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June 10, 2015

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — On Thursday, June 25, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ (MCLA) Gallery 51 will open Valerie Hird’s exhibition, “Origin of Birds,” which will run through July 26.

An opening reception for “Origin of Birds” will be held on Thursday, June 25, from 6 to 9 p.m., at MCLA Gallery 51. This event is free and open to the public, as part of this summer’s opening DownStreet Art celebration.

“Origin of Birds” is Hird’s interpretation of a 15th century Persian poem, and the third exhibition in her new mythologies series. This is her first time showing “Origin of Birds” as a stand-alone body of work.

According to MCLA Gallery 51 Manager Julia Morgan-Leamon, “Hird gathers rich stories and images of other cultures she has personally visited, and weaves them through her own vision of the beginnings of life. She has long been a master of paint and the two-dimensional surface, but in this exhibition she also brings to life a complex three-dimensional installation of color and form.”

The“Genesis Tree,” a site-specific tree installation created for the window of MCLA Gallery 51, displays nearly 3,000 color-coded origami elements. Within the Gallery, a wall installation of 12 oil paintings, entitled “The Fifth Day,” depicts a primordial matrix that links birds with the natural elements.

Many of the works in “Origin of Birds” are freestanding or horizontal scrolls created with watercolor, gold leaf, oil paint, rug yarn, and Afghani amulets. Hird uses patterns and labyrinth motifs to make the connection between natural beings and processes, with a repeating theme of the elements: sky, sea, earth and fire.

Hird’s painted scrolls, “The Fifth Day” wall installation, and the “Genesis Tree” work together to form a visual narrative of a creation story and offer a unifying cultural and historical context to the work.

Primarily working in oil and watercolor, Hird, a native of Vermont, is deeply influenced by her travels to the Middle East and Central Asia. She explained that her work is rooted in multiple cultures.

The nomadic icons she uses are filtered through her own cultural roots to create a transcultural and transnational hybrid that she hopes reject a simple binary East/West interpretation.   

Prior to “Origin of Birds,” she initiated “The Maiden Voyages Project,”in collaboration with women from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, and the Palestinian West Bank. Holding a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from Vermont College, Hird teaches at Saint Michael’s College in Burlington, Vt. She is represented by the Nohra Haime Gallery in New York City, N.Y.

Hird has exhibited her work nationally and internationally at venues such as the American University of Dubai, University of Jordan in Amman, MASS MoCA, Portsmouth Museum, and the Tampa Art Museum.

MCLA Gallery 51 is a program of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. The Gallery is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MCLA Gallery 51 is located at 51 Main Street in North Adams.

For more information, (413) 664 8718, or go to

For downloadable images, go to