The lively opening of Lights Out Gallery’s “3,” a pop-up show at the Frank Brockman Gallery in Brunswick. Photo by Ezra Churchill

I don’t recall ever being to an opening quite like the one that heralded “3,” the pop-up show put on by Norway-based Lights Out Gallery at the third-floor Frank Brockman Gallery in Brunswick (through April 2). I was very familiar with the work of two of the four artists in the show (Lynn Duryea and Oliver Solmitz), and found the work of the other two (Lynne Barr and Mark Little) wonderful and surprising.

But what differentiated this opening from others was its energy, which felt particularly enthusiastic and fresh in a youthful sort of way. This can be attributed to the infectious ebullience of Lights Out’s founders – Daniel Sipe, Karle Woods and Reed McClean – and its ripple effects on everyone in the room.

Lights Out started in 2019 to, according to its mission, “connect artists and their circles to a broader community” and to “show emerging and established artists alongside one another to encourage conversation, collaboration, and camaraderie.” In other words, Lights Out is unselfishly not about them; it’s about the artists.

Their first show was at Sipe’s apartment, where the lights went out when the exhibit opened, hence the organization’s name. Last February, the trio purchased the old 13,000-square-foot Tubbs Snowshoes factory in Norway, which they hope will eventually accommodate a bevy of small businesses, local organizations, artists, makers and educators.

Lights Out got through the pandemic by filming artists in their studios (their website is a treasure trove of these videos) and, once gathering in person was OK again, doing pop-up shows in scrappy venues like an abandoned redemption center. You get the picture. Their determination and their positivity permeated the gallery.

Brian Smith and Ian Ellis examine Lynn Barr’s “Squeezed Between Two Meeting Lines.” Photo by Ezra Churchill

And guess what? The art on display is pretty fabulous too. Cornish-based Lynne Barr’s wall sculptures look like modernist cathedrals or the fractured architecture of starchitect Daniel Libeskind, and they explode off the walls at the viewer. These are fascinating works. Each has an opening through which we can view their hall-of-mirrors interior, where we find a group of haloed saint figures or a woman diving naked into pink water or a column adorned with plant-like designs whose blossoms are actually a profusion of forked tongues.


Barr has been open about her atheist beliefs, and these certainly serve to help her work out experiences of fear and sin and guilt from her part Catholic, part Jewish upbringing (though they are certainly aimed squarely at the Catholic part of that equation). Yet it would be a mistake to simply digest them as anti-religious works meant to protest the way religion influences everything from education to politics.

On a broader and much more interesting level, they feel like the intricately complex architectures of the personality, which we create and preserve to protect us from facing our much more vulnerable interior lives. The use of mirrors inside can be interpreted not only as our internal confusion about exactly who and what we are; they can represent the fact that, in the end, no matter how much we distract ourselves from, cover up or deny our vulnerability, we can never escape ourselves. As the saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” Made of corrugated cardboard, these are muscular, powerful works.

Barr’s oeuvre, she admits, is influenced by studies in architecture. Rockland sculptor Oliver Solmitz also studied architecture (he holds a degree) and also often works with corrugated cardboard. On first glance, however, it can seem like these two artists’ ends are diametrically opposed. Solmitz’s pieces, all right angles and orthogonal planes, appear cool and controlled.

Yet for this artist, as for Barr, structure is merely a way of describing interior space and our experience of it. As he says on his Lights Out video, “I think architecture is about what’s going on on the inside … The building should develop on its own in response to what is happening on the inside.” That is exactly how “Assemblage Piece” came to be. A sculpture in three parts that is made of wood and comprises dozens of open box shapes stacked irregularly on each other. It seems straightforward and rational in its reliance on the geometry of the square.

In truth, however, the piece arose out of a completely spontaneous process of making box after box and deciding, on the spot, about their positioning and the directions of their viewsheds. No sketches, no preparation. We intuit the spontaneity of its form and how it originates from Solmitz’s interior process, even if it seems to have a certain kind of logical order and intention.

Untitled work by Oliver Solmitz. Photo courtesy of the artist/Lights Out Gallery

A pair of promising new, untitled wall works painted entirely white illustrate another interior process – Solmitz’s constant vacillation between formal geometry (born of admiration for modernist architects like Le Corbusier and painters like Richard Diebenkorn) and the organic forms of legendary Pennsylvania craftsman and furniture maker Wharton Esherick. In each, Solmitz’s expected clean, straight planes frame little boxes containing chunks of wood that have been, unexpectedly, irregularly split with the claw of a hammer. They are reminiscent of Louise Nevelson too, but distinguished from her by the potentially dissonant juxtaposition of neat versus natural, which, like Nevelson, is all harmonized with a monochromatic coat of paint.


South Portland-based Lynn Duryea’s ceramic sculptural work shares the floorspace with Solmitz’s “Assemblage Piece.” It is also tangentially about architecture, often the industrial structures of factories, smokestacks, machinery and so on. Duryea has been perfecting her multiply layered glazing techniques for years, and it is always fascinating to see how they continue to evolve.

Lynn Duryea, “Double Deux #2” Photo by Steve Mann

Her masterful glazing for the human-sized totemic shapes in this exhibition intriguingly trick the mind. From a distance, they seem to be made of rolled sheet metal that has weathered and rusted over time. But when we approach them, even though we can figure out there are elements of steel or silver leaf, we grasp that this is all an illusion of the glazes, for they are all made of terra cotta.

Moreover, what I really felt on this viewing of Duryea’s work was their profound sense of silence and stillness. They have such a strong, bold presence that we might not at first pick up that they evoke products of industrial processes – machinery, pipes, casings – that have been abandoned in shuttered manufacturing facilities. But when we do sense this, they suddenly no longer seem inanimate, but seem to possess sentience and an inner life.

In this way, they summon the melancholy and faded glory of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias.” They can appear as fallen gods or empires lost to the ravages and incessant forward motion of time. A smaller work, “Scoop #4,” is also a marvel of craftsmanship. The shape is simple. But when we realize how it’s constructed – it is made of various parts but comes off as a monolithic whole – and behold its silver leaf concave curve, it feels like a precious object.

Mark Little, “Tussle” Image courtesy of the artist

Last but not least is the extraordinary inventiveness of Brunswick artist Mark Little’s shaped wall constructions. Made of the unlikeliest of art supplies – the structural fiberboard known as Homasote® – Little creates what look like shaped canvases. While they begin as single, yet variously shaped sheets of Homasote that he paints with an organic palette of colors, Little then cuts them apart along graphite lines he’s made and reassembles them to their original shape.

In order to remember which piece attaches to which, he will leave the letters marked in pencil on either side of each cut (A attaches to A, B attaches to B, and so on). The graphite lines and lettering can summon allusions to topographic maps or dressmaking patterns.

They are highly tactile works you’ll want to touch. Their pressed-cellulose surfaces appear a bit like canvas, too, so they can have a textile-like quality. The earthy palette and patterns of “Semaphore,” for example, reminded me of kuba cloth.

“Peekaboo,” “Golly,” “Domain” and “Tears” by Mark Little. Photo by Ezra Churchill

Other pieces convey a playful sense of humor. “Peekaboo” and “Golly,” for instance, have shapes partially cut into their surfaces, which are then painted in candy colors that “peek” out from behind the topmost layer. Little’s work seems to perfectly jibe with the overall energy of the show. They are interesting and beautiful. But they are also a helluva lot of fun.

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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