May 27, 2012

Sexy 60: Maine art museum celebrates big birthday

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ROCKPORT – If art is a dialogue, then the conversation this spring at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art feels like a well-told play.

click image to enlarge

"This is Only a Test," hammered and bolted 12-inch spikes, by John Bisbee.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

click image to enlarge

"Picnic at Blue Rock," oil on canvas, by Katherine Bradford.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

Additional Photos Below

ON VIEW

60th ANNIVERSARY "HONORS EXHIBITION"

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

WHEN: Through July 8

HOW MUCH: $5/donation

INFO: 236-2875; cmcanow.org

The Rockport gallery opened last weekend with a 60th anniversary "Honors Exhibition" that focuses on five artists who, through their work and career paths, reflect the mission of CMCA to advance contemporary art in Maine.

CMCA director Suzette McAvoy opened the gallery two weeks early because she felt so strongly about this season-opening show. She wanted to allow as much exposure as possible.

"These five artists continue to experiment and find new ways of working within their chosen medium," she said while leading a casual gallery tour last week. "Through their work, they represent innovation and continue to challenge themselves. This work advances what we think about art and art in Maine."

The five artists are among the best-known working in the state today: Sculptor John Bisbee; painters Mark Wethli, Katherine Bradford and Frederick Lynch; and photographer Todd Watts. The show is on view through July 8.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this exhibition is the common bond among these five artists. All work in Maine and draw influence from the state's natural environment, but their work is not about Maine. They do not paint the landscape or use natural elements in their sculptures.

Yet, while Maine is not necessarily apparent in the outcome of their studio practices, none of these artists would do the work they do if not for their presence in Maine.

"Maine factors into their work, but is not reflected in it," McAvoy said.

That says a lot about the state of contemporary art in Maine. The genre is not bound by a sense of place. Instead, Maine has become a place where contemporary art can flourish. The work being made here today would fit in contemporary art galleries or museums anywhere, McAvoy said.

CMCA can claim a lot of credit for the evolution of contemporary art in the state. It was founded in 1952 as Maine Coast Artists by a small group of artists, and moved into its current location in the old Rockport firehouse in 1967.

As part of this season-opening exhibition and anniversary celebration, McAvoy invited Maine Media Workshops graduate Jonathan Laurence to go through boxes of old photos and assemble an exhibition that tells the center's story. He collaborated with Julie O'Rourke to present a witty and informative overview of the arts center through photos and graphics on the center's lower level.

But the centerpiece of the season-opening show are the individual exhibitions on the main floor and loft galleries. 

NEW DIRECTION FOR BISBEE

The paintings of Bradford and Wethli as well as Bisbee's sculptures inhabit the main floor.

The first thing one notices on entering CMCA is Bisbee's latest piece, "This Is Only a Test." Bisbee has distinguished himself for his work with nails -- bright common spikes, to be precise. He bends, twists, welds and otherwise contorts spikes into gracefully flowing sculptures. Some stand freely; others hang on the walls.

Bisbee has shown across Maine and across the country. His work is always evolving, and this piece marks a new direction. For the first time in a major way, Bisbee assembles his sculpture with bolts instead of welds.

"Test," which looks something like an oversized wine rack, feels laden with tension. It is axiomatic; as you walk around it, its presence changes. It gives the appearance of being in motion, and extends itself into space.

McAvoy paired the paintings of Bradford and Wethli together because each artist shares a common evolution, although in different directions.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

"The Last Supper," 2011, photograph, triptych, by Todd Watts.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

click image to enlarge

"Cleft," "Seam," and "Map", acrylic on panel, by Mark Wethli.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

click image to enlarge

"First Uncertainty," photograph, by Todd Watts.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

click image to enlarge

"Limb," acrylic on panel, by Mark Wethli.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

click image to enlarge

"Flight of the Non-Euclidian Spike," branded wood, by John Bisbee.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

click image to enlarge

"Division Piece #64 (Tempting)," oil and enamel on fiberboard, by Frederick Lynch.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

click image to enlarge

"East Beach" oil on canvas, by Katherine Bradford.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

  


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


 

Blogs

More PPH Blogs