March 11, 2012

ART REVIEW: There's much to see in this strange little exhibit of 'Portraits'


(Continued from page 1)

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"Patty" by Sally Dennison.

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"Cowboy" by Mat Thorne.

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Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Addison Woolley Gallery, 132 Washington Ave., Portland

WHEN: Through April 1

HOURS: Noon to 5 p.m. Thursday to Sunday

INFO: 317-6721;

Dennison's characters are quirky enough to exude personality or individual story simply by means of a single portrait photograph. They force many interesting -- though often uncomfortable -- questions about how we project identity onto others.

Thorne's all-male movie set-piece portraits with a solid 1970s cast make for quite a pendant to Dennison's twistedly introverted femaleness. Rather than individuals, Thorne presents recurring types made from vertical strips of images from at least six different movies per image.

I can't stand the idea of eternal "archetypes" (they are often tools of oppression), but while Thorne overtly employs them, I don't see that he's defending the notion.

Is Thorne's work photography? Digital print-making? Or some kind of film-based work? His process is interesting to consider, given that you can imagine him scanning his own memory for images to hunt down in movies he saw long ago. He must then get the films on DVD and grab the images -- more Photoshop.

Thorne's maniacal "Cowboy" is the most eye-catching, and yet the most easily understandable -- the good, the bad and the ugly all in one. His "Boxer" uses the blood coloring of brutalized faces to make a strangely beautiful image.

His best, however, is "Astronaut," because the squarish format and echoed details -- such as the reflections on the helmet glass -- wind up delivering a visually coherent yet emotionally varied set of facial expressions.

While I was initially drawn more to Dennison's uncanny images, Thorne's archetypes are far more likely to lead to interesting conversations. And yet they are both better for being together: Identity as composite; archetypes as cultural creations; individuality versus character; self-portraiture as inversion; and so on.

"Portraits" is a little show, but it offers much to see and even more to think about. 

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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"Theresa" by Sally Dennison

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Mat Thorne's "Boxer".

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