Valerie Hegarty’s sculptures, including the charred flowers on a cast iron stove to the left, are among the works on display at Drive By Space in Norway. Photo courtesy of Drive By Space

The summer art scene in Maine keeps expanding farther and wider. This week, we take a look at shows in Norway, Rockland and South Portland.


Keil Borrman, under the business name Drive By Space – an evolving hybrid gallery concept that encompasses the 1780 farmhouse he is renovating and its adjacent roadside pasture in Norway – has put together something absolutely unique and eccentric at the Gingerbread House, a historic Victorian pile on the board of which he sits.

The Gingerbread House was sold to the town for $1 as an incentive to save it from demolition. Norway donated the land to which it was moved, a slip of acreage on a bend in the road leading out of Norway. Outside, it’s a handsome painted lady, while inside it has the feel of very faded grandeur – layers of decorative papers peeling off walls, holes in the floors, beautiful trims desperately in need of paint. It is a decadent, romantic setting for “If You Lived Here You Would…” (through August, though actual final date isn’t set).

Against this architectural backdrop, he explained, “I first imagined a Donald Judd stack, work that had no business being in this corner of Maine.” Instead, he ended up with the work of four artists: Valerie Hegarty, Alex Jovanovich, Adam Payne (all from New York) and Michelle Grabner (Milwaukee and Chicago). It is a little bit odd, a little bit edgy and a whole lot of very intriguing fun.

Hegarty’s sculptures are of domestic objects constructed of cardboard, papier-maché, epoxy and acrylic paint. They are humorous at first glance, but also bizarrely disquieting in their decrepitude and decay. Just inside the foyer we find a bouquet of flowers whose blossoms seem to be melting (pitch perfect, considering the particularly steamy day I visited). Flowers, in fact, abound, but in the most bizarre contexts: charred black on a cast iron stove, wilting inside a grimy refrigerator or sauteed in a pan. Elsewhere we find a melting watermelon that appears to morph into a rather salacious-looking tongue.


Her work has to do with domestic memory and its corruption, featuring often grotesquely distorted objects that are running over a surface or rotting (here a collapsed cake in a filthy oven, or a rug that has disintegrated with age and neglect, grass growing through it as nature reclaims and buries its memory forever). Borrman could hardly have found a more perfect artist for these rooms, which are themselves veritably pregnant with ghosts of domestic lives lived and now gone. Hegarty’s pieces interrogate the way we embellish or twist memories of home to suit our own delusions about life’s promises and its inexorable disappointments.

“I Will Die Poor, Ugly,” by Alex Jovanovich Photo courtesy of Drive By Space

Self-taught Alex Jovanovich is another standout, with his obsessively drawn works in ink and graphite reminiscent of some occult manual or his warped graphite checkerboards with cryptic messages such as “Blood of Christ Vanishes” or “I Will Die Poor, Ugly.” The boards are weighted down by domestic objects (a cufflink, a diaper pin) that have been blessed by a witch and cannot be handled by anyone but himself on pain of some macabre fate. In this setting, they evoke seances and dark rituals that might have been performed here. Yet more ghosts.

Sculpture by Michelle Grabner at Drive By Space. Photo courtesy of Drive By Space

Michelle Grabner’s gingham patterned paintings and her sculptures – a pile of silver-leafed cans that once contained cooked hams or a group of bizarrely oversized hairpins – recontextualize common domestic patterns and objects in ways that could bestow them with preciousness or, conversely, question our memorialization of them. And Adam Payne’s loopy floral drawings carry on lively dialogues with the various faded wallpapers and look a little like domestic paper patterns themselves, while also feeling freer, looser and more modern.


Triangle and Caldbeck galleries, located across a verdant courtyard from each other in Rockland, are each hosting wonderful clusters of shows that would take several reviews to cover thoroughly. Instead, I’m calling out one show in each, but encourage perusing their companion shows at a leisurely pace, since they, too, hold many delights.

At Triangle, there is “Oliver Solmitz: Lines on Edge” (through July 21). This sculptor continues to explore the tension between geometric abstraction and expressiveness. His wall constructions have long consisted of two-dimensional intersections of planes, some painted in combinations of colors. There is a clear debt to Piet Mondrian in many, but also to Richard Diebenkorn’s diagonal fracturing of surface. Some of his boxes can also remind us of Judd.


Oliver Solmitz, “Purple Falling Water” Photo courtesy of Triangle Gallery

Yet Solmitz creates his work through a distinctly architectural lens (i.e.: “Purple Falling Water”) and incorporates materials and colors that have innately expressive qualities. So, though he might make a plywood construction, unlike Judd’s minimalist boxes it will emanate a sense of containment, of inside and outside, and the color will bring life and emotion that warm up the potential chill of an intellectual geometric exercise. Or he will employ industrial steel and concrete (as with a marvelous three-dimensional work here), imparting a textural rawness and mottling of tone that enlivens what might have otherwise strayed too closely into architectural maquette.

For some time now Solmitz has also been breaking up the tidiness of his planes by inserting a piece of live-edge wood. Though he paints the resulting construction one or two colors, thus unifying the composition, the natural wood surface provides an element of freer, less calculated contrast that makes these works more approachable. Recently he’s mixing in other materials, such as the swatch of blue-quilted moving blanket in “Circle in the Square.”

Brenda Free, “Reservoir” Photo courtesy of Caldbeck Gallery

At Caldbeck, “Yours and Mine, Images Deciphered: Brenda Free” (through July 28) is a little jewel of a show. All the work, even when their themes are ostensibly terrestrial (such as “Camp”) convey the ever-shifting quality of looking at reflections in the ripples of a watery surface. This perspective is not surprising, considering that Free has lived on a boat for many years that travels between the Maine coast and Bonaire in the Leeward Antilles. So, when we look at a painting like “Reservoir,” we understand it to be the reflection of a tree on the water’s surface, not the tree itself.

But Free is after more than just the visual representation of that liquid quality. She is interested in it as a condition of the nature of her (and by extension all) reality, which is perpetually morphing and never allowing us to stay too long in a state of stasis. Trying to fix anything in place and time is ultimately hopeless. She achieves this by applying layers of paint, scraping away at them, scratching and adding textures (in a few she appears to use mesh to create crosshatches that further activate the surface).

This layering conjures the sense of ceaseless movement. Pulled into these shifting currents of paint are symbols that arise out of some personal system of hieroglyphics. We don’t know what they signify, but we can feel how the personal narrative they articulate gets swept up and carried along by forces much greater than anything she can control. And we, too, get pulled along as our eyes move across and up and down within the frame. The compositions, for the most part, offer us no place to settle, which, because of their beauty, happens not to be disorienting at all, but rather sublime.



Sam Cady is a much-admired painter in Maine, known for his shaped-canvas images of trees, boats, camping trailers and other objects. The effectiveness of his work lies in the way they reveal the startling power of a single form (a windswept cypress tree, a tent, a stretch of wall) by cutting out everything around it that might distract us from it. They are things he loves, and by silhouetting them, he demands we appreciate them in their own fullness of color, dimension and physical presence.

For those who have followed and loved his work, “Sam Cady – On Paper” at Ocean House Gallery & Frame in South Portland (through July 20) is a window into the origins and processes behind his art. It combines ephemera, drawings, photos, a large painting of stairs and other bits and bobs.

We see, for instance, how a collection of embroidered patches might have informed the idea of creating paintings that were not merely square or rectangular, but whose cutout forms actually contribute to our sharper focus on the reality within the shield-shaped edge that frames them. Line, in fact, is primary, as we can see in the way it defines form in his sketches of New York’s skyline. The whole topography and bustle of the city is conveyed with a simple, uninterrupted outline of buildings. There is also a group of photos that show Cady creating the frames for the shaped canvases from jigsawed pieced of wood.

“Sam Cady – On Paper” at Ocean House Gallery & Frame in South Portland. Photo courtesy of Ocean House Gallery & Frame

Another series of photos of a wood pile, first shot from a distance, then cut closer and closer into its actual contours, reveals an artist who focuses with clear fascination on the mundane things that most people never notice. It is a fascination arising from his understanding that the entirety of our world is composed of fragmentary objects and forms and that ignoring the fragments leaves our world incomplete in some way.

Much of what is on the walls is pulled from his own archives and not for sale, though there are very reasonably priced drawings scattered throughout. In some way, this thoroughly humanizes the work and the artist by giving us an almost tender, appreciative autobiographical “behind the canvas” peek at how he works.

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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