Photographs by Stephen Petegorsky – Poems by Naila Moreira
February 1-29, 2024
Artist’s reception – Friday February 9, 6-8pm
in conjunction with Northampton’s Arts Night Out

From the Hampshire Daily Gazette: Animal tales: Northampton exhibit of photography and poetry looks at the threats animals face, as well as their beauty

Since 2014, Stephen Petegorsky has been making images based on photos of cleared and stained animal specimens. The specimens are small birds, reptiles, fish, mammals and amphibians that have been soaked in an enzyme solution to make their tissue transparent and then stained to make bones and cartilage darker colors. Scientists use the process to further the study of anatomy, development, and evolution.


Crocodile/Baby Crocodile
Artwork: 24.5×24 in


The original digital images are altered and then combined with a background image, usually an abstracted photo of something in the natural world. Petegorsky says:

In architectural terms, a clerestory is a high section of a wall that contains windows above eye level. The purpose is to let in more light. As with taxidermy, the cleared and stained specimens allow us to see things about the animals that could not otherwise be observed. They are beautiful and haunting; they tantalize with the mysteries of how and why such elegant and complex structures came to exist. It is as though they are trying to tell me a story or to sing a song. These prints are the visual impressions of that music.



Two Snakes
24×30 in


A poet and natural scientist, Naila Moreira was drawn to the socioecological resonances of Petegorsky’s images. Because the photographs depict skeletons instead of living animals in a provocative reminder of death, they offer a grim mirror to ongoing efforts that seek to photographically document all animal species before they are lost to extinction. Moreira’s poems explore the ecological threats which these animals face today. She also ponders the science that both illuminates their life story, and can treat them with a coldness and distance that neither they nor we deserve.



Fringe-Toed Sand Lizard
24×30 in



Blacknose Skate/Skate Fishing
24×30 in


The poems also aim beyond the grief and fear of environmental destruction. Each animal’s anatomy provides a window into its own natural history, ecological niche, and role in human mythmaking throughout time. Within these animals we can find ourselves – and all the mysteries of birth, life, mortality, and memory. By imagining the animals of Clearstories as archetypes of our deepest fears and hopes, and as mysteries of existence whose independent lives we can never fully reach or own, Moreira’s poems seek to evoke both the wonder and the familiarity of these beings who share our earth.


Rabbit/Dead Rabbit
24.5×24 in

Listen to Stephen Petegorsky, Naila Moreira, and gallery manager Paul Gulla on the Bill Newman show

Clearstories at R. Michelson Galleries

Stephen Petegorsky is an artist and freelance photographer based in Florence, Massachusetts. Born in New York City, he graduated from Amherst College and later received his M.F.A. in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design. He has taught at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College, and the University of Connecticut.

Most known for his black and white landscapes, he has also documented the work of the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, a human services agency that works internationally to improve the lives of victims of conflict and people with disabilities.

His work has been exhibited internationally, and is in collections throughout this country as well as in Europe.

Naila Moreira’s writing focuses most often on the natural world. She teaches at Smith College and has been writer in residence at the Shoals Marine Laboratory and Forbes Library. Her chapbook, Water Street, won the New England Poetry Club Jean Pedrick Prize, and her middle grade novel The Monarchs of Winghaven will debut from Walker Books US in May 2024.

Moreira graduated with a doctorate in geosciences from the University of Michigan following her undergraduate degree from Amherst College. She has also worked as a journalist, environmental consultant, and Seattle Aquarium docent.

Her poetry, including poems from this project, has appeared in literary journals including Scientific American,, The Cider Press Review, The Connecticut Review, and elsewhere.