Louise Berliner and Maxine “Max” Payne have shown their artwork before, but their ongoing exhibit at Gleason Library in Carlisle is special to them because they get to do it together.
“I am so pleased to be showing with Max,” Berliner said. “She has been an inspiration and mentor, as well as friend, and I want to be her when I grow up.”
Called “Natural History,” the exhibit features more than 80 pieces of Berliner’s and Payne’s latest works and highlights ways in which their art intersects with their writing.
Payne’s topographical maps were created using a joomchi paper technique in which she layers papers atop one another with water, kneading and folding until they become one. “That is what you see in the show. That with some of my mixed media sculptures … using old books,” she said.
She started making the maps about five years ago after taking a workshop at the Concord Art Association. “For me, it was exploring, and in the middle of that, COVID happened,” Payne said.
She was home and caring for her late husband, who had Parkinson’s disease. Maps were the only thing she could work on at her house.
When her husband died, she returned to her studio at The Umbrella Arts Center in Concord where she could make her maps and draft poems.
“It’s a practice I do every day,” she said.
A fiber artist, Berliner, who also has a studio at The Umbrella, used bittersweet and other “backyard gatherings” to create baskets for the art show. Her whimsical fiber sculptures are also on display.
As she was editing her recent novel, she began to think of ways to entice viewers to interact with the work. She decided to leave a small selection of sculptures unnamed, placing a notebook beside each piece with an invitation to viewers to name them and even pen a short story.
“It’s called ‘Invitation to Imagine.’ My sculptures are characters, they have stories. So, when I name them, that begins to tell the story. And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if the viewer got to write the story?’” Berliner said.
“I have a secret wish that the children will go and get inspired to write stories,”
What better place to do that than in a library, she added.
After all, she said, “a library is to open your mind.”
Payne can’t remember if she became an artist or a writer first — she drew her first robin and wrote her first poem when she was six.
“I am both a writer and an artist. I still go back and forth between all those things. I’ve always loved to find that thing that nobody else wants and figure out what it can possibly be and go from there to make something beautiful, because that’s the goal,” she said.
She recently moved to Acton from Concord and has had a studio at The Umbrella for nearly 40 years. It’s important to her to have a space to create art.
“To work quietly in my studio and then come out in the community — it’s so much better than being at home alone all the time. I can’t imagine not being here,” Payne said.
Berliner has been at The Umbrella for about 15 years, and marvels at the sense of community it gives her. “There is something magical about coming here and saying, ‘This is where I make art.’ The community is what makes it. You’re not alone in this crazy-making world,” she said.
She thinks of herself as a writer first — she was a “rookie” reporter, a poet, and a novelist, and, in fact, is writing a novel now. She is also an artist, noting that her art often helps her when she is writing.
“Using two hands really helps my brain, so when I’m stuck on some writing, I can go to making. I really love the interplay between them. For a long time, I thought I had to decide and do one or the other,” Berliner said.
The words and the art become one
The exhibit opened January 20 and will be on view until March 3.
A reception and artist talk are scheduled for February 3 from 2 to 4 p.m. The talk will be short, they say, and followed by a question-and-answer session.
“I’m going to talk about how my art and my writing are twins. They each stand alone very well, but they are more wonderful when they come together,” said Payne.
During the talk, she will read short sections of her poems.
“I’m going to be talking a little bit more of the challenge of being an artist and a writer. I will talk a little about that and about this idea I have of people engaging with the art,” said Berliner.
She will also read snippets from her poems.
“We wanted to bring words into the room, and it being a library, that seems right,” Berliner said.
If you go
Natural History, an art show by Max Payne and Louise Berliner
WHERE: Gleason Public Library, 22 Bedford Road, Carlisle
WHEN: Now to March 3, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday to Saturday
MEET: Opening Reception and Artist Talk, 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, February 3
INFO: gleasonlibrary.org; (978) 369-4898