Dr. Mary van den Berk creates mixed-media artworks with individuals or community groups using her unique cross-disciplinary skill-set.

'My art draws focus to environmental crises and subverts false orthodoxy. Art starts dialogue, changes views, and spurs action.'


Land and Environment


Sculpture and clothing, mixed media.

I am currently working on a Kelp Cape that incorporates repurposed clothing and textiles and embellished hand stitching. Over-consumption of textiles has long been a shared concern of mine.

This work sparks conversations about over-consumption, ethical choices in our textile use, and the influence that individuals can have over these issues. At the same time, I am reconstructing old things, infused with memories, into things new and beautiful while preserving their lasting character. Some of the fabrics carry very personal memories, such as the green centrepiece, which was a favourite piece of clothing belonging to my mother, who died recently.

Mixed fabrics and textiles.

© Mary van den Berk 2022

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Not So Fast Fashion


Mixed media.

I have a long-term collaboration with fellow artist Belinda Piggott exploring the properties and benefits of seaweed, in particular kelp.

We used aluminium and second-hand fabrics in Not so Fast Fashion to explore how our everyday fashion choices too-often end up in the ocean, wreaking havoc in our food chain and the wider environment, and taking many years to break down.

Mixed fabrics and textiles, aluminium.

© Mary van den Berk 2022 and Belinda Piggott 2022

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Message on a Bottle


Installation, mixed media on canvas paper.

In 2019 I started this project with my art students at Coast Seniors Centre in Little Bay, Sydney. We explored issues of environmental health through the lens of our local coastline.

We called ourselves "Sea Worriers”. Students were highly motivated and researched topics such as the overuse of plastics, over-consumption, and the recycling and disposing of chemicals. We continued working through the pandemic and brought members of an Art therapy group and other artists (Belinda Piggott and Phe Affleck) into our “Sea Worriers” project.

The result was a major installation that used beach detritus and 150 20×20cm canvases repurposed into digital prints, all adhered to used milk bottles we had collected and repurposed.

Our exhibition/installation was opened by the Mayor of Randwick in May 2021, and received enthusiastically by the local community.

Printed images made for the "Sea Worriers" exhibition (comprises 150 printed milk bottles), beach detritus.

© Mary van den Berk 2021

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Time For Truth

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1.7×1.3m, double-sided, up-cycled fabrics.

In 2019, I was invited to be part of a “Creative Conversations” 'artist call-out' by Annandale Creative Arts Centre. Artists received briefs and engaged with stimulus that explored different approaches to our given topic, "Land". These approaches included the custodianship of land, land as commodity, and land care, all of which were explored in collaborative workshops.

I was particularly drawn to the treatment of the original custodians of Australia's land. I learned from Aboriginal leaders that the 'official' version of Australian history is in no way the full truth. For example, Bruce Pascoe’s seminal text Dark Emu makes a compelling argument to reconsider indigenous Australians' "hunter-gatherer" label, using evidence that Aboriginal agriculture employed domestication, sowing, organised harvesting, irrigation, and long-term storage. I chose, in line with Pascoe, to reconsider Australia's historical record.

Had I lived during Australia's initial colonisation, when white chronographers began subjugating non-white experience and erasing it from their historical records, I would have been a white Anglo-Saxon immigrant. My expected pastimes, as a woman, may have included making sampler patchwork quilts using fabric scraps. Thus, my work adopted the form of a quilt made from scraps of contemporary fabrics, which I machine-stitched together.

The quilt's components included appliqued and handstitched drawings of plants that have been used in sustainable ways for centuries by Aboriginal Australians, and quotes of attributed text from Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu (2017). Wakka Wakka woman Brooke Prentis conceived the wording on the reverse side of the quilt, which asks us, across Australia, to begin telling the truth about this country's history. To do that requires us to centre the voices of Australia's First Nations people, as I have done in this work, and start to rebuke the silencing that indigenous Australians have endured in mainstream historical narratives.

Mixed fabrics, including personal prints.

© Mary van den Berk 2019/20

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Land and Environment #2

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29.7×22cm, mixed media on canvas paper.

Centennial Park trees, Sydney, NSW.

Paint, and hessian cloth.

© Mary van den Berk 2020

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Sea Worriers

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Several pieces each 20×20cm, mixed media on canvas.

Paints include acrylic and watercolour, juxtaposed with materials from beach combing, recycling, repurposed council refuse pickups, old books, beach detritus, sea glass, shells, flotsam and jetsam.

© Mary van den Berk 2020

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Postman Colin

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43×43 cm, mixed media on canvas.

Colin was my cheerful local postman in Sydney's 2011-postcode area. Colin was first drawn on canvas, then mono-print painted into with acrylic and oil. Lastly, embroidery is incorporated for added texture.

Drawing, acrylic, oil and embroidery on canvas.

© Mary van den Berk 2019

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Meroogal Garden & Chooks

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43×43cm, mixed media on canvas.

A 'MAD Monday' event on "Resilience" informed this subject matter: Meroogal Gardens.

Growing and raising our own food benefits individuals, communities, and our planet. One of the stories told at the event discussed a "war effort" of growing one's own vegetables and raising one's own chickens ('chooks'): creating a resilient food garden. Today’s popular "Edible Balconies" are in the same vein.

Inspired by the Belle Thorburn work 'Feeding The Chooks' (circa 1925), I incorporated drawn, painted and embroidered chooks, referenced from a photograph of Massaro Community Farm in the United States.

Pencil, acrylic paint and hand embroidery on canvas. A finalist in Meroogal Women’s Art prize 2018.

© Mary van den Berk 2018

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Tribute Vestiges

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Sculpture and imagery, mixed media.

This installation work explores how personal memories live on after death in familiar objects. It was created for the Hidden Sculpture Walk at Rookwood Cemetery, in 2014.

Mannequins wear clothing that previously belonged to someone who passed. Digital prints, including photographs, memorabilia and significant items, are sewn into the garment.

The jacketed mannequin represents my father, who passed months earlier. The 'high-viz' vest represents my brother Ged, who died six years earlier.

A memory box in the form of an old metal chest is also provided for visitors to add names and messages to someone they have loved and lost.

© Mary van den Berk 2013/14

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India — Cricket & Colour

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76×101cm, oil on canvas.

Inspired by travel to India.

© Mary van den Berk 2011

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43×43cm, mixed media on arts paper.

The Conversations exhibition is based on old family photographs: familiar, while hauntingly transient. I digitally created images, re-contextualising old photographs to create new meaning by incorporating new backgrounds, fabric and textural painting. A final layer is hand-drawn, framing the melding of the memories and re-interpretations together through one's individual experience.

This particular piece shows the van Sas family. The photographs were taken at Helmond Castle in the Netherland, in the early 1960s. They have been re-contextualised on railway tracks in Eskdale, New Zealand.

Digital prints, fabric and textured painting on arts paper.

© Mary van den Berk 2012

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I'm Dr. Mary van den Berk.

I am an artist based in Sydney's Northern Beaches.

My art practice has three aspects:

  1. My continuing body of work, which currently focuses mostly on the environment.
  2. My Tribute-Art, in which I use my social work expertise to create and help others to create personalised art tributes and books of stories and memories.
  3. My commissioned work.

My focus

I come from a long line of women repurposing clothing and materials in creative ways. I embrace all things hand-crafted using tools from brushes to sewing machines.

My work has incorporated stitching and textiles for many years now. I put my sewing to use in my community, such as when I organized a group of women to make fabric pouches for animals impacted by bushfires, and when I designed and made masks for a local medical practice, friends, and family in the early days of the pandemic.

I also like to invoke digital images' aesthetic impact in my work. I consider myself lucky to have a unique cross-disciplinary combination of skills.

Previous work

My previous work focused on where I live, in Sydney. My mixed-media works began in photography, which inspired drawings, translated into mono print, and painted into with acrylic and/or oil. I have also incorporated tactile embroidery into my art's final layers.

Early work

My early work incorporated family photography, exploring its familiarity and its haunting transience. I digitally created images that re-contextualised photographs to create new meaning, incorporating different backgrounds that included fabric and texture. A final hand-drawn layer framed the melding of the memories and re-interpretations together through individual experience, to create unique multi-layered artworks.

Get in touch

Click here to read my full CV.

If you are interested in purchasing one of my art works, in commissioning an artwork, or working with Tribute-Art, please enquire below.


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Kaylene Anderson

"Thanks so much, Mary, for the painting and war history of Dad. I didn’t have a painting; photos yes, but not many. When I went through my albums of more than 60 years, I was quite shocked at how few I had. So, this combined book and painting will certainly be displayed and admired by the family.

"It has been an interesting process for the historian to delve extensively into his war history and there have been a few surprises. The finished product has been shared amongst family and friends and is a hard copy of his war years to keep and treasure for posterity."

David Hickey

"I have read through the entire story and find it both fascinating and quite emotional. It’s a beautiful publication. Congratulations and my grateful thanks for the book. I’m just sorry that Ian isn’t around to see what he started."

Marjorie Nees

"I have very little information about my father’s family. Thank you for bringing his story to life in such a beautiful way."

Geoff Piggott

"A fantastic job on our stories and presentation; I am floored it is so good."

Daphne Amos

I would like to thank you very much for the work you did to complete the book about my career. Many people have said “what a beautiful presentation,” others, “what an interesting career.”