The 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial will include 25 artists, and all but one has never exhibited at the PMA before. For the second time in a row, the biennial will include the influence and presence of Wabanaki artists.

The biennial opens Jan. 26, 2018.

The artists are: Gina Adams, Becca Albee, Nancy Andrews, Elise Ansel, Elizabeth Atterbury, Stephen Benenson, Sascha Braunig, Anne Buckwalter, Steve Cayard and David Moses Bridges, Tim Christensen, Jenny McGee Dougherty, Angela Dufresne, David Driskell, John Harlow, Séan Alonzo Harris, Erin Johnson, Shaun Leonardo, Jonathan Mess, Daniel Minter, Rosamond Purcell, Joshua Reiman and Eric Weeks, Fred Tomah, DM Witman.

The artists represent a variety of media, including canoe-making.

The museum hired Nat May, former director of Space Gallery, as an independent curator to select artists for the exhibition. PMA director Mark Bessire, artist and Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance co-founder Theresa Secord and Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture co-director Sarah Workneh helped May make the final selections.

May sought artists who complement each other and reflect Maine’s diverse communities. In a departure from previous biennials, many of the artists will exhibit several examples of their work.


“Rather than put together a ‘greatest hits’ exhibition, we wanted to use the opportunity of the (b)iennial to focus on artists who hadn’t previously participated in PMA Biennials or other programming at this institution,” May said in a press release. “To show work in a museum can be an important step for an artist, and to present work to a museum audience can invite a unique opportunity for dialogue and exchange in our varied cultural community.”

All artists live in Maine or have ties to the state.

This is the 10th biennial in the PMA history, and the second primarily organized by an independent curator. Most recently, the biennial that opened in October 2015 was curated by Alison Ferris of Edgecomb. In the early years of the biennial, the PMA solicited submissions by artists and made selections by jury.

The exhibition provides an every-other-year examination of the contemporary art scene in Maine, as seen through the eyes of a curator or jury.

Participants include established artists like painter Driskell, photographer Purcell and mixed-media artist Minter. A canoe built collaboratively by Cayard and the late Passamaquoddy canoemaker Bridges will be part of the display, along with Indian baskets by Tomah and a variety of work by Adams, a Maine College of Art graduate with Indian heritage.

“I’m very happy with the exhibition’s range,” May said. “We’ve assembled a great group of people, of identities, and of histories to be represented. The value of the show is in the dialogs it will create, among the artworks selected and among the artists and viewers.”

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