PITTSFIELD — What was virtual this summer at the Berkshire Museum has come alive this fall.
Originally scheduled to open June 6, “Art of the Hills: Narrative” was instead presented during the summer in a 3D-virtual model of the museum’s galleries due to COVID-19. Now, this juried exhibition of 78 works by 64 artists who each live within a 60-mile radius of Pittsfield, has opened at the Berkshire Museum, where it will be on view through Jan. 10.
“We are thrilled to present this exceptional exhibition that brings together so many talented artists from around the region,” Berkshire Museum Executive Director Jeff Rodgers said in a prepared statement. “It has been great to be able to share these works in a virtual format these past months. But there’s something special about experiencing sculptures, paintings and photographs up-close and in-person — you truly appreciate every texture, color, and brush stroke in a different light.”
Admission is by advance reservation only for 2-hour time slots. The museum says visitors will be required to follow the COVID-19 Code of Conduct, which includes, among other requirements, social distancing, face coverings for all patrons age 2 and older and sharing information for contact tracing. Reservations may be made at berkshiremuseum.org/visit or by phone at 413-443-7171 extension 360.
Jurors Amy Myers and Seung Lee culled their final choices from 530 submissions. Myers, who has exhibited at Berkshire Museum, is a New York-based artist known for large-scale abstract paintings and drawings that reference particle physics. Lee is director of fine arts and graduate studies at Long Island University. His paintings, drawings and installations have been exhibited throughout the United States,
In discussing his choice of Myers and Lee as jurors, Craig Langlois, Berkshire Museum’s chief experience officer, said in an email that part of his job “is to watch for individuals doing interesting things in the arts community … to look for artists and creators who are working and thinking in ways that align with the museum’s mission. Amy and Seung, as artists and curators, both fit this first criteria.”
He also sought individuals who “did not reside in, nor have strong ties to the Berkshires. I didn’t want them to be able to identify the artists by their submitted artwork.”
Myers and Lee reviewed the digital submissions independent of one another, without any contact. They were given little information about the entries — title, dimension, medium. After making their selections, their choices were divided into three groups, Langlois said: “Works both jurors selected, works one juror selected, and works neither juror selected. Works both jurors selected in the first round make up the majority of the exhibition. The works one juror selected were shared with [the other] again for a second review.
“All works selected were selected entirely by the jurors, and the museum double-checked to make sure selected works met all necessary requirements for inclusion.”
The entire process, Langlois said, took about two months. Selected artists were notified in late April.
In a telephone conversation from her home in Brooklyn, Myers said she was drawn to work that evidenced a kind of “internal narrative; pieces that have some internal system, logic, color; some form of cultural narrative itinerary in the work.”
Lee said by phone from his home on Long Island that he tries to see work through the artist’s point of view.
“I wanted to see what kind of story the artist is telling, particularly in these times, with the pandemic,” he said. “I am looking for the artist’s storyline. My own work tends to be layered.”
More specifically, when assessing a work of art, Lee said he took into account the quality of the digital image of the work; the presentation of the piece itself: “Technique, control of material, and content — what is the story that is coming through?”
Myers said she’s often asked to be a juror because “of my experience [as an artist]. The life of an artist can be difficult.” So, she said, when it comes to assessing a work, “I have a gut reaction. I know when I look at a work; I can tell.” She said she can sense life within an art work. “When I can sense this inner life,” she said, “that is something to be recognized and honored.”
Myers thought the level of work throughout the submissions was high.
“I could sense that the artists really loved creating this work,” she said. “It’s a beautiful quality you don’t always [find]. It’s refreshing; wonderful to see.”
It’s a joyfulness, she said, that can become infectious. “It inspired me when I went back into my studio [after finishing jurying ‘Art in the Hills’].”
Lee experiences something equally profound.
“Good art makes us question the things ... that are happening around us. Good art gives us something to talk about, reflect on,” he said. That self-reflection is essential, especially now.
“We are all going through the same thing,” he said. “The artist records our time and space.”