In the Vanguard, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts 1950-1969 was published by the Portland Museum of Art/University of California Press in 2019. COURTESY PHOTO

In the Vanguard, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts 1950-1969

Published by Portland Museum of Art/University of California Press 2019  
Pages 191 Price $55 
A beautiful hard cover catalogue/book of the new exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art featuring the history of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts of Deer Isle, Maine, is breathtaking. A catalogue is important because it is the lasting record of an exhibition. This catalogue is spectacular because of its library binding cover, many full -color examples of works, and photographs of  significant places and people involved with the school’s growth.
Both this major exhibit at the PMA which runs through September, and the catalogue which is a book in itself, are worth seeing. This unusually artistic catalogue is important because it traces the history of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts with works of major artists associated with the school over two decades. Most of all it preserves the exhibit.
This catalogue also brings out the importance of the crafts movement in the United States and reveals that the Haystack School was in the Vanguard of leading respect for the crafts movement in the 1950’s. It includes descriptions of discussions of its early development in 1946 and 1948 when it was just an idea.
Mark Bessire, Director of the PMA, says in the Director’s Forward, ”Founded in 1950 at the height of modern art’s shift to American shores and at the craft movement in the United States, Haystack not only brought together the very best practitioners of art, craft, and design but also welcomed experimental filmmakers, painters, sculptors, writers, and critics.”
Co-curated by Diana Greenwold and M. Rachael Arauz, the exhibit focuses on the first 20 years of Haystack’s growth and breaks down traditional rigid ideas of the differences between art and craft. In the past fine art was considered to consist of only painting and sculpture. Crafts were considered with less respect and included the following: ceramics, weaving, metalwork, jewelry, basket weaving, photography, glass blowing, and graphics. Times have changed culturally about that attitude towards crafts. The Haystack School was a leader in that change in the 1950’s in establishing and building respect for the crafts.
In fact, the school helped develop the crafts movement in the nation. It was a leader in excellence in breaking down the separation of respect between fine art and crafts.
It takes talent, skill, discipline, training, experience, and expertise in the use of materials, to create a painting or a sculpture. It takes the same degree of mastery of specific skills associated with different mediums to create a wool wall hanging or a vase fired in a kiln, or a hand woven basket or a piece of jewelry hand designed which are considered forms of the crafts. An artist or craftsman has to know expertly the medium in which he is using and how to bring out its beauty. Therefore both are equal in terms of their expertise in using their medium.
This catalogue does mention other craft schools that opened the door to the movement of crafts historically like the following: Penland School of Crafts, Cranbrook Academy of Art, and Black Mountain College.
However, the works in the current exhibit at the PMA focus  on the  history of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts  and their students and faculty members. Their works are now in major museums across the nation. Outstanding works which are featured in the exhibit and found in the catalogue include the following: a wall hanging titled “Procession,” (embroidered wool and cotton) by Mariska Karasz, “Casserole with Cover,” (glazed stoneware), by Karen Karnes, ”Bottle,” (blown glass) by Harvey Littleton, “Storage Jar,” (stoneware) by Mary Caroline Richards, “Moonscape 1,” (colograph on white paper) by James Steg,  “Bowl,”(rosewood) by John May, and “Foggy Day Along the Shore,” (four- color woodcut) by William Shevis to name only a few.
The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts was founded in 1950 by Mary Beasom Bishop, a generous patron, and Francis Merritt, Director. His wife Priscilla Merritt taught weaving. William Shevis and his wife Stell Shevis taught graphics. The famous architect Edward Larrabee Barnes created a campus overlooking the sea on Deer Isle. The location has a touch of poetry and unites rural Maine with a community of creativity.
This scholarly catalogue and exhibit make the Haystack School, which is isolated on Deer Isle and private, accessible to all of the public, and especially people living in Southern Maine who can see the work at the PMA. The catalogue also makes the exhibit accessible for those who live out of state and cannot see it, by  making the exhibit mobile. (The exhibit can go anywhere through the catalogue.) My advice is to try to get into see the exhibit at the PMA. It is beautifully hung with outstanding explanations on the walls near each work. This exhibit is worth a special trip.
In conclusion the artistic catalogue offers a glimpse of the outstanding crafts being done in Maine from one of the best crafts schools in the nation and preserves its creative achievements for posterity. I recommend both the book and exhibit highly. I plan to go back to see the exhibit at the PMA again and again this summer.
PMA hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Free Friday evenings 4 to 8 p.m. Free for ages 21 and under. Admission: $18 adults, $15 seniors, $15 students with I.D. For more information call 775-6148.
Maine Places Maine Faces
Photographs of Fred Field
Forward by Senator Angus King
published by Commonwealth Editions 2008
Pages 128 Price $27. 95
A perfect book for summer reading is “Maine Places, Maine Faces” by Fred Field. He is a gifted and artistic photographer. Each photograph is a work of art. Field has been taking professional photographs for over 25 years.
He grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts and has been a photo journalist since 1980. He graduated from Syracuse University. Over the years he has had more than 15,000 photography assignments, and is a freelance photographer who now lives in Cumberland, Maine. He has worked regularly as a freelance photographer with colleges and universities including Harvard University, Colby College, University of Southern Maine,  and St. Joseph’s College. He also has done work for the Portland Press Herald and the Journal Tribune in the past.
I discovered his photography when doing research for my book “Bernard Langlais Revisited.” I loved a photo taken at the Langlais Sculpture Preserve during its restoration, including an image of a research scholar, Hannah Blunt, who did the inventory of the Langlais Collection for Colby. It was such a poetic photograph that it spoke more than words. I hunted it down and found it in the Colby College Summer Magazine of 2014 and called Colby for permission to use it. They had to contact the photographer and get permission and called me back with an O.K.
The book was published in April and months went by.
Two weeks ago I was in a local book shop in Falmouth and saw a photography book titled “Maine Places Maine Faces” by Fred Field. I thought it can’t be the same person. It was a whole book of photos by Fred Field and they were all beautiful. I didn’t realize he was that well known when I selected a photo for my book. Wonders never cease! People travel all over the world to make new discoveries, and I make them all the time right here in Maine. My new discovery this month is the photography book titled, “Maine Places, Maine Faces,” by Fred Field.
Senator Angus King wrote in the introduction, “Maine is easy to photograph but hard to capture. Part of the problem is the scenery is so overwhelming. Somehow in this gem of a book, Fred Field has focused his extraordinary eye on images we all know but don’t often consciously see.”
As I pored over the photographs in this book I was moved by their use of light and perspective. Each photo was like a visual poem. One wonderful photograph in the book taken in the early dawn is “The Palace Diner” in Biddeford.The book relates that The Palace Diner is Maine’s oldest diner. It was built in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1926. What a great photograph filled with mystery and history.
I loved the photograph of “The Dunstan River in the Scarborough Marsh”  because of its perspective, subtle colors, and reflections of light on the river.
Field states on his website that “light is the essence of photography.” He defines the word photography as coming from the Greek word meaning ‘drawing with light.’
In the work “The Dunstan River in the Scarborough Marsh” Field has ‘drawn with light’ as his camera captured the subtle elements of nature, skyline, reflected water, and unique perspective from an angle in which he took the photograph.
Another magnificent photograph is a portrait of Ted Greene, processing maple sugar in Sebago in 2007. We think of pine trees, lakes, rocky ocean coastlines, fish, and hunting when we think of Maine. We do not think of maple syrup. The book states that Maine has ranked as the second highest state in producing  maple syrup. The photographer has captured a man who is processing maple syrup and enduring the steam from it. He is a no-nonsense person who gets things done and reflects the character of the sturdy Maine people.
This book covers many sites across the state: the Hay building with its flatiron architecture in Portland, the unusual frozen ocean forms at Wolf’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, and a silhouette of the Chocolate Church in Bath. Another beautiful photo reflects the predawn light on snow leading to Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. Portland Head Light is the oldest light house in Maine, commissioned by George Washington in 1791. The author captured an eerie mystical blue light in this photo. Another mystical photo is seen in the work, “The West Branch of the Penobscot River,” and shows Mount Katahdin in the background.
My favorite photograph is a poignant work titled, “Swans Island off Mount Desert Island.” Each photo is a poetic image of Maine. It is perfect for summer reading because you can drive to many of these places on a lovely summer day. If you can’t drive across the state, photos of the beautiful places found in this book bring the locations into your own home. I recommend it highly.
— Pat Davidson Reef is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. She received her Masters Degree at the University of Southern Maine. She taught English and Art History at Catherine McAuley High for many years. She now teaches at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Classic Films. She recently wrote a children’s book,”Dahlov Ipcar Artist,” and has now completed another children’s book “Bernard Langlais Revisited.”

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