Two Natures Talking at Gallery 51 in North Adams

Exhibition Combines Artists and Poets

By: - May 16, 2015

On Thursday, May 28, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ (MCLA) Gallery 51 will open “Two Natures Talking,” a text/image exhibition that pairs up visual artists Wilma Rifkin and Ellen Joffe-Halpern with poets Stephen Rifkin and Annie Raskin.

The public is invited to join the artists and poets at a free, opening reception for this exhibition on Thursday, May 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. in MCLA Gallery 51. In addition, on Sunday, June 14, the Gallery will host a poetry reading with Stephen Rifkin and Raskin, from 2 to 3 p.m. This event also is free and open to the public.

Artist Wilma Rifkin and poet Stephen Rifkin will present paintings and poems they created primarily as a result of their experiences from living for 20 years in the woods of Deer Isle, Maine.

The couple’s work is influenced in particular by Deer Isle’s forests and shores, as well as the darkness of Maine winters. According to Stephen Rifkin, neither he nor Wilma Rifkin illustrates or explains the other’s works. The works themselves “associate, or hang together [and] ruminate in languages.”

Stephen Rifkin’s collection of poems, “The Merit of Light,” was published in 2014.

A mixed media artist, Joffe-Halpern uses bright colors, loose brushwork and fresh compositions that are inspired from architecture to draw in viewers of her art. She describes her collaboration with Raskin as a “free-flow exchange of ideas.”

In sketching out her compositions, Joffe-Halpern shifts her vantage points of the same motif to describe a multiplicity of perspectives, while Raskin writes in a conversational tone about color and shifting perspectives, often creating a dialogue with the paintings.

Raskin asks, “From where we are seeing and what is distorted, how may we know?”

MCLA Gallery 51 Manager Julia Morgan-Leamon said, “Literal-minded visitors may gravitate first to the poetry and art-lovers to the paintings on the walls, but the exhibition proposes that visitors experience text, words, color, line and composition in relation to each other. ‘Two Natures Talking’ anticipates that visitors will bring their own voices and perspectives to the ‘conversation at play’ between the works.”

The exhibition’s artists and  poets all reside within a 20-mile radius of the gallery. Although the Rifkins travel frequently, they make their home in North Adams. Joffe-Halpern, a resident of Williamstown, keeps a studio in Pittsfield at NUarts Studio on North Street. Raskin lives in North Bennington, Vt., where she writes. She also teaches literature at MCLA.

“Two Natures Talking” will run through June 21.

MCLA Gallery 51 is a program of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. The Gallery is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MCLA Gallery 51 is at 51 Main St. in North Adams.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth’s public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.