September 8, 2013

Art Review: 'Mentor' puts more than photographs in focus


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From “Mentor,” “Antarctica XLII,” 2007, by John Paul Caponigro.

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From “Mentor,” untitled, 2012, by D.M. Witman.

Additional Photos Below


"MENTOR: 40 PHOTOGRAPHERS/40 YEARS," works by Maine Media Workshops & College former faculty and students, including: Sam Abell, Paul Caponigro, Kate Carter, Ernst Haas, Sean Kernan, Arthur Meyerson, Arnold Newman, Lilo Raymond, Eugene Richards, Craig Stevens, Joyce Tenneson, Tillman Crane, Elizabeth Opalenik, Renee Psiakis, Joanna Swayze, Joe Swayze, Jo Ann Walters, Debbie Fleming Caffery, John Goodman, Costa Manos, Arno Minkkinen, Andrea Modica, John Paul Caponigro, Elizabeth Greenberg, Brenton Hamilton, Stella Johnson, Jan Rosenbaum, Alison Smith, Tim Whelan, Elizabeth Aanes, Christine Collins, Jay Gould, Cig Harvey, Susan Hayre, John Hirsch, Kate Izor, Ann Jastrab, Mat Thorne, Alan Vlach and Deanna Witman


WHERE: Center for Maine Contemporary Art, 162 Russell Ave., Rockport

WHEN: Through Sept. 22

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

COST: $5 suggested; free for members and children

INFO: 236-2875,

Despite the strength of "Mentor," the most entertaining show at CMCA is Caleb Charland's ironically-titled "From the Basement to the Backyard" (it's in the basement). Charland's pictures also revel in the everyday magic.

In his "Fruit Battery Still Life (Citrus)," Charland redeploys the classroom trick of generating electricity by putting a galvanized nail into one side of a potato and copper wire into the other; in this case, the bags of limes, lemons and oranges gather to light an overtly-unplugged lamp while they pose handsomely like a Dutch Master still-life.

Charland's fruit battery shots such as apples in the orchard are joined by other theatrically fascinating images: a comet-like burning tennis ball; drops of water in a jar of oil; a time-lapsed bouncing pen light; a sculpturally brilliant display of magnetism featuring gravity-defying nails, string and a wooden box. Charland crosses the line to compelling art through his concurrent commitments to aesthetics, craftsmanship and photographic technique.

Charland's work also created a scintillating context for a CMCA-hosted (and decidedly unscintillating) talk by New Republic art critic Jed Perl who is touring his new book "Magicians and Charlatans." While Perl's no-school-like-the-old-school elitism purports to champion artists who create parallel universes ("magicians") against the charlatan art-market-manipulators like Gerhard Richter or Andy Warhol, Charland's sparky work contraindicates Perl's snobby notions that the masses don't like, understand or value art of genuinely passionate imagination.

But whatever fascinations or trepidations we hold for the photographic sleight of hand, CMCA's "Mentor" and MMW's accomplishments are both impressively real.

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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From “Mentor,” “Berlin 2012” by Jan Rosenbaum.

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From “Mentor,” Sean Kernan’s “Prisoner with Mirror,” 1976.

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From “Mentor,” “Edda #1, Stone Nave, Iceland,” 2006/2013, by Craig Stevens.

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From “Mentor,” “Moth in Wood Bowl, Cushing, Maine,” 2008, by Paul Caponigro.

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From “Mentor,” “Stilt Man, Ohio State Fair,” 1985, by Renee Psiakis.


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