April 28, 2013

Art Review: Follow Stephan's maze of 'Paths' at Coleman Burke


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Installation views of Aaron T. Stephan’s “Paths” at the Coleman Burke Gallery in Brunswick. The exhibit is a work in progress ... with tools and scaffolding scattered about,

Courtesy photos

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... with tools and scaffolding scattered about ...

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WHERE: Coleman Burke Gallery, Fort Andross Mill, 14 Main St., Brunswick

WHEN: Through May 25

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and by chance or appointment

PUBLIC RECEPTION: 5 to 7 p.m. May 24

INFO: colemanburke.com

In short, Stephan is tapping metaphysics -- the inconceivable or the ineffable. In culture, this has generally fallen to religion or spirituality as elements of faith. For classical philosophy, this has long been a fly in the ointment.

In a statement, Stephan cites Ludwig Wittgenstein's treatise in which the Austrian philosopher posits that any discussion of mysticism by definition falls apart immediately.

Ironically, "Paths" can be seen as an illustration of "Wittgenstein's Ladder" -- the proposition that ideas used as means to other ideas are then discarded as one discards a ladder after using it (think staircase).

If so, then Stephan is making the don't-go-there case that some things aren't supposed to be understood or empirically provable (think New England transcendentalism).

With "Paths" (and following Wittgenstein's saying/showing distinction), Stephan makes a compelling case that you don't always have to explain to understand. So, no, there will not be a quiz.

What matters most with "Paths" is the public experience of the studio. In fact, seeing the clamps and tools that will later be discarded actually helps. Also, the artist and his crew.

But on a basic level, this is an opportunity to see what really goes into making an ambitious, large-scale public sculpture.

It's even more important to visit this show because the days of the Coleman Burke Gallery appear to be numbered.

What I particularly like about "Paths," however, is the sense of accomplished professionalism. This is no Island of Misfit Toys -- it is real people working under the glow of a green light.

"Paths," after all, has a deadline and a destination. 

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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... and even yellow police tape.


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