December 16, 2012

In The Arts: At home in Winslow's house

By PHILIP ISAACSON

A building is an extension of its owner's persona. I extend that maxim to include the manner in which the owner outfits the building. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at where he or she lives.

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“The Painting Studio,” salted paper print by Alan Vlach.d Museum of Art.

Courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

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“Chlucco, The Long Warrior,” a four-color woodcut by David Wolfe, at June Fitzpatrick Gallery.

Image courtesy of June Fitzpatrick Gallery

Additional Photos Below

ON VIEW

“BETWEEN PAST AND PRESENT: THE HOMER STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT”

WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress St. 775-6148; portlandmuseum.org

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday (until 9 p.m. Friday)

CLOSES: Feb. 17

“PRESSING ON II”

WHERE: June Fitzpatrick Gallery, 522 Congress St., Portland. 699-5083

HOURS: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

CLOSES: Dec. 29

That is never more so than in the case of an artist. I read an artist's home as an accompaniment to his art and a declaration of his values. It doesn't always work, but I keep looking.

That brings me to Winslow Homer, Prout's Neck and the Portland Museum of Art. Homer's studio/home at Prout's Neck goes back to the early 1880s, and by the time I first got there -- the misty 1960s -- it was an object of mild curiosity, not the venerated site it has since become. I was looking for the personality of Homer -- it might have soaked into the boards -- but all I found was the standard account of his life and visual confusion. I was denied a brush with the occult. Homer had fled.

The museum's recent acquisition and restoration of the studio was heroic. Both concealed and unconcealed, the modifications refresh the old place and suggest spaces in which Homer's genius could wax.

The efforts have preserved the essence of the studio, made the building comprehensible and reduced some of the mystery that we, through lack of information, have contributed to Homer's life.

Among the commemorations of its efforts, the museum has sponsored "Between Past and Present: The Homer Studio Photographic Project." It is an exhibition of photographs relating to the studio and neighboring lands by five distinguished photographers.

They were selected for the accomplishment of their imagery -- each is capable of brilliant work -- and for the ability to work in one of the historic processes available during Homer's lifetime (1836-1910). The goals of the project were to record and interpret. The results make up the show, and provide me with considerable pleasure.

"Pleasure" is not a common term of art commentary, but it is particularly apt for this event. The restoration of a notable structure is always a rich cause for comment and concern. This in itself gives the undertakings at the studio a certain fascination.

Further, I am enthusiastic about the preservation and use of arcane photographic processes even when diluted by well-meaning digitalists. The appearance here of several old methods also is fascinating. Add all of this to a number of strong images, and you have a very good show.

The museum's selectees are Keliy Anderson-Staley, Tillman Crane, Brenton Hamilton, Abelardo Morell and Alan Vlach.

Anderson-Staley is a noted maker of wet-plate collodion tintypes. This, among other things, means that her darkroom travels with her when she works in the field. That effort gives her plein air images a certain enchantment; they tug at the early history of recording visual facts.

Anderson-Staley's "Winslow Homer's Studio, Viewed from the Sea Path," which started life as an 8-by-10-inch wet-plate collodion tintype, is splendid. In it, the old studio is embraced by a landscape that has much in common with the world that drew the Homer family to Prout's Neck. Of all the work on view, Homer makes his most sustained appearance in Anderson-Staley's.

Crane's 10 images range from the architecturally examined "Roof Corner Homer Studio, Scarborough, ME" to staircases, bird's-eye views of the roof, piazza railings and interiors, and passages of nearby lands. Accomplished in platinum, they are the most comprehensive study of the physical sense of the studio in the show.

Hamilton has brought his eye for capturing visitations from esoteric forms to facts relating to Prout's Neck. Interpreted in equally esoteric gum bichromate, things and places evoked by thoughts of Homer and his work require the cooperation of the viewer.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

“Forking Path 1,” a woodcut by Allison Hildreth at June Fitzpatrick Gallery.

Image courtesy of June Fitzpatrick Gallery

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“Ghost,” a lithograph by Alan Bray.

Image courtesy of June Fitzpatrick Gallery

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“Green Light,” woodcut by Charlie Hewitt at June Fitzpatrick Gallery.

Image courtesy of June Fitzpatrick Gallery

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From “Between Past and Present,” “Roof Corner, Homer Studio, Scarborough,” platinum print by Tillman Crane.

Image courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

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From “Between Past and Present,” “Cliff Walk Near West Point,” salted paper print by Alan Vlach.

Image courtesy of Portland Musem of Art

click image to enlarge

From “Between Past and Present,” “Razor, Found in Winslow Homer’s Studio,” wet-plate collodion tintype by Keliy Anderson-Staley.

Image courtesy of Portland Museum of Art



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