No matter how, Bruce Brown vowed to make better use of his time this winter.

Last winter, he barely left the house.

“I was pathetic,” he lamented over a cup of strong coffee last week at Arabica. “Last year, I didn’t have anything to do all winter. I just wasted away.”

He need not worry about staying busy this season. Brown, curator emeritus at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and Maine art’s biggest cheerleader, is making up for lost time.

Fresh off a trip to Italy, Brown is in the process of putting together four photography shows that will open in Portland between January and March. Three of them — one each in January, February and March — will be at the Addison Woolley Gallery in Portland. The other will be in January at the Lewis Gallery of the Portland Public Library.

Brown is as busy as he has been since before his CMCA retirement at the end of 2006. Now 71, he appreciates the opportunity to jump back into the ring and promote the work of artists he admires.


With these exhibitions, Brown can also claim to be the state’s most enthusiastic curator of photography. These four make 50 photo exhibitions by Maine photographers that he has put together since his first season at CMCA in 1988.

First up is an exhibition with a focus on Asia. “Maine Photographers: Eyes on Asia” features eight photographers who work a world away. The show will include images from China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The subject came as a bit of a revelation for Brown, who traveled to Vietnam last year and will include an image of his own in the exhibition. Such an action is a bit bold — Brown attributed his inclusion in the show too good old-fashioned chutzpah — but hardly unprecedented.

Others in the exhibition will include Brendan Bullock, Corliss Chastain, Jon Edwards, Barbara Goodbody, James Marshall, Matthew Smolinsky and Prairie Stuart-Wolff.

For years, Brown has worked to promote the work of Maine artists outside of Maine. This exhibition finds him focusing on artists from the state who choose subjects far away. He got the idea while curating a comprehensive survey of recent Maine photography last year.

“I realized for the first time there are just so many photographers who do a majority of their work beyond the state borders,” he said. “That’s been quite a revelation. And this exhibition shows just how far afield Maine photographers go for their work.”


The Asia show opens on Jan. 5 at Addison Woolley. The next night, on Jan. 6, Brown will open a show at the library called “Around the House.” It will include the work of 17 Maine photographers who choose domestic settings for their work.

For many reasons, photographers tend to look outward and away when they shoot. They rarely focus inwardly.

Brown thinks he knows why.

“Your home is so comfortable and you are so used to it, you don’t look at it as a source of inspiration, or perhaps you don’t want to share it. I think that’s why we see so many landscapes and portraits,” he said.

The theory makes sense, and seems so obvious it’s hardly worth stating. But in his travels, Brown has found a surprising number of accomplished photographers who tackle the unexpected point of view of home as their subject. The show will include work by Luc Demers, Jeffrey Becton, Melonie Bennett, Cig Harvey and many others.

Brown left two obvious choices off the list. One is Rose Marasco, who has made a big part of her career exploring themes of domesticity. The other is Tanja Alexia Hollander, who is best known for her landscape photos but lately has begun a project in which she aims to make portraits of each and every one of her Facebook friends.


Brown opted not to include Hollander’s work in this show because she is due for a solo exhibition that will focus on her Facebook project at the Portland Museum of Art in February. Marasco had a conflict, or otherwise would have been included.

The other shows will look at the collaboration between Portland photographers Caleb Charland and Peter Shellenberger in February and Mat Thorne and Sally Dennison in March.

For a change, Brown is happy with the approach of winter. At least this year, he has something to occupy his time and get him out of the house.

“I can fend off the winter blues,” he said with a laugh. “I’m happy to be revved up and back in action.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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