In 2003, Jessica May and Karen Sherry worked together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

May had a fellowship in the photography department at the Met, while Sherry worked as a research assistant.

Their paths went in different directions. May ended up in Texas as an associate curator for photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth. Sherry stayed in New York, eventually working as an associate curator at the Brooklyn Museum.

Nearly a decade later, the two woman are reunited at the Portland Museum of Art.

May is the museum’s new curator of Contemporary and Modern Art, while Sherry was named curator of American Art.

May began her duties in early June. Sherry arrived last week.

Sherry knows Maine reasonably well, albeit from the floor of a tent. She’s done a lot of outdoor adventures, mostly around Acadia and Moosehead.

May has become familiar with Maine recently, thanks to an association with Colby museum director Sharon Corwin. She worked with Corwin on the “American Modern” photography exhibition. It showed at Colby last year, after a display at the Amon Carter and the Art Institute of Chicago. May came to Maine often during the collaboration, and fell in love with the state.

Both were attracted to Maine because of the state’s rich visual arts legacy.

“Maine has always held an important place in the history of American art,” said Sherry, who completed her master’s thesis on Winslow Homer and is eager to help the museum open its Homer studio at Prouts Neck in September and mount a major Homer painting exhibition, “Weatherbeaten,” in the fall. “Maine has so many historical connections to my field.”

In addition to her work at the Brooklyn Museum and the Met, Sherry has worked at the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., and as an adjunct professor at various colleges. She also has received several big-time fellowships, including one from the Met and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

She did her graduate work in art history at the University of Delaware, and earned her undergraduate degree from Boston University.

Sherry resides in Portland, and is excited about living in “such a culturally rich city that is on the water and so close to the woods.”

May’s first big project will be organizing the 2013 PMA Biennial, which will open next fall. The call for entries will go out in October, and May will serve as the biennial sole juror.

She promises the 2013 Biennial will be “significantly different” than previous biennials “because I bring a different set of eyes.” As a newcomer, she has no preconceived ideas about Maine’s contemporary art scene. She intends for the biennial — and for all of the exhibitions that she organizes — to tell a story that helps the community understand itself and helps the community understand contemporary art.

Like Sherry, May also has won a Smithsonian fellowship and was a Mellon Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her graduate degrees from Berkeley and her undergraduate degree from Columbia.


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

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Twitter: pphbkeyes