The view from above: Northampton oil painter to show work at UMass Hampden Gallery

  • “Spaghetti Night!” by Bruce Ackerson. John Polak Photography/courtesy Hampden Gallery

  • Image from artist’s website“Joggers” by Bruce Ackerson is part of a one-man show at Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst through May 14. Image from artist’s website

  • Detail from “Boxcar Getaway” by Bruce Ackerson, on display at the Hampden Gallery through May 14. John Polak Photography

Staff Writer
Monday, March 08, 2021

‘Birds-Eye Views” is an exhibit of note by Northampton oil painter Bruce Ackerman that’s opened this month at Hampden Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst through May 14. In-person visits are only available to members of the UMass community, but the exhibit can also be viewed online.

It’s worth checking out, because Ackerson’s richly colored paintings, presented from an overhead standpoint and resembling miniature stage sets, have an almost cinematic feel; they cover imaginative subjects ranging from the surreal to the absurd to the mysterious. He can poke fun at popular culture or portray family dramas or, as exhibit notes put it, explore “the hidden world of the human psyche.”

“Spaghetti Night!” depicts a family of five in a sprawling, modern-looking home, with three children seated at a table, while to the side mom and dad seem to be either juggling or throwing plates of pasta to one another, with most of the sauce-covered noodles headed to the floor.

In “Boxcar Getaway,” a man leaps from a cliff to a train on tracks just below while two men in suits and ties hustle after him through woods at the edge of the cliff.

And “Joggers” shows several men in bathing suits running up a curving, sandy path; just around the bend and partly hidden by small hill of grass and sand is a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex, its jaws wide open and waiting. The runners can’t see him — but we can.

“The visual and the narrative go hand in hand in my paintings,” Ackerson says in an artist’s statement. “I want to offer thrills for the eye and the mind…. The birds-eye view allows a variety of angles and perspectives.”

An interview with the artist via Zoom will take place April 9 at noon. More information on Hampden Gallery is available at (413) 545-0680.