Gerry Bergstein and Gail Boyajian have been addressing the complexities of the human condition and threats to our natural world in distinctly different ways throughout their artistic working lives. Now, in “Gerry Bergstein and Gail Boyajian: Uncovered,” running at the Catamount Arts Center through October 27, these longtime Stratford, Vermont seasonal residents serve up what amounts to a state of the union address on our planet. These two are partners in life, and one can only imagine their dinner conversations.
The show has been organized by Katherine French, who resettled in 2015 to the Northeast Kingdom after a celebrated career in the Boston area. French had just retired from the Danforth Art Museum and School in Framingham when she was tapped to take over Catamount’s gallery programs. Her commitment to showcasing local artists, as well as her passion for the Boston expressionist tradition, brought her once again to Bergstein’s door, as she was well acquainted with his work from mounting a one-man retrospective of his work a number of years ago.
Both Bergstein and Boyajian have been leading New England artists for decades and have exhibited widely in both galleries and museums. Before his retirement in 2017, Bergstein was a longtime professor on the painting faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He functions as a painter/explorer, cheerfully delving into what he has described as “chance meetings” of images with everything and nothing in common.
“I am fascinated that Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are distant cousins and that Hitler, Stalin and Freud lived within a few miles of each other in early 20th century Vienna — or that Hitler, Churchill and Eisenhower were all amateur landscape painters,” he wrote, by way of explanation.
Over time, Bergstein has forged an international career as an intellectually rigorous artist whose works reveal him to be a master of oil and mixed media as well as trompe l’oeil. Figures from art history, pop culture and politics make appearances, and Bergstein himself is often embedded in his own paintings, as if he is leading the viewer through a now-open door. Ideas rooted as detritus in layers of paint and texture lure the viewer on a cognitive deep-sea dive. His work has been described as visual art fiction, but these seem rather to work as poems Whitman might have crafted, to be absorbed and reflected upon, shard by shard.