In their 34 years together as a couple, Kathy Weinberg and Jeffrey Ackerman have spent much of it working side by side as artists. Art and creativity are two of the threads that tie them together. They met at art school, worked together creating period room installations at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Museum of City of the New York, and both maintain studios in their home in Morrill, near Belfast — albeit, at opposite ends of a very long house.
But for only the fourth time in those 34 years, Weinberg and Ackerman are showing their work together, in separate but simultaneous exhibitions at the Maine Jewish Museum in Portland. Weinberg’s “Hours and Days” and Ackerman’s “Artifact and Artifice” are both on view through Jan. 7.
The artists work well together in life and in art.
“We met at art school and right away hit it off,” Weinberg said. “We moved to New York as young artists, and right away fell into a renaissance of artists who were working as craftspeople.”
They used their skills as woodworkers and furniture makers in antique and architectural restoration, leading to long-term relationships with the MFA in Boston and the Met in New York. For a while, they were in lockstep with one another, with similar color tendencies and themes, and began diverging as each developed a strong solo voice. With time, both began carving out their own careers and focusing on their own visions.
Showing together, Weinberg said, is fun and interesting because it happens so infrequently.
Weinberg spent summers in Maine since her childhood, coming up from Boston with her parents, who bought a place on Gotts Island. The couple decided to relocate here in 2003 after their rent doubled in New York.
Maine Jewish Museum curator Nancy Davidson intended to show their work together, allowing it to intermingle, but decided that each body of work read better when displayed separately. “I thought it interesting that two such talented artists could be together for 34 years and keep there work unique,” she said.
Weinberg is mostly showing a series of painted vignettes on faux ceramic tiles, combining the history and tradition of decorative tile with notions of contemporary life. She’s actually painting on panel and canvas, but tricks the viewer into thinking, at least at a first quick glance, that she’s painting old-world scenes on ceramic. But look again. Her scenes are witty, subtle and sometimes ironic. She shows people taking selfies, watching the news on TV, camping in the moonlight. In one, she shows longtime Maine curator Bruce Brown looking at art.
Ackerman is showing paintings and sculpture of figures and scenes that depict surrealistic, historical characters and tell allegorical stories of creativity, metamorphosis and myth, with references to Shakespeare, the Old Testament and Bob Dylan. His pieces are colorful, dramatic and sly; there’s always a backstory, always something more happening that isn’t obvious but is revealed to those willing to take the time to look. There’s a hint of surrealism in his paintings, and a touch of humor.
WHERE: Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress St., Portland
WHEN: On view through Jan. 7; First Friday Art Walk reception, 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 1; regular hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
ADMISSION & INFO: free; mainejewishmuseum.org