October 4, 2013

Portland Museum of Art spotlights Maine artists

'Piece Work,' samples the best of the state's contemporary art scene.

Bob Keyes' preview of "Piece Work" at the Portland Museum of Art

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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“Stargazer” by Jason Rogenes, expanded polystyrene foam inserts and electrical components, courtesy of the artist.

All photos courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

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"Iceland/Makena Beach II (Stock Photography)," photo collage by Aaron Williams, courtesy of the artist

Additional Photos Below


The museum has arranged two other related exhibitions to coincide with the biennial.

The first is Amy Stacey Curtis' "9 Walks," which consists of nine videos of a walk in the woods. This installation is part of her ongoing series of solo biennials, which until now she has hosted in mills around the state. Her theme is time and space, and making order of chaos.

The museum will show her projections throughout the building.

For Curtis, the number nine is a perfectly symmetrical and appropriate. It has roots in Greek and Egyptian mythology, and is symbolic on many levels. She has integrated the number into most of her previous biennial projects.

By the completion of her biennial cycle, she will have created 81 interactive works, with nine installations per exhibition, many of which have nine elements or multiples of nine. "Having the number nine as a quantity throughout all my work also adds another element of symmetry, a consistency, threading everything together."

"9 Walks" is part of the museum's continuing Circa series, which highlights contemporary art in Maine. It is coincidental to, but not technically a part of, the biennial, though it fits in its theme and outlook.

In addition, Rahul Mitra is creating a "Box City" project on the museum grounds. Mitra, a trained biochemist, is working with street artists, other biennial artists and the local collective Subone to assemble and paint wine boxes and milk crates donated by local businesses.

They will be assembled in the museum's Sculpture Garden, and be shown throughout the biennial.



WHEN: Opens Thursday, on view through Jan. 5; 10 to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, with extended hours to 9 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square

HOW MUCH: $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, $6 ages 13 to 17, free 12 and younger; free admission for all after 5 p.m. Friday

INFO: 775-6148;


We see evidence of that theme at the outset. May has wrapped a portion of the Great Hall with a vinyl wallpaper produced by Adriane Herman and Brian Reeves, both Portland-based artists. For a decade, Herman has been thinking about to-do lists. She has collected to-do lists from family, friends and neighbors, manipulated them digitally and transferred them into a wall installation that takes the form of wallpaper.

The idea of repetition presents itself not just in the individual to-do lists themselves, which represent reminders about what we must accomplish, day in and day out, but in the repeating pattern of the wallpaper. It's a pleasant visual experience, transforming the Great Hall from a place of high art into one of daily domesticity, with scribbles that say, "Call your mom," "Drop Class," "Heart worm pill" and most optimistically, "Plan weekend."

Inside the first-floor galleries, visitors are treated to an array of work, some that hangs on the walls and other displayed on the floor. The first large-scale installation is "Ha-ha," a mixed-media piece by another Portland artist, Lauren Fensterstock.

For "Ha-ha," Fensterstock has employed her familiar flower petals and blades of grass, all made with black paper, and assembled them in 10-by-10-foot wooden box that stands about 4 feet tall. It takes its name from an English landscape feature. Instead of a fence, 18th-century English landowners would cut a ravine into the earth to create a boundary for their livestock. A fence, they felt, would hamper their view of the landscape, while the ravine, or ha-ha, created the illusion of an untouched landscape.

Kate Beck's "Modern Structure" is an ode to discipline. Beck, who lives in Harpswell, created 100 graphite-on-paper drawings, each 10 by 10 inches and mounted on wood. Her palette is mostly black and white, and her form is a long, straight line, repeated over and over again to create what the artist describes as "quiet blocks of subtle gradients evolved from deliberate, repeated lines." Hung on the wall, the 100 drawings create a stunning visual effect.

JT Bullitt, based in Steuben, is a seismologist by training, an artist by choice. Among his pieces in this show are a series of continuous drawings, some of which look something like a seismologic graph. The concept of a continuous drawing is not unique, but Bullitt does his with a flair that is both memorable and somewhat funny. One, titled "I Will Not Stop Until I am Asleep," meanders back and forth down the 9-inch paper page until the line just stops, in mid-sentence as it were. That, apparently, is where Bullitt rested his eyes.

He has several other pieces in the show, including an audio installation called "Who I Am (Everyone I Have Ever Known." It involves a two-hour iPod recording of Bullitt speaking the first and last names of every person he has ever known or whose name he could remember. It's kind of like him reading the phone book, only randomly. Obsessive, curious and utterly compelling -- at least for a minute or two.

Down the way, we encounter a series of inkjet prints from Waterville-based photographer Gary Green. In his series "Terrain Vague," he documents the abandoned landscapes of industrial central Maine. The photos show evidence of past human activity, but are devoid of much of anything beautiful anymore. These are where the strip malls, subdivisions and industrial parks of the 1970s used to be. Now, there are just abandoned lands, with power lines and rutted tire tracks passing through.

Around the corner is the wall-sized installation called "Library," by Appleton artist Abbie Read. She evokes a folk-art aesthetic, assembling a patchwork of old books, handmade books, book covers and found objects. It's among the more colorful pieces in the show, and raises questions about nostalgia, collecting and the role of relics in our lives.

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Additional Photos

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"Star Field #4," inkjet print by Caleb Charland, courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas, Boston

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"Simon in Grass," inkjet print by Jocelyn Lee, courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery

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"Sferics 2: Bell Cloud" by Zach Poff and N.B. Aldrich, mechanized bells, computer and low-frequency radio receiver, courtesy of the artists

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"Vagtue Idea Vestment (for Elizabeth Hawes)," by Crystal Cawley, felt, jigsaw puzzle pieces, handmade paper, embroidery, quilted hanger (bike hook, scrap wood, stuffing, scrap fabric), photo by Jay York

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"Dually Noted" by Adriane Herman and Brian Reeves, inkjet print, courtesy of the artists

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“The Passenger” by Marguerite White, cut paper, vellum, turntables, halogen lights and sound, courtesy of the artist and John Swisher.

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