Giants are lying on their backs in the sunlight. They look like stone or or driftwood, as though they have lasted through weather and time. Some are only heads, but taller than a man. The colossal works of Ledelle Moe’s When fit the scale of the long gallery of Building 5 at Mass MoCA.

They look like traces of a lost civilization, Gamaliel Rodíguez told me, when he came to the museum to hang his own beautifully detailed mural this winter. But the figures resting by the long windows are not pharoahs or Ozymendias, king of kings. They are women, as rounded and serene as goddesses, and they beg questions about the kind of civilization who would honor them.

Art museums in the Berkshires are looking into fantastic and speculative worlds this winter. They are thinking about people who shaped the past, especially when their stories have not been told, and asking who may influence the future. They are thinking about travel and the ways one place can influence another. And, as at the Norman Rockwell Museum, they are asking what it means to come home.

Maurice Denis, La Depeche de Toulouse. Detroit Institute of the Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund.
Clark Art Institute

Movement from the Alhambra at the Clark

At the Clark Art Institute, Arabesques follows the influence of Arab artwork and design in a movement among Western artists in the 19th century. In Islamic calligraphy and architecture, like the Alhambra in Granada, Arab artists built momentum in curving lines.

The Clark traces their influence in the work of Western artists, first in geometric patterns and flowering vines, and then more subtly in a swirl of skirt or a sinuous body. The show also acknowledges that these Western artists often knew nothing about Arab art or stories, language or faith, and invites questions about the ways cultures interact.

'Yuyi Morales illustrations from Dreamers appear in Finding Home at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Image courtesy of the artist and NRM.
Yuyi Morales

Finding Home at the Norman Rockwell Museum

Four nationally recognized artists and illustrators tell their stories of making a new home in a new country, in a new group show at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Yuyi Morales and her young son came from Mexico to San Fransisco to be near her son’s father, and Frances Jetter tells the story of her grandparents, who came from Poland to New York in 1911.

James McMullan grew up in China, in the town of Cheefoo on the Shantung peninsula, until World War II uprooted his family, and David Macaulay, known for his architecturally rich explorations of castles, cathedrals and The Way Things Work, came from the north of England to the U.S. after the war.

Ad Minoliti's bright Landscape gleams in Fantasías Modulares at Mass MoCA.
Ad Minoliti / Mass MoCA

Imagining new words at Mass MoCA

At Mass MoCA, Argentine artist Ad Minoliti and Puerto Rican artist Gamaliel Rodríguez explore richly colorful fantasies and futures. Rodríguez took a year to draw his 60-foot mural by hand, a landscape of mills and mountains in deep purple ink and gold.

Minoliti creates bright abstractions, characters and landscapes that echo childhood fairy tales with playful energy and turn them on their heads. A bright green triangle becomes an amiable bear. Read and yellow ovals become a cyclops. Trees open wide and mischievious eyes.

A Williams student chooses an artwork at WCMA to hang in his dorm room as part of the annual WALLS program in 2014.
Williams College Museum of Art

Photographing time and space at WCMA

In its new Landmarks show, WCMA explores how people have used photographs to talk about, as the museum says, the most important questions of today. The show ranges broadly from Ansel Adams, Ana Mendieta, and Alfred Stieglitz, to NASA images, to LaToya Ruby Frazier, Dionisio Gonzalez and Gregory Crewdson.

In ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist,’ Chicago artist Michael Rakowitz has re-created a lost room and its relief sculptures from the Assyrian palace at Nimrud, recalling the destruction of centuries-old artwork … and people today.

Robert Reid's 'The Trio' appears as part of She Shapes History at the Berkshire Museum.
Robert Reid / Berkshire Museum

Women shape history at Berkshire Museum

On the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the U.S., Berkshire Museum is telling the stories of local women who have shaped the country. Elizabeth Freeman proved slavery illegal in Massachusetts, suffragists marched, Shakers gave women authority …

The museum looks at political movements deeply timely today, like the Equal Rights Act, which has been one vote away from passing since the 1970s, and considers innovations that have helped women to learn, work and gain independence, from the typewriter to the bicycle.

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