Exposed To Art Through People

By Marah Morrison

At the Butler Institute of American Art in Howland, people had the opportunity to meet and enter the world of Merryl Berner-Cicourel through her works of art. The “Retrospectively Reimaging Cultural Landscapes” exhibition took place from 1-3 p.m. on Aug. 13.

Cicourel has been in the art industry for many years and worked toward her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California San Diego in the late 70s and early 80s.

The California artist felt very fortunate to be able to exhibit at the Trumbull Branch museum and to have wonderful people to work with, including Louis Zona, the director of the Butler Institute of American Art, and William Mullane, the guest curator and gallery director at Trumbull.

“I’ve always, always been interested in folk art and art in general, very specifically,” Cicourel said. “All my life, I’ve walked past something like a doorway or a structure that appealed to me for some unknown reason and I would draw it.”

Cicourel thinks people benefit from seeing all and any art. She also believes if you are trying to enter into it, find somebody if you have questions or if you want to talk about it. She pointed out that exhibitions like this are a nice interaction.

“You learn from it and you learn from seeing everything,” Cicourel said. “Your memory comes into play and my memory for everything I do is very important.”

Rose Anne Raphael, who is self-employed in public relations and art, is a friend of the Cicourel family. Raphael has benefited from knowing the Cicourels tremendously in many ways.

“Merryl and her family are warm, interesting people and her teaching ability and knowledge of art has been a constant source of education and interest to me,” Raphael said. “She’s a very hard working artist and I love her work.”

Raphael thinks it is rare to see a wonderful body of work all in one place. The friend of the family was blown away by this particular exhibition.

“It’s spectacular,” Raphael said. “It’s beautiful work because it’s beautifully presented in a beautiful space and I think it’s a tremendous benefit to the world of art.”

Mullane has been working in the art industry for nearly 40 years and said it has been a pleasure for him to work with an individual artist and group of artists. Mullane also did an exhibit for Cicourel back in 1991.

“The whole process of selection and thinking kind of deeply about the work itself and how it relates to space makes a lot of difference to me,” Mullane said. “And so, that’s what we were able to do here.”

The guest curator thinks the benefits for art majors attending exhibitions like this are being exposed to a body of work and to see, as a student, what it means to be at the end of your career and how the whole body of work comes together over many years.

“That kind of retrospective view is very important because it teaches you about your own history,” Mullane said. “ …and as a young artist going into the future, what that history could potentially be so it helps you curate your own work.”