Eric Brown, “Unorganized Territories,” (Rockwood Strip) 2020, Unique inkjet print and watercolor Photos courtesy of Maine Museum of Photographic Arts

If you’ve been to Maine Museum of Photographic Arts, feeling a bit overwhelmed upon entering the Middle Street gallery should come as nothing new.

Director Denise Froelich is a maximalist, cramming in an overkill of artists working in the photographic medium (24 on this go-round) in order to show as much work as possible in the confines of this modestly sized gallery. Her latest show, “Twelfth Night: Gorgeous Works and Artist Books” (through Jan. 31), is no exception.

It’s also clear that she has her perennial favorites. Like almost every show prior to this one, you will encounter her usual suspects: Cole Caswell, Carol Eisenberg, Barbara Morris Goodbody, Rose Marasco and John Woodruff, to name a few. There’s good reason for all of these, of course, as their work never fails to intrigue. And some of them have exceptional work on display in this show. But I’m eager to see work of artists I don’t know, a smattering of which are in this show.

Rose Marasco, “Circle No. 4,” 2001, From the Circle Series, 2001-2002, Cibachrome, 15 x 17 inches

Regular Rose Marasco presents a very affecting group of works that revolve around themes of domesticity (a subtext that runs through many works in the show, in fact). In a museum case veritably squished up against the street window are various “Windows & Walls” works: a picture of closed wooden shutters with light peeking through them, floral wallpaper on which a mirror pointed at a window produce interesting light effects on the wall, an arrangement of pots on a kitchen table with light raking across them. All evoke nostalgic feelings of home and hearth.

She also offers a grouping of vivid Cibachrome prints that feature domestic objects against solid-colored backgrounds – a pan against a red background, candy lifesavers arranged on beadboard over which window shutters cast a shadow and, quite beautiful in its simplicity, a blue fabric on which she has arranged a circle made of sewing pins and, below it, two sets of sewing needles in their paper holders. Some of these also have images projected onto them. The quality of light and the relatability of these objects make them so familiar that we might not notice the diverse skills she employs in composition, use of light and shadow, and layering of projections.

Lynn Karlin, “Spatula and whisks,” 2015, Dye sublimation on aluminum, 36 x 36 inches

Lynn Karlin’s dye sublimation prints on aluminum, though not at all employing the same methodology, have a similar essence. Focused entirely on what Karlin terms “kitchenalia” – by which she means old flatware and kitchen utensils picked up at yard sales and antiques shops – each composition groups a series of these on worn metal trays, which she shoots from above. The objects themselves, particularly in arrangements of spatulas and beaters, evoke idyllic (or imagined) memories of grandma’s kitchen. But it is the aged quality of these objects, such as tarnished and pitted silver spoons tied with course twine, or the handles of beaters whose blue and turquoise paints have partially rubbed off with use, that give them their wistful, bygone aura.


“The Hostess,” by Noah Krell, shows the title character holding a glass of wine and looking head-on into the camera. Between viewer and subject is a dining room table littered with the remnants of a meal – soiled plates, a bowl of oyster shells, empty beer bottles. The hostess’s flowery apron seems oddly cheery in the face of this culinary devastation. Caleb Cole’s C-print is a sort of Cindy Sherman-like examination of identity (gender and sexuality), but set within a domestic interior that lends the work a distinctly narrative quality. The figure is Cole himself, but dressed up as a dandy and looking like a connoisseur amid his collections of books and art.

Melonie Bennett, “Summer, Uncle Dave’s house,” 2012, Silver print, 13 x 19 inches

In some cases, the domestic narratives move from nostalgic to weird. Melonie Bennett’s photos of outdoor summer parties telegraph a Diane Arbus-like eccentricity that may trigger a bit of unease in the viewer. One silver print, “Summer, Uncle Dave’s House,” is particularly off-putting. Two boys occupy the left side of the picture. They shield themselves from the cold spray of a hose with an improbable Japanese parasol. Holding the hose is a tattooed adult man turned toward another adult behind him, completely indifferent to the boys’ squealing delight. Next to him is a woman with a beer and a blank expression and, next to her, an adolescent with an equally inscrutable countenance. In the foreground is a pile of beer cartons that look readied for a fire. It’s a very intriguing image, even if the disconnectedness of the scene’s various characters feels a bit sad and dissociated.

Nick Gervin’s grid of Portland people and scenes, mostly nocturnal due to two head injuries he sustained that make shooting in daylight difficult for him, present a city most of us never see. In its documentary quality and use of flash, his work is part Weegee (the 1930s-40s crime scene photojournalist Ascher (Usher) Fellig; part Henri Cartier-Bresson (in the sense of that photographer’s legendary pursuit of “the decisive moment”). Many of these photos appear in his just-released book, “Portlanders.” A scene of crashed vehicles in a junkyard carries that Weegee sensibility of violence’s aftermath and casualty, but tempered by an element of wonder in the starry sky behind them. A dog poised to jump out from behind a column has the expectation and imminence we find in Cartier-Bresson.

Jan Pieter van Voorst van Beest, “Poppys,” 2013, Inkjet print, 30 x 22 inches

Other photographers explore different means to capture a kind of timeless moment: not really old, though there is a whiff of time-passed in them, but not really in the present either. Jan Pieter van Voorst van Beest’s use of the archival pigment process in his prints of a lunaria plant and a poppy lend the works a sense of age, yet the compositions are modern. Fran Vita Taylor’s “Earth’s Tones and Textures” is a photographic assemblage that also has this suspended-in-time quality. All these works are full of heart and quiet beauty.

New to this gallery are the lyrical, somewhat swampy-spooky works of W. Eric Brown. The wall labels describe these as a unique inkjet prints with watercolor, which makes me think the watercolor is applied on top of the print, rather than the printing occurring atop the watercolor. Whatever the order, however, they feel hot and humid and a bit mysterious, teeming with life and a central light source that appears to be a sun setting in the distance. They are enormously evocative and moody.

Caroline Savage, “Sky is Dreaming,” 2019, Edition 1/10, Cyanotype on cotton rag paper, 12 x 12 inches

Were I to go through every artist, it would take up the whole newspaper. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot to look at here. You’ll like some and not others. Don’t forget to look in Froelich’s office – she exploits every surface available – particularly for two less-than-optimally hung works by Caroline Savage. These images employ various steps: taking a photo from a moving car, making an inkjet print from it on rag paper, covering it with Cyanotype chemicals and scattering flowers in the sky area when they’ve dried. Then they’re exposed to sunlight (the ink and Cyanotype mediums acting like resist dyes), processed in water and rephotographed to produce a final inkjet print, where the voids left by the flowers appear like a fireworks display in the sky. Just the sort of innovation Froelich is partial to, with arrestingly vivid color results (that blue is stunning!).

Jorge S. Arango has written about art, design and architecture for over 35 years. He lives in Portland. He can be reached at: 

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