he’d think he was the greatest artist in the world—Burger roars with laughter. His work graces museums and public spaces throughout the U.S.,
including the Smithsonian Institution, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Newark and Montclair museums. At 94, he is a major figure in the art community and, particularly, a New Jersey master. —Tova Navarra