October 13, 2013

Artist invites us to walk with her

After years of presenting her work in empty Maine mills, Amy Stacey Curtis has two Portland exhibitions that create some order amid life’s chaos.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Amy Stacey Curtis felt certain the rustling in the woods was big, hairy and mean.

Curtis has made a start with these works and others toward drawing all the physical matter in her home.

Courtesy photos

Additional Photos Below


WHAT: “9 Walks”

WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square

WHEN: On view through Jan. 5, 2014; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday

HOW MUCH: $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, $6 ages 13 to 17, free 12 and younger; free admission after 5 p.m. Friday

INFO: 775-6148 or portlandmuseum.org


WHAT: “Drawing Matter”

WHERE: June Fitzpatrick Gallery, 522 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Through Nov. 2


RELATED: Curtis will discuss her work at 11 a.m. Dec. 7 in the auditorium of the Portland Museum of Art

It was pitch black, and she was making her way on foot slowly down Clarks Woods Road near her home in Lyman.

Horrified, she called her husband.

“There is a big something at the edge of the woods, and I’m so afraid it’s coming to get me,” she told him.

Her husband, Bill, assured her that the big hairy thing was more afraid of her than she was of it. Keep walking, he told her. And so she did.

The midnight adventures of Amy Stacey Curtis are chronicled in the latest “Circa” exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art. Titled “9 Walks,” the installation consists of nine videos, ranging in duration from just a few seconds to several hours, of walks that Curtis made near her current home in Lyman and her previous home in Gray.

The nine videos are part performance, part installation, and are on view in nooks and crannies all over the museum.

The videos illuminate a specific environment and one person’s place in that environment, and how both evolve over the passage of time measured in minutes, hours, days, weeks and the course of a year.

In her case, her world is Clarks Woods Road, a 41/2 mile stretch of asphalt that bends and dips. Curtis strapped a camera to her chest and moved with determined calculation, step by step, down the road.

“For me, these videos are about moving forward and thus forward progress. It’s not about where I’m going or what’s happening while I’m walking. It’s about me being present in the environment,” she said.

Curtis is known for the interactive installations she has made in Maine mills as part of a planned 18-year “solo biennial” project. She is in year 15 of that process, and has completed seven of nine installations. Her eighth will come a year from now at a mill to be determined, and the project will wrap up in three years.

The videos at the PMA are not part of her personal biennial process, but are related to it in that they explore the broad theme of finding order in a chaotic world through repetition. She embraces that theme as her artistic mission in all her work.

Jessica May, curator of contemporary and modern art at the PMA, praised Curtis for her attention to detail and rigid determination.

“She is extremely complete as an artist, and she thinks in totality about an artwork. She is not just an installation artist and not just a video artist. But she is working in a very holistic way as a complete artist,” May said.


Separate from her videos but directly related to her next solo biennial, Curtis also is showing a series of drawings this month at June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland.

For “Drawing Matter,” Curtis made life-size renderings of 99 household objects: a fork, shot glass, measuring tape, flashlight, penny, crayon, etc.

The drawings, which she sells to raise money to pay for her biennial installations, represent the beginning of her attempt to draw all the physical matter in her house. That means every single thing, including herself, her husband and their many pets.

She calls her project “uber-ambitious,” which very likely is an understatement.

Between “Drawing Matter,” and “9 Walks,” people who appreciate contemporary art have a chance to experience the work of one of Maine’s most intelligent and beguiling artists.

Curtis makes thoughtful, engaging work that challenges people to consider how their everyday lives mesh with a larger world that feels fast and often out of control.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

A drawing by Curtis of a tape measure is one of her renderings of household objects at the June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland.

Courtesy photo

Curtis posted this sign to caution drivers on the road near her home where she walked with a camera strapped to her to create some of her video works.

Courtesy of Amy Stacey Curtis

click image to enlarge

Amy Stacey Curtis in the June Fitzpatrick Gallery on Congress Street in Portland, where her drawings of 99 things in her home are exhibited. The Portland Museum of Art also is exhibiting work by Curtis, “9 Walks,” nine videos that are part performance, part installation.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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