March 17, 2013

Art Review: 'Worldview': Answer's in the questions


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Alice Spencer’s “Yardage II”.

Courtesy photos

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Melita Westerlund’s coral reef wall reliefs and paintings by Abby Shahn.

Additional Photos Below


"MAINE WOMEN PIONEERS III: WORLDVIEW," including Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Kate Cheney Chappell, Marlene Ekola Gerberick, Judy Ellis Glickman, Barbara Goodbody, Rebecca Goodale, Natasha Mayers, Arla Patch, Abby Shahn, Alice Spencer and Melita Westerlund. Co-curated by Anne Zill, Gael McKibben and Andres Verzosa

WHERE: UNE Art Gallery, 716 Stevens Ave., Portland

WHEN: Through May 12

HOURS: 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; until 7 p.m. Thursday or by appointment

INFO:; 221-4499

ALSO: Conversations with the artists 5 to 6:30 p.m. March 28 and April 18

Together, the work of Abby Shahn, Alice Spencer and Westerlund (colorists all) looks great in the upper gallery. I particularly like Spencer's elegant and beautifully finished cubist-like paintings of textiles. These paintings quietly take on the art versus craft question next to Spencer's not-so-quiet, quilt-like collage (which is, unfortunately, upside-down in the catalog).

Westerlund's sumptuously colorful coral reef wall reliefs, however, are the stars of the show. Not only are they visually exciting and handsome, they are technically unusual (cotton fiber constructions over a metal armature), and they deliver a passionate warning about the Earth's coral reefs that is electrified by Allen-Efstathiou's lessons about human-driven environmental catastrophe.

Dovetailing with their cautionary environmentalism is Kate Cheney Chappell's nature-inspired mysticism. Her seaside paintings find spirit in seams and tiny, overlooked places.

Chappell's illusion- and camouflage-oriented floor installation of stones and sea-life prints -- in standing mirrored Mylar rings -- might be the most original and meditatively fascinating piece in the show.

"Worldview" is a largely successful show that is definitely worth visiting.

The challenge at this point, after all, is not to prove that women can make important or influential art or -- like Colby's Sharon Corwin, the Center for Contemporary Art's Suzette McAvoy or UNE's Anne Zill -- successfully lead cultural institutions, but rather to de-compartmentalize women artists.

It's a strange process -- less like starlets ascending to limelight heights than a diver decompressing from the dark depths to reach the breathable sea-level air under a sunlit sky.

"Maine Women Pioneers III" takes on an enormously important subject -- maybe not perfectly, but with sufficient grace and ample dignity. After viewing it, you might ask: "Where is the feminism?" But "Worldview" is less about diversity than transcending adversity. It is about perspective -- which, sometimes, is an ever-shifting target.

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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Detail of Kate Cheney Chappell’s “Go Inside the Stone III”.

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Arla Patch’s “Burning Off the Past.”

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A drawing from Judy Allen-Efstathiou’s “Tree Museum” series.

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