Two professional architects whose worlds are immersed in design, and who now have ties to Cape Ann, also delve into their own personal artistic realm in the areas of watercolor painting and weaving.
At the behest of Mercury Gallery, Alan Joslin and Deborah Epstein of the Cambridge-based Epstein Joslin Architects Inc. will share their private work at a new show opening in Rockport with a public reception on Saturday.
Both are graduates of the Master of Architecture program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Joslin and Epstein, who have been married for 25 years with two grown children, are part of a rejuvenation of fine art establishments on Cape Ann. They were the architects who designed Rockport's $20 million music hall and who just earlier this month were hired to transform the Gloucsester Stage Company into a venue that takes advantage of the entire space that used to house a car dealership in another era.
These multi-dimensional architects both have experience in theater. In addition to large design projects, Joslin also works in set design. Epstein, as an undergraduate at Barnard College, majored in costume design and worked at the New York Shakespeare Festival costume shop.
In terms of their hand-created arts, their painting and weaving are extensions of how they perceive their world visually on a smaller scale as compared to their large architectural projects, one which sits right across the street from the gallery at the Shalin Liu Performance Center built by Rockport Music.
The show now hanging at the Mercury Gallery juxtaposes the small framed sketchbook size paintings by Joslin with the framed woven work by Epstein, in addition to a few large unframed wall hangings that reflect her interpretations of the natural world, including works inspired by an Italian marble quarry, a colorful tree bark and brilliant lichen.
The ancient art of weaving dovetails with Epstein's tactile personality and it is an art form that has a meditative element to it as she puts into texture her design from paper.
"I try to capture qualities of nature: lichens, water, stone — all stand alone as compositions of color, texture, materials and structure," she said.
Epstein weaves on her loom with a variety of fibers including wool, alpaca, silk and linen, as well as scraps of materials that may include a pink plaid print or scraps of iridescent fabric. She even explains to a visitor how fabric acquires its iridescent look by using contrasting colors woven at right angles, which creates the shimmering effect.
"Alan has said that he finds people who discover professions that are akin to what they enjoyed as children that they are likely to be happy as adults," said Epstein, who has proved the adage true, learning to spin at 14, followed by learning to sew and knit.
"I've always just liked the feel of fibers of any kind, the way it feels in my hand," she said.
Joslin noted that their art runs parallel to their roles in the office.
"Deb is taken by color, materials and the beauty of assembling them. She has this sensitivity to natural elements and does this extraordinary work that creates texture and the character to the interior and exterior surfaces, while I'm usually orchestrating the big gestures, how a building sits on the street, how people move in and through, how context, people and spaces relate to each other," he said.
As an architect, Joslin constantly studies how people interact with their environment, and as an artist he does the same.
"These sketches are about the idea of place and what makes them exciting to inhabit," he said. "My art focuses on the civic energy of the urban center as well as the interplay of forces in the natural landscape."
The scenes in the Mercury Gallery show include images of the French-inspired architecture of Quebec City, a town in Greece and a Rockport quarry, in addition to figure drawings. After Hurricane Katrina, the couple went down to New Orleans to help out and one night they went to hear the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the result is a vibrant small pencil drawing of the energy emanating from the musicians in that historic room.
Joslin sees energy in structure as well as in figures.
"When sketching a figure, it's about capturing the movement of form or it could be the energy of a building," he said. "The Chateau Frontenac Hotel is as much a figure as a building when I tried to capture its essence of place in a sketch."
Amnon Goldman, the gallery owner, asked the couple if he could show their personal art works because he was struck by their diverse backgrounds.
"He knows anatomy. He knows how people move around and the knowledge of anatomy is fundamental for any art, especially for architecture," said Goldman. "I saw some of his drawings and I was very taken with them, specifically I am interested in the human aspect of art. Art is about life and it's about understanding, regardless of the discipline. It's about how we as humans move in space and relate to space."
Then Goldman learned about Epstein's weaving skills.
"She articulates her visual idea and turns an abstract concept of color and shape into the material," he said. "Her work is also about the human element. We as humans use fabric for shelter, for clothing, for warmth, and home decor and she turns it into an object of beauty, a visual idea."
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Deborah Epstein Woven Work/Alan Joslin Sketchbooks
When: Opening reception with the artists on Saturday, May 28, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Mercury Gallery at 20 Main St. in Rockport
The show runs through June 14. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and by appointment. For more information call 978-546-7620 or visit www.mercurygallery.com.