A special film screening and artist talk will be presented Thursday, October 27, at 7 p.m. at the Berkshire Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Living on Earth: The Work of Robert Hite. The solo show of sculpture, paintings, and photography by artist Robert Hite is a dual exhibition at the Berkshire Museum and Hancock Shaker Village. Living on Earth will be on view at both venues now through October 30, 2016. Living on Earth is funded in part by Balance Rock Investment Group, the Dobbins Foundation, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, and Take Magazine.
The special film screening will be the Berkshire premier of two films about Robert Hite’s work, both directed by award-winning filmmaker Okin Khan. Little Corn follows Hite during a trip to Central America in the winter of 2015 to photograph and film rural houses along the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. Living on Earth is a documentary portraying Hite and his preparations for his exhibitions at Hancock Shaker Village and Berkshire Museum. A Q&A session with the artist will follow the films. Tickets are $7.50, $5 for members of the Berkshire Museum and Hancock Shaker Village.
Robert Hite is an accomplished painter, sculptor, and photographer, whose work often includes components of all three disciplines. Hite creates small-scale structures, dwellings, and living spaces, many of which then become central to his photographs once they are sited in the landscape. Hite finds inspiration in the ever-present influence of nature and the narrative tradition of his Southern upbringing. His images have an engaging, intriguing ambience, created by the way Hite captures the three-dimensional structures as they are placed in nature.
Hancock Shaker Village is showcasing two major site-specific installations and several other pieces of the artist’s sculpture in the out-of-doors, amid its gardens and iconic buildings, and a selection of Hite’s paintings is on view in the Poultry House Gallery. At the Berkshire Museum, Hite’s photography and sculpture are on view in the Crane Room. The exhibition appeals to visitors of all ages at both locations, situated just five miles from each other in the city of Pittsfield.
“From time to time an artist can stumble upon a place or a body of work that renews and inspires,” says Hite. “In 2014, I visited Hancock Shaker Village and such an event took place. In the mid-1800s there was a flurry of Shaker ‘seen and received’ expression which seems particularly relevant today and pivots on many of the themes I work with, such as community and equality. Shaker works from that period express a ‘revelation’ and link to the relationship between humankind and nature. As one who aspires to live a creative and principled life, Shaker gift drawings particularly inspire me.”
For Hancock Shaker Village (HSV), an authentic historic site with an extensive permanent collection, Hite created site-specific installations — a blue rail fence with four small cottage-like structures atop each of the four large fence posts and an intriguing clapboard cottage atop tall stilts, along with smaller pieces that are installed on the grounds. Hite draws on sensibilities that align with the mission of HSV. He investigates domiciles and repurposed materials in ways that are in keeping with Shaker attitudes about home, design, and the stewardship and conservation of natural resources. The artist’s work equally resonates with the Berkshire Museum’s exhibition program, which creatively explores the interconnectedness between art and natural science, the phenomena of the natural world, and how artists respond to it.
For the tandem exhibition at the Berkshire Museum, work suited for an indoor setting is on view, designed to complement the outdoor installation of work at the Village. At the Berkshire Museum, Hite says, “my work will continue to explore themes of man’s relationship to nature and the intersections between people and place. The two museums are keen on presenting a shared exhibition focused on one artist at two sites with complimentary bodies of artwork—a rare opportunity which I am thrilled to be offered.”
At the Berkshire Museum, the exhibition includes a number of Hite’s large photographs featuring his hand-built structures and dwellings, placed out-of-doors into the landscape and photographed in such a way as to confound the viewers’ sense of scale. Many of the images incorporate water or mist, creating a sense of mystery with a softening of lines and angles. Hite’s cottages and cabins, many on stilts, have a lopsided, somewhat ramshackle air to them, as if nature is slowly reclaiming the buildings. Three towering “house” structures, more than eight feet high and built from segments of knotty tree trunks combined with found objects, dominate the Museum’s Crane Room.
About the artist
Robert Hite was born in 1956 and grew up outside of Bowling Green, a small town in rural Virginia. He has traveled in the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and South America. Hite attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA; the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C.; and studied ink brush painting in Malaysia. He worked as a studio assistant for the Washington Color School painter Leon Berkowitz, and enjoyed success in the nineteen-eighties and early nineties as an abstract landscape artist in Washington, D.C. In 1997, Hite and his family moved to Esopus, New York, a small town in the Hudson Valley where he converted an 1840s Methodist church into his home and studio. Hite has shown his work widely, including a solo show at The Nassau County Museum of Art. Hite was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014.
About Hancock Shaker Village
Hancock Shaker Village is a three-star Michelin destination offering visitors an intact historic site with 20 authentic Shaker buildings, 22,000 artifacts, 750 acres of scenic beauty, interpreted nature trails, unencumbered mountain views, a working farm with live animals and vibrant community-supported gardens and family activities. Its modern visitor center offers function space, classrooms, galleries, a chef-managed restaurant, and store. Visitors lean about the Shaker community via an orientation film, interaction with museum educators, changing exhibitions, 35 historic period rooms, a Discovery Barn for children’s activities, and a variety of hands-on activities, including Shaker trade crafts.
The Hancock Shaker community began in 1790 and endured until 1960. At its peak some 300 Shakers lived, worked and worshiped within the Village. In 1960, the Shakers sold the site to a civic group who established a museum. Today, Hancock Shaker Village is a National Historic Landmark, an Official Project of Save America’s Treasures, an AAM-accredited museum and the most comprehensively interpreted Shaker site in America.
About the Berkshire Museum
Located in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at 39 South St., the Berkshire Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $13 adult, $6 child; Museum members and children age 3 and under enjoy free admission. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413.443.7171.