May 5, 2013

L-A show a true force of nature

Science and art merge in 'Pollinators: Evolving Miracles,' now up at USM's Atrium Gallery.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

LEWISTON - When curator Robyn Holman began thinking about a name for the art exhibition on view at the Atrium Gallery at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn, she knew she had to include the world "miracle" somewhere in the title.

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Maya Kuvaja’s “Molecular Motion,” oil and acrylic transfer on panel

Images courtesy of Atrium Gallery

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Fred Michel’s “Sanguinaria Canadensis, Helleborus,” left, digital photograph

Courtesy of Atrium Gallery

Additional Photos Below



WHEN: Through June 7

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

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


INFO: 753-6500;

With an approach that is both scientific and artistic, the exhibition explores the intersection between flowering plants and their pollinators.

In Holman's mind, that process is nothing short of miraculous. Insects that some of us treat as nuisances carry pollen grains from one part of a plant to another, allowing plants to reproduce and thrive.

The reproductive system has evolved over time, shaping our natural world in such a way that we take it all for granted.

"But when you stop and think about it, it really is pretty amazing," Holman said.

Thus the name: "Pollinators: Evolving Miracles." Her exhibition captures some of that wonder.

It features paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, poetry and video by more than two dozens artists, most of them from Maine. Many are beekeepers or small-scale farmers. Some work with local land trusts. All are sympathetic to the environment and inspired by the natural world.

The works range from the field notes of scientists that include drawings of insects to abstract mixed-media and three-dimensional wall hangings.

A beekeeper who lives in Jefferson, Holman has earned a reputation in the Maine art world for crafting exhibitions that bridge art and science. Three years ago, she curated a show about vernal pools. The year before, she put an exhibition together about invertebrates called "Spineless Wonders."

Now she gives us "Pollination: Evolving Miracles." The timing is perfect, and not just because we're sneezing with the onset of spring. Lately, the plight of the honey bee has been in the news. They are dying off en masse because of a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Many artists have taken note of the plight of the honey bee, and made work in response to the crisis.

Wiscasset printmaker R. Keith Rendall made a 3-foot-wide linocut of honey bees after hearing about their demise. The subject wasn't a stretch -- the artist is known for making huge prints of animals, which he draws from personal experience and observation.

"I had just started learning about these hives that are just being decimated and dying off, and I wanted to draw attention to that," said Rendall.

Kathleen Florance of South Thomaston made a large drawing of a monarch butterfly, which she titled "Moirai."

She sympathizes with what she calls "these little overlooked fragments of nature that we toss away or step on and pay little attention to, the detritus that just gets swept away, the butterfly that was run over by a car. It makes me so sad.

"If it were alive and flying, everyone would be gasping at their beauty. I like to make them huge, in your face. I am fascinated by nature and the power of nature."

Florance is also a big fan of Holman because of the curator's ability to put science and art together in a way that makes sense. People who see this show and take the time to read the wall text will come away with an understanding of how nature works and why, Florance said.

"Moirai" is her tribute to creatures great and small whose destiny is to fly away and move on in service to others.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Rob Kesseler’s hand-colored photo-micrograph of a greater stitchwort pollen grain

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Bernd Heinrich’s “Nicrophorus Tomentosus”

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Kathleen Florance’s “Moirai (Destiny),” relief ink, litho crayon

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Dan Dowd’s “Jack and Jill in the Pulpit,” found objects, photocopies and acrylic paint


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