Art and Poetry at Gallery 51

Stephen and Wilma Rifkin, Ellen Joffe-Halpern, Annie Raskin

By: - May 29, 2015


Two Natures Talking: Poetry and Visual Arts
MCLA Gallery 51
North Adams, Mass
Stephen and Wilma Rifkin, Ellen Joffe-Halpern, Annie Raskin
Curated by Julia Morgan-Leamon
May 28-June 21, 2015

For this special exhibition at Gallery 51 in North Adams the curator Julia Morgan-Leamon focuses on the unique interaction of artists and poets.

During the vernissage last night she explained that the images may come first and then inspire the verse or the poems spawn visual incarnations.

On both ends of the collaboration there is the response of unique challenges.

The gallery is divided down the middle.

On one side are the paintings of Ellen Joffe-Halpern and facing these works on the other wall are the nature inspired paintings of Wilma Rifkin.

Through the collaboration of Melanie Mowinski and Isaac Henry Wood of Press Gallery the poems of Stephen Rifkin and Annie Raskin have been printed and then attached to the wall next to the works they interact with.

There will be a reading during the run of the exhibition.

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?”

Last summer Stephen Rifkin published "The Merit of Light" based on work inspired when he and Wilma summered on Deer Island, Maine. Wilma created the illustrations for the book.

There was a reading at the Rudd Museum of Art in North Adams. The event proved to be very inspiring to me. Not long after I began in earnest to write and post poems resulting in  a just published book of verse.

Over the past months there has been a constant dialogue about poetry. Particularly this has occurred during weekly Monday night, informal gatherings over Chinese food.

In recent weeks they have discussed the intensive process of preparing for this exhibition. There are a number of new works and experiments in scale and format. This includes Wilma's small works mounted as triptychs.

What I most like about this intensively lyrical grouping of art and poetry is the window it provides into the range and engagement of the creative process. For the most part these are solitary pursuits. The artists spend long hours alone in the studio. At any time of day or night a poet may be forming and reflecting on themes and lines.

As Stephen described this to me the poems may take weeks and even months to find their final form. This is a very different approach than my rush to judgment.

Taking the time to look at, read, and reflect on the creative process of others offers the opportunity to consider our own lives, the conflations of joy and endurance, the monumentality and decay of nature. These creators work with the specifics of their lives and sources of inspiration.

This delicately nuanced exhibition at Gallery 51 enriches our community.