January 22, 2012

Bob Keyes: Winter wonderscape of new shows

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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“The Metropolitan Museum of Art Library (Dürer),” 2006, oil on canvas by Xiaoze Xie, from the exhibition of his work opening this week at the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston.

Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

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“Mary Bok with Surely & Honey the Dogs, Camden, Maine,” 2011, from the exhibition of Tanja Alexia Hollander’s portraits of her Facebook friends, opening in February at the Portland Museum of Art.

Courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

Additional Photos Below


WHERE: Bates College Museum of Art, Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St., Lewiston

WHEN: Through March 18. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday


INFO: bates.edu/museum

WHAT ELSE: Xiaoze Xie will discuss his work at 6 p.m. Thursday in Room 104 of the Olin Arts Center.


WHERE: Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, 522 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Opens Wednesday. Through April 8. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, with extended hours to 7 p.m. Thursday.


INFO: meca.edu/meca-life/ica

WHAT ELSE: An opening reception will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.


WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square

WHEN: Feb. 4 to June 17. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.

HOW MUCH: $12; $10 for seniors and students with ID; $6 for ages 13 to 17; free for ages 12 and younger; free for all after 5 p.m. Fridays

INFO: portlandmuseum.org

WHAT ELSE: At 6 p.m. March 8, museum director Mark Bessire and Hollander will discuss the show and her work.

First Maine show for native son

Michael Bell-Smith is a curious, somewhat unknown and still largely undiscovered figure in Maine art. When ICA director Daniel Fuller suggested hosting Bell-Smith, his colleagues at MECA asked, "Who?"

Born in East Corinth in 1978 and now living in New York, Bell-Smith is best known for constructing lo-fi environments that are familiar to those of us who remember the early personal computers and home-gaming systems. In all his work, he uses digital forms to ponder popular technologies in contemporary culture.

The ICA show will be his first in his native state. Although he has shown all over the world and in major museums, he has never shown a single piece of art in Maine.

The show opens Thursday, and will remain on view through April 8.

"I've known his work for quite a while," said Fuller, who came to Maine by way of Philadelphia, where he and Bell-Smith were neighbors. "He was sort of a pioneer in the lo-fi digital movement. He became known as an innovator of this style. But the thing about Mike is, he never stays in that old way of working. He is always pushing it, always trying something new and trying to make something a little edgier."

The Portland show will include what Fuller calls "a pretty impressive video exhibition and new work that we have commissioned that will go from here to an exhibition in Switzerland."

Bell-Smith will visit MECA for a lecture in February.

Social media as art

At the Portland Museum of Art, Hollander will explore the concept of friendship in the Facebook age with "Are You Really My Friend?" It opens Feb. 4 as part of the museum's ongoing "Circa" series that specializes in contemporary art.

For the past year, Hollander, who lives in Auburn, has traveled around the country to visit as many of her Facebook friends as possible. Some she knows well, others she had never met. This show features 59 photographs that will remain up throughout the show, as well as new ones added during the course of the show.

Her Facebook project is an ongoing concern, and Hollander has planned a series of events designed to engage museum visitors.

Hollander is best known as a landscape photographer. She founded the Bakery Photographic Collective, now based in Westbrook.

This project, which started with an idea sparked by a quiet residency in the French countryside, has led her into the next phase of her career.

A St. Louis native, she moved to Portland as a teenager. She took photography classes at Maine College of Art while still in high school, and earned her bachelor's degree at Hampshire College in Massachusetts in 1994. She has shown regularly in Maine, New York, Boston and elsewhere, and has twice been selected for the Portland Museum of Art Biennial, winning a purchase prize in 2007.

With this project, Hollander has attempted to remove the virtual limitations of social media by visiting her friends -- 600 and counting -- in person and presenting them as profiles in their homes.

"It's awkward to show up on someone's doorstep with a camera," she told the Maine Sunday Telegram last fall. "But what I am realizing as I travel and as I meet people, one of the things that is most striking to me is how generous people are. Which is the opposite of what you would expect from a Facebook project.

"These people are real and genuine. People have fed me and offered me a place to stay."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Additional Photos

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Opening Wednesday at the Institute of Contemporary at Maine College of Art is an exhibit featuring the digital creations of Michael Bell-Smith.

Courtesy of Maine College of Art

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“May 23, 2003. C.T.,” 2007, ink on rice paper by Xiaoze Xie.

Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

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“Samantha Appleton, Washington, D.C.,” 2011, by Tanya Alexia Hollander.

Courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

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