“Continuum” installation by Grace Gennaro. Photos courtesy of Center for Maine Contemporary Art

In the years opposite its juried biennial, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art is mounting curated shows on a theme. “Temporality | The Process of Time” is the second in the series. It addresses “current themes in contemporary art,” following 2017’s “Materiality | The Matter of Matter.”

Once again, the CMCA proves it has the purview and curatorial patience – this time under the hand of CMCA Associate Curator Bethany Engstrom – to go deep among contemporary art of the region. “Temporality” makes for a conceptually compelling and handsome show.

Engstrom chose an impressive list of many of the leading contemporary artists in Maine. She doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive, so it is no insult to any artist not included in the show. What she delivers, however, is an introduction to the idea that practice has a counterpart in experience. Let me let Engstrom illustrate.

Gideon Bok often paints in his Rockland studio, a huge space that is a place for friends, art tools, musical instruments, and so on. But Bok paints what he sees: If Joe sits on the couch, Bok paints him. If Joe leaves after a few minutes, then we only see some part of Joe. When Joe alights elsewhere, we see him elsewhere as well. What we’re experiencing is Bok’s subjective, painterly experience of a place, the fleetingness of human interaction.

Grace DeGennaro has long been one of my favorite painters in the country. She often paints large canvases with dots built from simple notions, like a diamond shape welling from the center of the canvas. What we see, however, is a blend of her skill and the impossibility that human sensibilities will line up with geometrical ideals. The result is that DeGennaro’s surfaces writhe with an organic sensuality like a cloth pulled taut in the wind. Her work quivers and we can practically feel its sensual “frisson.”

“Anonymous Biography: Upon,” 1-7, 2019, Giclée photographs on Somerset paper mounted on DiBond, and stack of blankets, by Deborah Wing-Sproul

Next to DeGennaro, we have Deborah Wing-Sproul’s “Anonymous Biography,” featuring a stack of (very small) blankets and photographs of a figure attempting to coil within them. We can sense the reach across stacking the blankets, making the photographs and creating the installation. On the other side of DeGennaro’s work is a suite of pieces by Carly Glovinski in which the artist’s drawing gestures mimic the woven gestures of the works she makes. Her huge paper work spilling off the wall to the floor also plays to the logic of a large fiber piece, and thus hints that the process included its foldable presentation all along.

This main gallery also features the work of Danica Phelps, whose drawings include bookkeeping logic of positive and negative expenditures through the years of her art making. Instead of red and black, however, her look matches the grids of efficient CPU use and she connects different systems by means of threads running below the group.

Aside from Bok’s, these are all in the CMCA’s main gallery, where every work is by a woman. The entire gallery practically quivers with brilliance and craftsmanship. Is there a feminine element to the space? I think so, and I think the entire show benefits from this.

“Temporality” also features several strong male artists, in addition to Bok. Clint Fulkerson’s front wall mural features the artist’s now-quite-familiar systems logic weaving drawings, but with a dash of mathematical presence that looks to the map logic of Dan Mills’ recent CMCA show by including 10 dots per walled-in space. My favorite work in the show might be Jesse Pots’ electronic works that feature an ancient-seeming shovel spinning on its axis in a slow, circular earth-like orbit on its pedestal and a group of flat maps rock-ground by metal arms shifting stones over topographical maps.

Amy Stacey Curtis’s “Clock II,” a shelf of 50 or so black-and-white blocks, includes orders/permission for the viewers to shift the blocks “at the start of each minute.” Curtis is Maine’s doyenne of recipe-oriented installations and few of her many works have ever appealed so well to her strengths as this – quite likely the conceptually strongest work in “Temporality.”

By far the most entertaining work in the show is Robin Mandel’s (2019) “Entertaining Illusion,” which features a long table, wine glasses, reflecting window glass and a couple projectors. Employing an illusion called “Pepper’s Ghost” (named after the English scientist John Henry Pepper, 1821–1900), Mandel presents the viewer with glasses of wine at the far end of a long, slender table that appear as various times as filled, or not filled. It’s an age-old technique, but Mandel’s presentation feels fresh and fun. It’s a piece that happens in real time, with the theatrical filling of the glass by a ghostly hand, but it’s also a tip of the hat to history. For these qualities combined with the elegant table setting, it is one of the most satisfying installations to have ever been mounted at the CMCA.

“Temporality” not only hints at the real-time presence of the viewers and the process-heavy efforts of the makers, but the experience of anyone encountering the work. In this sense, the show is a particularly excellent experience for anyone seeking to grow with their visits to art exhibitions. CMCA itself is growing, and here we are witnessing another giant step forward.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Excerpt from “Income’s Outcomes,” 2013-2019, pencil, watercolor, gouache, Japanese silk tissue and recycles U.S. currency on paper on wood, with carpet thread, by Danica Phelps


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