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REVIEW: Susan Merrill’s ‘Colors and Camouflage’

Having grown up on a farm in Maryland, Merrill has a deep and abiding respect for all animals, especially as they have become scarcer on Berkshire farms.

Hancock — “Colors and Camouflage,” a new exhibition of paintings by Susan Merrill previewed on Sunday, April 10 at Hancock Shaker Village and will be on view in the Poultry House Gallery through Sunday, May 22 . Merrill’s paintings have been shown each spring for the past eight years in conjunction with Hancock Shaker Village’s Baby Animals event kicking off its summer season. Proceeds from the sale of her artwork benefit the Village.

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Artist Susan Merrill, far right, explains the theme of this year’s exhibit in the Poultry House Gallery at Hancock Shaker Village on Sunday, April 10.

Having grown up on a farm in Maryland, Merrill has a deep and abiding respect for all animals, especially as they have become scarcer on Berkshire farms. She explains the exhibit’s theme: “We know that wild animals rely heavily on camouflage as protection against predators. But farm animals have been protected for such a long time by farmers, shepherds, guard dogs, barns, and fences — we might wonder if they are so socialized that perhaps they no longer use camouflage, disguises, and strategies for hiding.

“A year’s worth of observations on Berkshire farms yields interesting and varied answers. Some animals are wary when they see an unfamiliar person, like an artist, approach, so they try to blend into their flock, where everybody looks alike. Some try to match their surroundings. Some don’t seem to notice or care what is going on around them. And then — how much can be said to be the animals’ decision, and how much is superimposed by the human eye?”

Mikey Merrill and Anne Banks entertain the crowd with old-timey sounds in the Poultry House Gallery at Hancock Shaker Village.
Mikey Merrill and Anne Banks entertain the crowd with old-timey sounds in the Poultry House Gallery at Hancock Shaker Village.

Merrill’s brother, Mikey, an accomplished fiddler, joined former Mountain Road School teacher Anne Banks (guitar, banjo) to fill the gallery on Sunday with authentic old-timey music that fit the occasion perfectly.

Merrill earned a B.A. at Bennington College and an M.A. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For many years she was the Lower School art teacher at Berkshire Country Day School and has shown her work in many venues, mainly in Berkshire County. She illustrated “I Live in Stockbridge,” a child’s history of the town by Susan Geller, and wrote and illustrated the children’s book “Washday,” published by Clarion Books of Seabury Press, New York. Her novel “Warm Morning” is based on her childhood home on the Maryland farm, and “Cool Evening” is about her Stockbridge house.

Merrill lives in Stockbridge with her husband, production designer Carl Sprague. She has three children, two corgis, and two cats, but no farm animals at the moment.

Painting by Susan Merrill.
Painting by Susan Merrill.
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