April 14, 2013

Art Review: 'Lines,' 'Figure' fortuitiously converge in Portland spaces


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Drawing by Rohan Henry from “Lines Converge, Colors Dance.”

Courtesy photos

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“Malaga Man” by Daniel Minter, from “Go Figure”

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Museum of African Culture, 13 Brown St., Portland

WHEN: Through June 28

HOURS: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday

COST: $5; free for ages 5 and under

INFO: 871-7188; museumafricanculture.org 


WHERE: Greenhut Galleries, 146 Middle St., Portland

WHEN: Through April 27

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

INFO: 772-2693;


Ellen's broom explodes with meaning as our society grapples with denying gays the civil right of marriage. While "jumping the broom" was a wedding for some, it was a symbol of witchcraft and fear for others. Minter taps this topic with undeniable (though subtly subversive) power.

Minter's most meaningful work as a Maine artist, however, is at Greenhut: "Malaga Man," a tall, narrow, wooden low-relief painting of an African-descended man from one of Maine's most shameful chapters. (Malaga Island was home to a post-Emancipation interracial community evicted in 1912; the men, women and children were forcibly abducted from their families to erase their identities. To destroy the community, even the graves were exhumed.)

Painted in a primitivist style, the Malaga man's almond-shaped eyes unblinkingly meet yours. He stands ankle deep in water over a cod and lobster, clearly identifying the place as Maine. Over his heart floats the image of his home -- a simple shack -- which reflects sacred glowing light on his hands that encircle the home.

This hands-around-heart gesture is repeated in a trio of Minter's canvases based on a repeated frontal form of a girl in a dress whose African-featured face is presented in complete profile. Together, these comprise a very successful group that reveals the artist's concerns between what is repeated and the myriad symbolic variations amongst them.

Sun and moon, bows and arrows, mirrored images, bones, the ocean, death, boats, a lily ("Susanna"), shacks, birds and so much more create a powerfully rich world of syncretistic symbolism ranging among the natural, tribal and Christian worlds of the African-American experience.

The apparently simple primitivism of Minter quickly fades behind his painterly talent and, in particular, his virtuoso quality of gossamer line.

"Lines converge" and "Go Figure" are both solid. But together, they are particularly fascinating.

As an important Maine artist, Daniel Minter has arrived.

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


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Additional Photos

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“Susanna at the Baths” by Joseph Nicoletti “from “Go Figure”

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“The Met” by Judy Taylor from “Go Figure”

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“Santa Barista” by Alison Goodwin from “Go Figure”

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Illustration from “Ellen’s Broom” by Daniel Minter, from “Lines Converge, Colors Dance.”

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A detail from the Minter-illustrated book “Ellen’s Broom,” from “Lines Converge, Colors Dance.”

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Illustrations by Ashley Bryan depicting a loving Louis Armstrong, from “Lines Converge, Colors Dance.”

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