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Conscious Coupling

Thirty years ago, Berta Walker decided to open her gallery on Bradford Street in Provincetown’s East End. Armed with a family history steeped in Provincetown, a Rolodex like a who’s who of the art colony past and present, and a curator’s eye for telling stories through her exhibitions, Walker fast became one of the most important galleries in town, featuring work by masters of the past, as well as some newer artists. A few years ago she opened a companion gallery in Wellfleet. Now, to celebrate the original gallery’s anniversary, she’s embarking on a season-long program of shows around one concept: creative couples.

“This started out as sort of a cozy show to celebrate the artist couples,” Walker explains. But it soon ballooned into something much more. “It was an interesting concept and I thought, ‘well, why don’t I do a show?’ But of course, you can’t just do a show of creative couples in Provincetown, so it just expanded more and more and it just got so out of hand, I extended it to Wellfleet.”

It starts off this weekend featuring longtime friends Marsden Hartley and Carl Sprinchorn in the front of the gallery, with multiple other couples throughout the space. While the history of the art colony is filled with married artist couples (Norman and Norris Church Mailer; Bob Henry and Selina Trieff; Paul and Blair Resika; Howard Karren and Ed Christie, to name just a few), Walker’s conception of these couplings extends beyond the traditional notion of the couple. Some “couples” are together because of marriage, but many are family members, and some are student-teacher couples, or even just friends.

The relationship between Karl Knaths’ Lilac (1955) at left and his sister-in-law Agnes Weinrich’s untitled painting from 1939 at right is uncanny.

Likewise, the term “artist” is broadly defined in Walker’s mind. Painters, writers, musicians, filmmakers, actors, may make up the majority, but then there are those who are better known for other things, such as Admiral Donald MacMillan, for whom MacMillan Pier is named, may be recognized primarily as a great explorer, but through Walker’s eyes, he’s an artist actually, because he made many films and took many photographs on those expeditions that gave others a view of faraway lands. His wife, Miriam Norton Look, who accompanied him on expeditions as an actual crew member, participating fully in the hard work of these endeavors, also wrote books, made films, and recorded folk music of the peoples she encountered in the Arctic with MacMillan. They are exhibited together in the exhibition this weekend that kicks off a summer of couples at both of Walker’s galleries.

A display on the back wall features a harpoon and a book open to a series of photographs the admiral took showing the phases of the midnight sun, works by the MacMillans. “He was a photographer. She was a writer. They were courageous. They went to the great places unknown,” Walker enthuses, adding that she did actually meet these individuals as a child in Provincetown. “It’s kind of intriguing and so one thing led to another and here we are representing in one show or another some 175 couples,” she says.

Alexandra Smith, Modernist Silver jewelry and Elisabeth Pearl, mixed media painting

As the season goes on, the couplings will be curated along different lines (see below). One thing that comes up is whether or not the artists within each couple influence one another. It’s a tricky thing to prove influence and the complicating factors of the general dismissal of women’s creativity throughout art history. That being said, Walker offers one stark example with what she calls the “menage à trois” of artist Karl Knaths, who lived with his wife Helen Weinrich as well as her sister, the artist Agnes Weinrich, “forever.” The trio’s relationship is an interesting one, but Walker can’t say anything for sure about the nature of it. “[Knaths] fell madly in love with Helen, but aesthetically, he and Agness were certainly a couple,” Walker says. Weinrich’s untitled small work created in 1939 is positioned right next to Knath’s much larger, much better known piece “Lilac,” created in 1955. The similarities are uncanny and speak directly to this notion of women artists being dwarfed by their male counterparts. But then, that’s a subject for another exhibition.

Creative Couples: Expatriates, Founders, Provincetown Players, Sun Gallery, Mixed Media Couples runs May 24 – June 15 at Berta Walker Gallery, 208 Bradford St., Provincetown, with an opening reception on Friday, May 24, 6 – 8 p.m. The companion exhibition Creative Couples of Truro, Wellfleet, & Dune Dwellers also runs May 25 – June 15 at Berta Walker Gallery, 40 Main St., Wellfleet, with an opening reception on Saturday, Jun 1, 4 – 6 p.m. For more information about any of the exhibitions, call 508.487.6411 or visit

Couples shows abound all season long at Berta Walker’s Provincetown and Wellfleet Galleries. Here’s the schedule.

MAY 24 – JUNE 15
One-Couple Exhibitions: Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) & Carl Sprinchorn (1887-1971)

Creative Couples: Expatriates, Founders of Provincetown Players, Sun Gallery, Mixed Media couples

JUNE 28 – JULY 20
One Couple Exhibitions: Robert Henry & Selina Trieff and Carmen Cicero & Mary Abel

Creative Couples: Figurative Artists
Grace Hopkins “Patterns of Portugal” abstract photography mounted on canvas
(In Celebration of Portuguese Festival 6/27-30)

One Couple Exhibitions: Charles & Miriam Hawthorne and Ross Moffett & Dorothy Lake Gregory

Creative Couples: students of Hawthorne & Hensche schools, Mixed Media

One Couple Exhibitions: Blair & Paul Resika and Miz & Hans Hofmann

Creative Couples: Students of Hofmann & Abstract artists

MAY 25 – JUNE 15
Creative Couples of Truro, Wellfleet, & Dune Dwellers

JUNE 29 – JULY 20
Three-person special: Karl Knaths (1891-1971) artist & Helen Weinrich pianist (1876-1978) & Agnes Weinrich (1873-1946) artist

Creative Couples: Fine Arts Work Center artists, writers, Founders, Trustees

One Couple Exhibition: Nancy Whorf artist & Herman Tasha, jeweler

Creative Couples: Mixed Group

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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