October 9, 2011

In the Arts: De Sinety's Poilley photographs strike a delicate balance


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"Roche Gaudin Farm – Haystack,” 1974, by Madeleine de Sinety

Courtesy Portland Museum of Art

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“Humble Lineage,” mixed media by John Sideli

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

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; until 9 p.m. Friday

CLOSES: Dec. 18


WHERE: Atrium Art Gallery, University of Southern Maine, Lewiston-Auburn College, 51 Westminster St., Lewiston, 753-6500

HOURS: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

CLOSES: Nov. 3


WHERE: Gleason Fine Art, 31 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor. 633-6849

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

CLOSES: Oct. 29

The remaining sections -- Uganda and Maine -- are not of as high an order. The former is a fine story about everyday life in an African village, but it is largely anticipatory, and does not obtain the edge of the Brittany photographs. I take this as inevitable -- months in residence aren't years -- and the group has undoubted sociologic interest. I don't mean to lessen their aesthetic merit -- there are some beautiful images -- but here, de Sinety has shown us pretty much what we expect to see.

The Maine images might best be shown apart from those of Poilley. They seem to be reaching in that direction, but are damaged by the intensity given off by the chef d'oeuvre. Poilley remains monumental and singular.


I recommend a show at the University of Southern Maine, Lewiston-Auburn College, not because Androscoggin may be yanked out of the 2nd District and hauled into the 1st, but because the gallery is a continuing venue for work that has an artisanal component.

When it comes to work that requires skills of a high manual order, Lewiston-Auburn College leads the pack. The art it shows often has an idiosyncratic view of the order of things. The exhibitions here are ever fresh.

The current show is "James Strickland, Waypoints," with a subtitle "Happenstance and Longed-for Arrivings." One look at the event's brochure, and I was hooked. It combined my fascination for Japanese temples and kites, for model planes (I built them, imperfectly) and ships, and for small, exquisitely articulated wooden objects.

If you harbor such an unlikely congregation of images within you, this show will come dangerously close to dazzling you. If you don't, on a higher level it will direct your attention to the concept of weightlessness.

The artist is motivated by the principle of floating and the ability of art to detach us from certain physical laws that impede that circumstance. He is also interested in energy as represented by mechanics blended into art. Thus, engineering, in the form of physical structures, and energy-producing devices such as solar panels enter into his work.

The work in this show can compound into delicate, lavishly colored or gilded structures, encasing or supporting elements of infinite complexity and carrying such descriptions as "Maquette for heliocentric weathervane sculpture with solar voltaic self-energized lighting system for park plaza." For an amateur such as I, it is all a bit of surrealism gone hard, but more delectable than I can say.

This is a show that takes a long time to see. A piece such as "Solar Tower" will charm and confound you, and the model for "Memorial for the Disappeared" is of the order of Le Corbusier, Frank Ghery and Oscar Niemeyer. It should be built in a place where space is an endless vista.


There is a boundary between cleverness and art. This is often seen in what was once (and perhaps still is) called assemblage. Simply put, it means a bringing together of articles that are not in themselves objects of art and creating a work of art from them. Skillful people often approach the boundary, but most don't make it across.

For the work of an artist that transcends cleverness, see "John Sideli, The Sum of the Parts" at Gleason Fine Art in Boothbay Harbor. Sideli has shown in Maine before, but never with such brio and finesse.

There is nothing tentative in his pieces; they join as aesthetic destiny intended them to do. Born to lives of smaller virtue, they, at the hand of Sideli, escape from an inglorious end to gather joyfully on the walls of the cognoscenti.

Here, cleverness does not reign. Here, pieces of intrinsic virtue, but intended for other performances, accept the obligation of carrying forward under new titles and with new companions. As I said, it's not cleverness; it's the destiny of a lucky few.

I note "Temperature Rising," a somewhat Rube Goldberg-ish framed composition of a tiny rusted model of a wrecker. The model sits atop a gold ball supported by a tapered shaft painted in three colors, offset by a suspended clock face and a globe and by assorted small balls.

It's terrific, as is "Stencils," a typographic achievement, and "Track One," from the glorious days of railroading.

See it. It doesn't get any better.

Philip Isaacson of Lewiston has been writing about the arts for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 46 years. He can be contacted at:



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