August 25, 2013

Art Review: Paintings in the key of Dylan anchor strong lineup at UMMA


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“Surrender” by Emily Trenholm.

Images courtesy UMMA

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“Rock Row” by Emily Trenholm.

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: University of Maine Museum of Art, 40 Harlow St., Bangor

WHEN: Through Sept. 21

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

INFO:; 561-3350

Downey does not, however, make a compelling case for his subject. There is no general engagement, cutting insight or paroxysms of meaning.

Two of his best paintings include large portraits of a bearded guy in a toque smoking pot like tobacco on mountain-top rock ("Little Things") and then a buxom young woman clad like a 19th-century prostitute drinking alone with a vague stare ("New Way of Living"). The latter work is clearly a response to Degas' absinthe drinkers, but cast in the broken promise of the American West.

Downey's "His Two Obsessions" comes closest to his target of creating a narrative about tracking an off-the-grid existence. It shows a hermit's camp rendered in well-varied passages of paint. We see a book open to pictures of Bigfoot and a woman. The crypto-zoology point is clear, but the other slides between women and art. It's a fascinating painting, but we can't quite see it for either observation or fantasy: It's too vague for journalism and too over-determined to be compelling as fiction.

That Agundes is hamstrung by her handling of the brush becomes apparent after seeing Emily Trenholm's charming little show of Monhegan seascapes in the front projects gallery and then works from the permanent collection such as Dozier Bell's warringly dark targeting map painting, Mark Wethli's chair interior and a pair of John Marin watercolors among others.

Agundes' dream-like association and morphing canvases are interesting, but since they rely on the creative process of painting, they succeed only when the painting is strong -- and that's limited to a pair of images of dogs in mountain-scapes ("Water Fire Fight" and the fantastic "Visiting Mount Lassen" in which the dog's head and the mountain struggle to attain cubist status) and a jungle-ish image of a fern-surrounded morphing leopard ("She Put Chicken in her Omelet").

Yet Agundes' relatively weak mark-making plays to the conceptual side of her work; and next to Downey's, we are compelled to see them as psychological narratives -- and that's a good challenge for Maine's usual audience.

Overall, UMMA's current slate features a bunch of very interesting paintings. It is absolutely worth a visit.

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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“White” by Joanne Freeman.

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“Three Chords" by Joanne Freeman.

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"Sweet Spot” by Joanne Freeman.

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“The Modernist” by Sean Downey.

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“iDeath (edibles)” by Sean Downey.

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“Hiking Bumpass Hell,” by Rachelle Agundes.

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“Visiting Mt. Lassen” by Rachelle Agundes.


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