Portland Museum of Art treated its Contemporaries and Director’s Circle members on Aug. 10 to a playful, colorful and bold Summer Party, loosely inspired by the exhibit “Flying Woman: The Paintings of Katherine Bradford.”

The steel drums of Maine Marimba Ensemble set a festive but casual vibe in a patch of parking lot on Spring Street, with roaming performances from puppeteers Bridget McAlonan and Michela Micalizio adding a touch of whimsy. Members socialized on clusters of lawn furniture under strings of lights, played vintage games from Acadia National Bar and enjoyed local beer and wine, fresh O’ Oysters, creative sliders from Black Tie Catering and cold scoops of Gelato Fiasco.

“This is the epitome of summer,” said Liz Williams of Cumberland Foreside.

Not bad for a year when the Shaw Sculpture Garden was closed because of construction on High Street. And it was high time, after the pandemic in 2020 and thunderstorms in 2021.

“We wanted to get outdoors with a fun cultural party vibe,” said Ashleigh Hill, the museum’s director of philanthropy. “This is about stewardship and cultivating our membership.”

Sponsors and host committee members enjoyed a pre-party tour of the Bradford exhibit – a vibrant world of superheroes and swimmers – guided by PMA Director Mark Bessire. The 1999 painting “Flying Woman,” from which the exhibit gets its name, is a sort of self-portrait, a woman in a red cape and nothing else, set against a blue sky. It is left up to interpretation whether she is flying upward or descending in an act of power and vulnerability.

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“Bradford is quietly one of the most influential artists today nationally,” Bessire said. “And this painting is her calling card.”

To a Maine audience, Bradford’s 2015 piece “Fear of Waves” looks as if it could have been imagined by a seagull flying over Old Orchard Beach: tangerine-colored figures with their arms up, turning away from oncoming waves in a turquoise sea. You can almost hear children squealing with delight.

“The exhibit is magical – the colors and the textures,” said board member Paige Carter of Yarmouth. “It’s bright and bold.”

And it’s on view through Sept. 11.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]


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