Local Artist's Bird Paintings Featured at Berkshire Museum

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Morgan Bulkeley's 'Beak Morphology,' part of the Berkshire Museum's permanent collection.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Flocks of owls, hawks, spoonbills, and birds of all descriptions swoop and soar across the 15 large paintings that comprise the new exhibition "Morgan Bulkeley: Bird Story" at the Berkshire Museum.

The show of work by the Berkshire native will be on view in the Ellen Crane Memorial Room now through March 4 in conjunction with the museum's major exhibit "Taking Flight: Audubon and the World of Birds."

An informal conversation with the artist will be moderated by Geoffrey Young on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 4 p.m. in the Crane Room, free with regular admission. An artist’s reception will follow from 5 to 7; that event will be free and open to the public.

Bulkeley is a visual storyteller whose art is strongly influenced by his Berkshire upbringing; his family has deep roots in the area going back several generations.

"It's important that we don’t lose the ability to look into the heart of nature," said Bulkeley, whose artwork is inspired by the natural world. "Our environment is the matrix of our existence. If we don't take care of it we won't be here forever."

"Morgan Bulkeley’s paintings, with their strong narrative quality, draw the viewer back again and again — finding something new in the canvases at each viewing. His work is so distinctive and lives at that intersection of art and science, where one’s observation of the natural world leads toward an aesthetic, expressive end," said Maria Mingalone, director of interpretation and the curator of "Bird Story." "That is why the museum purchased one of his large paintings in 2008 with support from the Artist's Resource Trust at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. It is a pleasure to feature a larger selection of his work at a time when birds are on our minds here at the museum, with the current major exhibition, "Taking Flight," which just opened.”

In "Beak Morphology" (2000), oil on canvas, part of the museum’s permanent collection since 2008, Bulkeley depicts naturally rendered owls and spoonbills swooping over a cluttered meadow populated by cartoon birds — Woody Woodpecker and Tweety — and four humans who have strapped beak-like protuberances to their faces: a boot, a corn cob, a telephone and a stick.

Bulkeley is an accomplished painter and sculptor with numerous solo and group shows in galleries and museums to his credit; his work is represented in private collections and in the permanent collections of several museums. He is one of the local artists chosen to illustrate BerkShares, the regional currency, and, in 2006, he illustrated "Berkshire Stories," a compilation of essays by his father, Morgan Bulkeley Sr.

He was born in 1944 and raised on a small farm in Mount Washington, where his parents, both naturalists, tended many wild, orphaned animals. He graduated from Yale University in 1966 with a degree in English literature and, after a stint in the Coast Guard, spent a year in Newark, N.J., drawing, and working with VISTA programs. The next 14 years were spent in Cambridge, painting and sculpting until he returned in 1985 to his childhood home, where he lives with his wife, environmentalist Eleanor Tillinghast. The couple co-founded the environmental organization Green Berkshires.

His work is included in the current group show, "The Birding Life," at Ferrin Gallery on North Street through Feb. 28. Bulkeley’s work will be featured in a show at the Howard Yezerski Gallery beginning May 25.

Museum admission is $13 for adults and $6 for children ages 4 and older. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday noon to 5. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org.
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