Morgan Bulkeley: Nature Culture Clash, a solo exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Berkshire-based artist Morgan Bulkeley, is on view at the Berkshire Museum
from September 29, 2017, through February 4, 2018. Humorous and ominous at the same time, Bulkeleys vivid images offer compelling scenarios where humans are pitted against nature, with nature holding the advantage. An opening reception with the artist will be held Saturday, October 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.; the event is free and open to the community.
Morgan Bulkeley: Nature Culture Clash is a significant career retrospective covering five decades of work, from drawings and watercolors created in 1967 to a recent series of 12 x 9 gouache on paper pieces depicting a vivid array of birds. The exhibition also encompasses carved and painted wood masks and panels, tiny wooden whimseys, large oil paintings, sculpture, and a site-specific installation. A new video titled Egg Wars, featuring stop-action animation with Bulkeleys hand-carved characters, has been included in the exhibition. Geoffrey Young, of the Geoffrey Young Gallery in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is the guest curator.
I try to make paintings that are beautiful, frightening, and funny all at once, similar to the Theater of the Absurd, which assumes things are so bad that you can only laugh, says Bulkeley. I see in nature and in the best of humanity an incredible beauty; but I also see in our technology and aggression a will and ability to destroy that beauty, either actively or inadvertently. The refuse of our consumerism, wafting down our streets, caught in the twigs of trees in our deepest forests or swirling in giant gyres in the ocean, is a steady reminder of our growing and smothering effect on our only habitable planet. I paint to try to make people think of the fragility in which we exist.
Morgan Bulkeley is a storyteller: his colorful, complex canvases depict busy landscapes inhabited by flocks of birds, hordes of insects, groups of posturing humans, often punctuated by pop culture icons. Bulkeley has had solo exhibitions at the Berkshire Museum in 1973 and in 2012; the 50-year retrospective opening this fall will offer viewers a complete look at his distinguished and prolific career. A catalog to accompany the retrospective has been published and is available at the Museum.
Bulkeleys art is strongly influenced by his Berkshire upbringing; his family has deep roots in the area going back several generations. Bulkeleys wry humor, bold palette, and unfettered imagination are expressed in his depictions of animated, cartoon-like humans who interact with one another and with an array of detailed birds and wildlife, all grounded in an awareness of the landscape and the environment.
Morgan Bulkeley was born in the Berkshires of Massachusetts in 1944. He was raised on a small farm in the town of Mount Washington, where his parents, both naturalists, cared for many wild, orphaned animals. He graduated from Yale University in 1966 with a B.A. in English Literature. After a stint in the Coast Guard, he spent a year in Newark, New Jersey, drawing and working with VISTA programs. Subsequently he spent 14 years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, painting and sculpting. In 1985 he returned to his childhood home where he lives with his wife, environmentalist Eleanor Tillinghast.
Bulkeley has had solo shows at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Mass., the Welles Gallery in Lenox, Mass., the Bachelier-Cardonsky Gallery in Kent, Conn., the Carone Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the deCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass., among others. Bulkeley showed with the Stux Gallery in Boston, Mass., from 1983 to 1987; since then he has had eleven solo shows with the Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston, Mass.
His work also has been included in group shows at the Danforth Museum, the Geoffrey Young Gallery in Great Barrington, Mass., the Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y., the St. Botolph Club in Boston, Mass., the Jeff Bailey Gallery in New York, N.Y., the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, N.Y., the deCordova Museum, the New Bedford Art Museum in New Bedford, Mass., the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, Mass., and many others.