(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Wink: Pairings from the Berkshire Museum’s Collections, on display at the Berkshire Museum through early spring, is the interpretive brainchild of guest artist/curator Maggie Mailer, who chose to bring pairs of artworks – paintings, photography, and prints from the Berkshire Museum’s permanent collection – together in ways that illuminate surprising shared elements found in common between two works of art. The intention of the show is to encourage viewers to develop the habit of looking for connections in unexpected places, both in the world of art, and in everyday life.
For example, a 17th century Dutch painting, Family Portrait, boasts a composition that is mirrored in an abstract Alexander Calder lithograph, Balloons, from 1973. A photorealist painting from 1969, titled House of Cards, presents an amusing contrast to a static 1902 architectural rendering of the Berkshire Museum building. And a Japanese woodblock print by Utagawa Toyokuni circa 1800, titled 47 Samurai, presents a similarity of rhythm in the pattern to Rupert D. Turnbull’s 1937 painting, Composition.
Although the paintings in each pair are from different eras and genres, Mailer finds connections via composition, pattern, theme, attitude, or color. The surprising congruity reflected in the pairings seems at times almost deliberate, as if the works themselves are winking to each other across time and place. The connections range from the obvious to the tenuous; from humorous to dramatic; and are inspired by inquiry and creativity, rather than a scholarly, academic approach.
“The show concept presented itself while I was becoming acquainted with the Museum’s collection,” Maggie Mailer says. “Browsing the stacks, I started seeing connections between works widely separated by time and distance. It seemed as though the works were winking to each other, and to me.”
Director of Interpretation Maria Mingalone explains, “We are looking toward other creative people in the community to share their ideas about how to showcase the diverse work in our collection. Wink is a great example of inviting a guest artist to curate a show at the Museum, the results of which are refreshingly inventive. In addition we will be adding other community participatory elements in the exhibition Wink, where we will invite Museum visitors to share their own views on the paired work on view.”
Maggie Mailer is one of the region’s well-known contemporary artists. Most recently The Starry Outpost, a solo show of new paintings, was on view at the Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield, part of ArtBerkshire’s Covet Project. The daughter of author Norman Mailer and jazz singer Carol Stevens, Mailer returned to the Berkshires after graduate school and established her studio in a vacant storefront on North Street in Pittsfield; a number of other artists followed suit. In 2003 she created the Storefront Artist Project and became an early contributor to the revitalization of Pittsfield.
Berkshire Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit or call 413.443.7171.