Cynthia J. Ahlstrin — Origin Stories

above: Cynthia J. Ahlstrin,  38 Special – A Bullet Bra, Repurposed book pages, repurposed binder’s board, 6.5” x 38” x 11”

My most cohesive origin stories can be found within my artist’s books – in both the traditional book forms as well as in the altered books.  My stories include lessons handed down from past generations, tales of memory, of love, of abuse, and of hope. They express views of childhood and the process of growing up and viewpoints based on life experience and maturity.

When I started making artist’s books, I found it very easy to begin by telling the stories of my forward-thinking, teetotaling English grandmother and the influence she lovingly placed on my young life.  It started by growing up in a seemingly “proper” middle class home in Connecticut, the roof of which barely kept the lid on the three generations of independent individuals contained within. The youngest of the family, I found myself in need of an anchor. Fortunately, my grandmother scooped me up into her life and became my staunchest ally.  Born into this world prior to 1900, she was from a distant generation that endured the many hardships of World Wars, deadly flu epidemics, and the Great Depression. But she also enjoyed women gaining the right to vote, the beginnings of women’s healthcare, and the ability of some women to start their own careers.  She was always industrious with her thoughts and with her time.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, By the Measure of Her Hand, accordion book, Prisma Color pencil, collaged ingredient bags (paper), collaged repurposed recipe cards, 6” x 38”

One of the places she chose to teach life’s lessons was in the warmth of her kitchen where cooking was one of her grand talents.  To her, food equated to love and happiness.  My story starts here by investigating the age old tradition of cooks measuring out dry ingredients by their hand.  Amounts were gauged and valued by how they looked and felt in the palm of the cook.  Recipes were rarely written in full (if at all), adding to the mystery of cooking and to the guarding of “treasured” family recipes and secrets.  To this day there are still a few recipes that even I guard, only to be passed on to those “within the family”. I collaged sugar, salt and flour sacks with recipe cards to detail the potential of sweet things to come.  On the front side of my accordion book are the illustrations of the lessons of love, patience, meditation, healing remedies and self awareness – all of the life lessons passed on to me in-between the mechanics of making a great meal.  Those keys to self-happiness are illuminated with colors as saturated as the memories and feelings they invoke inside of me.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Oh to Bee Sew Busy, accordion book, Prisma Color, acrylic, Ball Point Pen, collaged antique pattern tissue, collaged antique sewing pattern schematics, ribbons, metal key, 5.5” x 42”

Another story I tell involves the lessons learned about sewing.  A professional seamstress, my grandmother had some very concrete ideas about how things were to be done. She created clothing for her regular clients and made costumes for actors on  Hartford and New York City stages. My use of color speaks to the memories of our trips to the fabric store searching amongst bolts and bolts of beautiful fabrics to find the right cloth to make a creation sing.  My story tells of the lessons of patience while laying and pinning pattern pieces so accurately that the leftover scrap cloth was miniscule. “Waste not, want not” was a common refrain. My grandmother worked her magic at the sewing machine in a beelike dance, moving back and forth from machine to table and back again. Her lessons of thrift, craftsmanship, energy and individual expression have swirled into memories of admiration for her mastery of the many parts of a woman’s life.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Isn’t It Fitting, artist’s star book, India Inks, Prisma Color, hand-cut Canson Mi-Teintes paper, embroidery floss, 6” x 26” x 6”

The last story of lessons learned while growing up materialized in a humorous piece titled Isn’t It Fitting? The happy recipient of lovely handmade bras, it was hard for me to wear commercially produced foundation ones, but once I decided that this was “what all the girls wear”, there was no turning back.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Isn’t It Fitting, artist’s star book, India Inks, Prisma Color, hand-cut Canson Mi-Teintes paper, embroidery floss, 6” x 12” x 12” in star position

So my story here delves into the spreading of wings in an attempt to try something new, move away from an old tradition and perhaps take the first steps towards growing up.  It is also a story about the ability to fail, admit a mistake and still be loved.

 

 

My story reveals that all the instructions and diagrams in the world were not going to correct the fit of ill made garments. Measurements and cups sizes were designed for the “average woman’s breast size”…and who has those?  The beautiful bras I was searching for ended up being the ones made out of paper and ink. The craziness of the looping measuring tapes equates to my young self throwing up my hands in frustration and realizing that no matter how much we yank and we pull, those damn bras were just never meant to fit.  And that some lessons you learn cannot be improved upon until we are ready to mature.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Every Shoe Tells a Story, altered book, Repurposed National Geographic magazines, plaster, wired ribbon, 10” x 12” x 4”

My approach to creating altered books originally began as a way to solve a creative challenge.  I was given a stack of National Geographic magazines. Who doesn’t have difficulty parting with these? My task was to look through all of them, find a story that resonated with me and then make a piece in response to it.  My found story was one that included luscious images of shoes throughout the history of humankind and what information could be gathered from them about the person who wore them.  I was inspired to make my book based on the premise that every shoe really does have a story to tell about us.  My shoe story investigates the use of color and the recycling of discarded objects.  Through the placement of specific words and images, my book also tells a story to the viewer asking her to consider the impact of excesses of human choices and the use of genetically modified seeds on our environment.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Without Consent, artist’s star book, Repurposed book pages, acrylic, repurposed binder’s board, Canson Mi-Teintes paper, card stock, 3” x 9” x 3” (note: measurement is for shoes only)

As my experience in making altered books has grown, my approach to my story telling has changed as well.  My newer work began to tell stories of a different part of my life,  a crossing over from the lessons of childhood to those from a more mature perspective and garnered from some unfortunate personal experiences.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Repurposed Romance, altered book, Repurposed romance novel book pages, repurposed binder’s board, 25” x 14.5” x 11.5

I need a great deal of paper for each piece.  I began sourcing book pages from discarded books and romance novels I found at the library or in the book box at the transfer station.  I chose my materials randomly based on the weight, color and feel of the paper.  During the process of cutting the pages from the book block, I naturally began to read passages from various pages of the found books.  This is where I began to notice the large amount of violence perpetrated against one or more of the female characters within each novel.  Often times, the violence was not even remotely connected to the main plot – basically it was just gratuitous.  My thoughts on this unnerving occurrence demanded that the individual stories needed to be identified, those of verbal and physical abuse, prostitution, murder, rape and in some cases mutilation. My own personal experience with certain types of abuse causes me to empathize with all the female victims.

Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Silk Stockings, altered book, Repurposed book pages, acrylic, archival tracing paper, Canson Mi-Teintes paper, card stock, 7.5” x 34” x 1.5 (note: stockings only)
Cynthia J. Ahlstrin, Something Blue, altered book, Repurposed book pages, acrylic, lace paper, elastic sewing material, 7” x 9” x 2” (for larger garter), 4” x 6” x 2” (for smaller garter), Two detail (A & B) views provided

My stories have manifested themselves in the form of 1950’s women’s foundation wear and boudoir apparel. Style-wise they are beautiful as well as cage-like and constricting.  This era of fashion is from a time when women in our society were dressed immaculately within the confines of society’s concept of perfection.  Each piece invites the viewer to read selected sentences or word phrases which are meant to illuminate this troubling pattern of violence.  My hope is that the beauty of the structures creates an interesting juxtaposition to the violence expressed in the printed words and causes the viewer to consider the stories that women continue to experience in our current society.

UMVA Lewiston / Auburn Chapter Report

above: UMVA Lewiston/Auburn event; Gary Stallsworth photo

Public Art Informational was held on March 20th at the Lewiston Public Library with members of the Union of Maine Visual Artists- Lewiston/ Auburn Chapter and our Fall semester interns from Bates College. The students showed their presentation of what Lewiston already has for public art and talked about the website they created documenting their findings. We found out what projects are currently in the works and how we can help.

Do you have an idea but are not an artist? We can partner you up with an artist. All ideas must be voted on by the UMVA Lewiston Auburn to be considered for a space.

Invite your friends!

https://www.facebook.com/events/217655392132452/

Our March 14th meeting at Kimball Street Studio was with Jonah Fertig- Burd founder of Local Sprouts Cooperative,  Jonah is a man of many talents and is constantly involved in building community!

UMVA Lewiston/Auburn event; Gary Stallsworth photo

UMVA-Lewiston Auburn celebrated the language of love with our 3rd annual For the Love of Art event, inviting couples and loved ones to experience an afternoon of awakening all the senses with a walking tour of local studios and galleries that offered live music, edible art, body work, locally made  products, as well as art of varying themes through out this journey.

Upcoming Events  

Downtown Lewiston eARTh Day 2018

Sunday April 22 10am – 2pm.  We are in the process of creating and organizing different work groups and business sponsors. Last year we had 4 different community groups working in various parts of Lewiston cleaning up litter and trash, restoring natural beauty.  We also had many public art installations such as sidewalk murals, painted fire hydrants and our first creative crosswalk! Please check the Facebook event page often for updated info.

This year there will be several different area clean ups, painting of side walk murals, fire hydrants, studio & public art tours, local music and a buy local cash mob.

https://www.facebook.com/events/217621542117081/

I Am Tree Fundraiser for Tree Street Youth Program

Tree Street Youth serves 120-150 at-risk and immigrant refugee youth everyday at its center in downtown Lewiston. Programs include after school enrichment classes, academic tutoring, leadership development, college prep, and workforce development.  Each year, Tree Street holds a fundraiser called I am Tree. This year’s theme is “I am the Future.” UMVA-LA will be assisting in putting out a call for artists to create a piece of art (in whatever medium they like to work in) to reflect their interpretation of the theme. We would like these pieces to be donated to Tree Street Youth so that we can auction them off at the fundraiser on April 26, 2018 at the Bates Mill Atrium.  Artists will receive a 50% commission from the sale of any work.  We also anticipate displaying the art before and after the event at public spaces such as L/A Arts, the Lewiston Public Library and/or USM. Artists will be given the opportunity to be on site at the fundraising event to meet the (250+) guests . The art will also be featured in the evening’s Commemorative Playbill and on theTree Street website. If you are interested in submitting work to the I Am Tree Event, email UMVAlewistonauburn@gmail.com for more details.

Our UMVA-LA meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month from 7-9pm. The location of the meetings change from month to month.   If you would like to be added to our email list email UMVAlewistonauburn@gmail.com

Grayling Cunningham

Union of Maine Visual Artists Lewiston Auburn

UMVAlewistonauburn@gmail.com

 

People on the Move – A Human Crisis: Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and the Internally Displaced.

above: Christopher Cart, “I Fear What You Fear”, oil on canvas, 24” x 30”, 2018  

Throughout the month of February Camden Public Library and the Jonathan Frost Gallery presented a large joint art show titled People on the Move – A Human Crisis:  Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and the Internally Displaced.

The artwork varied widely.  It included portraits, scenes of fleeing refugees, scenes of repression and brutality, symbolic evocations of displacement, detainment, and death, and symbolic evocations of the ideals of ethnic and political harmony.

Susan Beebe, “Portrait of Safi”, oil on canvas, 20” x 24”, 2018

The show was organized by Kit Harrison, Jonathan Frost, and Susan Beebe in concert with Cayla Miller, of the Camden Library. The purpose was to bring attention in our local community to the fact that across the world over 65 million people are on the move, driven from their homes by political repression, war, famine, and environmental devastation.

“I was thinking, what can I do, as an artist? I had this nebulous idea that maybe we could do a show on refugees,” said Beebe. Then, running into Kit Harrison at Rock City Café one day last summer, she discovered that she and Kit shared the same dismay and vision.

Twenty-four artists eventually responded to their Call to Artists, and showed, in their work, what moved them about this human crisis.

Titi de Baccarat, “Black White Yellow”, mixed media, 21” x 32”, 2017

Three of the artists included in the show are themselves newcomers to Maine. One, Titi de Baccarat, is from Gabon and has been working and making quite a name for himself as an artist since arriving here in Maine two years ago. He spoke eloquently at the Artists’ Talk about the importance of local Mainers opening their hearts to newcomers – the importance of trying to feel the loneliness of what it is like to be a displaced person, living here out of necessity.

Orson Horchler, “Mainer Project 10”, charcoal, pen, 16” x 16”, 2016

Orson Horchler, another newcomer, who goes by his artist name Pigeon, described the challenges of trying to find community in a new land. Here for a number of years, he works long hours running a contracting business, while also pursuing his artwork. In addition, he travels the state, visiting in schools and other community centers to share his message of tolerance.

Veronica Kaluta, “Self-Portrait” collage, 11” x 14”, 2018

Veronica, the third immigrant artist in the show, is a very articulate fourteen year-old, who is a refugee from the DR Congo. One year ago she spoke no English. During the run of People on the Move she delivered two moving talks in English about her life as a refugee – a young, living reminder for those in attendance of human resilience.

There were three special events associated with the show: an opening reception at the Jonathan Frost Gallery where individual artists spoke briefly about their work; an Artists’ Talk at the Camden Public Library where Titi De Baccarat, Orson Horchler, Veronica Kaluta, and Wendy Newbold Patterson spoke about their work and experiences; a reception at the Camden Public Library timed to coincide with the Camden Conference. All the events were very well attended.

Asked to reflect on the show, Harrison said, I’m really just hoping that people will look at others with new eyes.”

Jonathan Frost, “Portrait of Jordan”, oil on canvas , 20” x 24”, 2018

“It gives you encouragement to feel something about this and express it,” Beebe said. “I hope we start a conversation, and people will look and think and talk and act.”

James Murdock, “Open the Gate–Draco’s Gate”, mixed media, 32” x 40”, 2005

Participating artists were Lois Anne, Susan Beebe, Christopher Cart, Gregory Chilenski, Clarity, Titi De Beccarat, Alan Fishman, Jonathan Frost, Nancy Glassman, Lucy Goulet, Nan Haid, Orson Horchler, Mwandja Kaluta, Salima Kalute, Veronica Kaluta, Renate Klein, Jeannette Martin, Cynthia McGuirl, James Murdock, Wendy Newbold Patterson, Emeline Russell, Marjorie Strauss, and Hannah Wells.

Artists’ quotes courtesy of Courier Publications

MIGRATION EXPERIENCE — REFLECTIONS OF MAINE IMMIGRANT ARTISTS

UMVA Gallery at CTN (Portland Media Center)

April 2-27, 2018

In April, the creative voices and talents of more than a dozen immigrant artists living in greater Portland will be exhibited at the Union of Maine Visual Artists Gallery. Seventeen artists collaborated with curators Kifah Abdulla (poet and painter from Iraq), Titi de Baccarat (sculptor and painter from Gabon) and John Ripton (photographer, writer and historian) to create work that expresses their experience as Maine immigrant artists. Each artist – painter, sculptor, photographer, poet and performance artist – will exhibit work that they have completed since arriving in Maine.

Greater Portland is home to thousands of immigrants whose life stories demonstrate the will to overcome lack of opportunity and education, political repression, violence and poverty. Some of the artists in the exhibit are fortunate to have escaped such violations of human rights and other artists have not. All of them have nevertheless distinguished themselves as artists and in many other endeavors. Their collective stories are part of the story of the United States. They inspire us in ways our great grandparents’ and their grandparents’ lives do.

As with earlier immigrants, the newer immigrants are building their lives here and revitalizing Greater Portland, its economy and its culture. The artists will share their desires and dreams as well as their reflections on how they arrived in Maine and the challenges they continue to face. The exhibition of their work will speak directly to the world in which we live, without the spin of manufactured news.

In a time when differences among peoples are being exploited at the highest levels of government, this creative project strives to cross the borders and walls separating brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. The exhibited work speaks to our common humanity. Guided tours of the exhibit for students and teachers of Portland area schools, colleges and universities are also planned.

The Opening with Artists’ Reception is on First Friday’s Art Walk, April 6th (5-8 p.m.) at the UMVA Gallery in the Portland Media Center at 516 Congress Street in Portland.  (Click for e-invitation)
Poets and musicians will perform. It will be a celebration of Greater Portland’s immigrant communities, an exciting opportunity to reaffirm the enduring struggle to share this world and this city and state with each other. The public is enthusiastically welcome.

UMVA Gallery Hours:

Monday 12-5 / Tuesday-Thursday 10-5 / Friday & Sunday 1-4

Jean Medard Zulu, unnamed 2, Mixed Media, 20X30
Makumbundo Francisco, Baobab, Oil on Canvas, 24X48, 2015

MY PEOPLE DYING

(Song by AFRiCAN DUNDADA)

my people dying
I’m feeling like a product of war
here I stand while they laugh
cause my people left poor
my childhood memories
had me begging for more
got away from the war
but now I’m worst than before
came here to represent for
my Africans all around the world
gotta stay on my grind though
like poverty right at my door
for all the people out in this world
that got no home
cause they families poor
for all the people
that will never know
what it feels like to be cared for
pray to god
and let it flow
it ain’t all about that money bro
now let us go
look at me
I represent like Rambo
how many people here gotta die
how many mothers here gotta cry
how much more do we sacrifice
before we get to see paradise

 It is quiet in Darfur

by Ekhlas Ahmad

It’s quiet in Darfur. It’s not the silence of peace, but it’s the silence of death.
My homes that once carried histories of generations are now burned ashes on the
ground waiting for the wind to blow them to their final destination.
My mothers that were once Leaders of their communities are now used as war
weapons.
My sisters that once had chances to be future leaders are now afraid to see the sun.
So I speak for them.
I speak for the thousand mothers who have been speaking forever but there is no-one
to listen.
I speak for the thousand girls who want to speak but don’t have a voice.
I speak for the thousand children of Darfur because they can only speak in silence.
I speak so they can be heard.
Because I feel their pain.
When I was a little girl I used to cry
but only in silence
never showing my parents my tears
not even my siblings, or peers
because they told us if you showed people your tears, it meant you were afraid
it meant you were weak, it meant you were powerless
Yes I was young, but I knew I wasn’t weak, and I knew I wasn’t powerless
I had and still have a weapon
A Voice
A voice that once it’s heard, demands attention
A voice that doesn’t only speak, but repeats
So I will speak so they can be heard.

Titi de Baccarat

Titi de Baccarat is a painter, sculptor, clothing designer, jeweler, and writer. Dedicated to justice in a hostile political context, he was forced to flee his country, Gabon, with only the wealth of his artistic ability. He has lived in Portland since February 2015, where he works through his African identity and artistic expertise to contribute to the culture of the city. He believes that art rehabilitates love, bringing together people of all countries, backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.

Kifah Abdulla

Kifah Abdulla is an artist, poet, writer, teacher and activist, born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. The real  beginning for Abdulla as an artist started after he returned from eight years as a prisoner of war in Iran from1982-1991. Art became his main professional career. He worked to express his experience of time spent in prison, a theme that is still present in his work. In his current work started in Portland, he uses abstract Arabic letters as an essential element in his work. He is developing his style in the vast space of contemporary art in America. Abdulla has exhibited in Iraq, Jordan, Holland, and Portland, where he lives and works.. He published his first book of poetry in 2016.

List of Participating Artists*
Kifah Abdulla (Iraq) Poet & Painter
Titi De Baccarat (Gabon) Sculptor & Poet
Anna Mikuskova (Czech Republic) Photographer
Afshin Mahmoudi (Iran) Photographer & Musician
Ekhlas Ismail Ahmad (Darfur, Sudan) Poet
African Dundada (South Sudan) Musician & Composer
Mei Selvage (China) Painter
Burcin Kirik (Turkey) Painter
Akad Hamed (Iraq) Painter
Sofia Aldinio (Argentina) Photographer
Ebenezer Akakpo (Ghana) Jeweler/Designer
Christian Muhunde (Rwanda) Painter
Makumbundo Franciso (Congo) Painter
Edward Mbikiayi (DRC) Painter
Rabee Kiwan (Lebanon) Painter
Yelena Fiske (Russia) Painter
Sahro Abrahim (Somalia) Designer
Damir Porobic (Former Yugoslavia) Interdisciplinary Artist
Jean Medard Zulu (Congo) Painter
Aymen Khaleel (Iraq) Painter

Performing Artists at April 6th OPENING/Artists’ Reception
Ekhlas Ismail Ahmad (Darfur, Sudan) Poet
Kifah Abdulla (Iraq) Poet
AFRiCAN DUNDADA (South Sudan) Rap Musician/Composer
Jawad Alfatlawi (Iraq) Musician
Mei Selvage (China) Traditional Chinese Ink Block Brushwork
Yves Karubu (Burundi) Drummers/Dancers

Community Resource Leaders Represented
Zoe Sahloul (Lebanon) Activist/Organizer N.E. Arab American Organization
Bereket Bairu (Eritrea) Emergency Teacher/Tutor

ARRT! and LumenARRT! Updates

above: Banner created in March for use during the school walkout for gun control and the March 24th rallies in Brunswick and Augusta.

The Artists Rapid Response Team! is a project of the Union of Maine Visual Artists. Members of ARRT! are UMVA members and activist artists who work to provide visuals for progressive groups throughout Maine, seeking to add a visual voice to help carry their messages far and wide. The following images are recently completed banners. Click on them to expand images.

The Banner below is for Earth Day in Bangor:  a “Transportation for All” bus which will be completed by children adding their faces in the windows during the event.

January ARRT! session

Anita gave us a lesson on how to use Tagtools on our IPads and we also made wonderful animated electronic graffiti for LumenARRT! projections for the MLK dinner in Portland.
Special thanks to Anita and Geoff for prepping and hanging about 9 banners for the MLK dinner, plus creating a GIANT animation/projection for the outdoor wall of the Holiday Inn, with LumenARRT!, plus creating electronic graffiti animation/projections inside, just before the dinner.
Thank you Renu, Nancy, Anita, Chris, Suzanna, Justin, Jane, Beth, Julia, Susie, Lee, Doreen, Natasha and Ed

February ARRT! session

Thank you ARRTists  Nancy,  Chris, Jane, Nora, Deb and Natasha

March ARRT! session

Thank you to ARRTists Nancy, Chris, Anita, Nora, Geoffrey, Suzanna, Beth, Susie, Jean, Natasha and Lee.  And thank you to three Americorps volunteers (Alicia, Darcy, and Audrey) from Bangor (Maine Partnership for Environmental Stewardship) and Anna, a student from the Friends’ School, who helped paint.

We hope you’ll join us in April for our next ARRT! session, April 8th.  Check out images and information at arrteam.org

LumenARRT!

LumenARRT! is a project of the Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!).  We work through the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) to advocate for artists and further the work of progressive non-profits in the state of Maine.  Our video projections create a visual voice for these organizations and like electronic graffiti, bring awareness to issues of social, political and environmental justice.

Our most recent projection calls attention to the millions of marchers on 3/24/18 who want common sense gun controls — and the inability of our Maine State Legislature to act.

LumenARRT! Projection on Maine State Capital
LumenARRT! Projection on Maine State Capital

On January 15th in Portland, we joined with the NAACP in celebrating Martin Luther King Day.  We also had an interactive projection in the lobby for attendees to write or draw their thoughts on freedom and racial justice.

For more information go to LumenARRT! on the web.

 

 

 

William Kienbusch and the Gift of Place

by Carl Little

above: Francis Hamabe
William Kienbusch Rowing, Stonington, late 1960s
Black-and-white photograph
Collection Little family

My uncle, the painter William Kienbusch (1914-1980) spent most his life in two places, New York City and Maine. Just about every May from the mid-1940s on, he would make his way north from the city. Late in life, he compared the stops he made to the stages in an ascent of Everest, his favorite mountain.

Bill’s relationship to Maine began in the 1930s when he attended Eliot O’Hara’s watercolor class at Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. After serving in the Army during World War II, he returned to Maine, staying in Stonington where his hero John Marin had spent time in the 1920s. He was soon making annual seasonal pilgrimages, exploring the islands and developing a repertoire of coastal subjects.

For a number of years Bill’s base of Maine operations was Trevett near Boothbay Harbor where his friend and fellow painter Dorothy Andrews (1918-2008) and her family lived. After he bought a house on Great Cranberry Island, he became a part of a remarkable group of modern artists, among them, John Heliker, Dorothy Eisner, Gretna Campbell, Robert LaHotan, and Charles Wadsworth, who found their muse there.

Bill established personal connections with a number of individuals in the Maine art world. He visited fellow painter Reuben Tam and his wife, Gerry, on Monhegan. He went on painting trips with Leni Mancuso and Tom Barrett from Castine (their correspondence with him is in the Archives of American Art).

William Kienbusch , Rowboat to Island #2, 1973, Casein on paper, 32¼ x 40½, Collection of the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; Museum Purchase, 1996.11

Francis Hamabe (1917-2002) was like a brother; he and his first wife Sidney would host Bill for weeks on end at their home in Blue Hill. From there, he would make excursions to Stonington where he kept his rowboat EPO BID. The boat—its prow—served as the model for several paintings. (The children’s book author Robert McCloskey once referred to Bill as “the rowingest man in Maine.”)

William Kienbusch, My Boat, 1972, Craypas on paper, 6 x 8, Collection Carl Little & Margaret Beaulac, photo credit, Ken Woisard

Bill also became friends with Vincent Hartgen (1914-2002), painter and bravado art professor at the University of Maine. Sometime in the 1960s Hartgen invited his friend to spend a semester at the university, teaching and painting. The Northeast Film Archives collection includes an interview with Kienbusch conducted by Hartgen for Maine Public Television.

Uncle Bill once stated, “When I arrive in Maine, I start seeing again.” What he saw were subjects and places that set him to painting. He explored Hurricane Island quarries, wandered among Cranberry Island gardens after everyone was gone for the summer and hired a lobsterman to circle a bell buoy while he took pictures with his Brownie camera.

William Kienbusch, Bell Buoy, 1976, Casein and charcoal on paper, 34 x 42, Collection Margaret Beaulac & Carl Little, photo credit, Ken Woisard

I was thinking of Bill’s love of buoys when I gave him a copy of W.S. Merwin’s book The Drunk in the Furnace for his birthday in 1978. As he had done with me, I marked several poems that I thought he’d especially like, including “Bell Buoy” with its stunning evocation of that sailor’s guide in fog and storm:

Clearer

The dreaming bronze clangs over the lifting

Swell, through the fog-drift, clangs, not

On the sea-stroke but on the fifth second clangs,

Recalling something, out of some absence

We cannot fathom, with itself communing.

William Kienbusch, Sea Gate and Goldenrod, 1963, Casein on paper, 32¼ x 45¼, Collection of the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; Museum Purchase, 1994.9

Among Bill’s last great subjects was goldenrod, fitting image for the final years of his life. In an elegy inspired by the painting Sea Gate and Goldenrod, poet Rosanna Warren, who had visited Bill on Great Cranberry Island on several occasions, describes the painter lying in his bed with “a patchwork map spread out” over his “failed legs.” She references “our island” where “alders shimmied in sunlight, deer/browsed through cranberry bogs,” but concludes:

…there are

other islands, and already, while we sat

here with you chatting of ours with its goldenrod

what you heard

was the other islands.

William Kienbusch, (1914-1980), Sunflower, 1977, Craypas on paper 11 x 14, Collection Margaret Beaulac & Carl Little

When Bill died in 1980, he left his home on Great Cranberry Island to my brother David and me. This gift shifted both of our lives. Up to then we had been oriented toward New York City and the South Fork of Long Island. Our parents’ home in Water Mill had been our refuge and retreat, but the landscape was changing drastically. Maine was a new world, a place where we might start seeing again. And that is where we are today, writing and painting.

Reuben and Geraldine Tam, William Kienbusch on Monhegan, 1944, From 35mm color slide, Collection Carl Little

Uncle Bill made us Mainers; he left us his home, his friends and his favorite landscape—not to mention the poetry of Abbie Huston Evans. I’ve told this story many times, and apologize if you’ve heard it before. Bill is the talisman and touchstone of my creative life. I owe him big time.

 

Carl Little is co-author with his brother David of the forthcoming Paintings of Portland (Down East Books). He has also contributed to monographs on Philip Frey and Joseph Fiore. 

MAINE MASTERS REPORT — My Immigrant History

above: Jacob Kantrowitz

By Richard Kane,  Maine Masters Project Director

I think it’s important for any artist to figure out how to survive.  For my paternal grandfather Jacob Kantrowitz, a skilled tailor, he survived living in the Ukraine city of Kharkov by chopping off his large toe to avoid being sent to the front lines during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.  The word had reached home from Jacob’s older brother in Manchuria that Tsar Nikolai II was sending Jews to the front lines only to be slaughtered.

Interestingly President Teddy Roosevelt mediated the negotiations that ended that war on September 5, 1905 in what became known as the Treaty of Portsmouth.  Sound familiar?  The talks were held at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine!  A few months later my grandfather Jacob emigrated to New York in 1906 with my grandmother Ida Wooten. They were 19.

Jacob went to work for a thriving dressmaking business on the Lower East Side  and later, in The Bronx started Mr. K’s, his own tailoring business. His son, my father Murray, was the first to attend college (NYU) in the family, and after graduating dental school in 1941 he was drafted into World War II.  Upon his return in 1945 he changed his name to Kane at a time when a great many American Jews were seeking to blend in and in a real sense hide from anti-Semitism.

Recall that President Franklin Roosevelt during WWII turned back ships filled with Jews fleeing the Nazis hoping to reach the safety of our shores.  They were all subsequently incinerated in the Holocaust.  Si Kahn memorialized that piece of history with his song Lady of the Harbor that I’ve long wanted to use in a film about those times.  The immigrant is what has made this country strong.

Jacob Kantrowitz and grandson, Richard Kane

 

When I started editing film in graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia, I always felt I was following in my grandfather’s footsteps, cutting and trimming and sewing and creating a work of art.

 

 

So how have I learned to survive as a filmmaker in Maine while keeping all my fingers and toes?  Just as any artist, you have to get your work shown.  I learned a few years ago at the Points North Documentary Forum of the Camden International Film Festival that the key is through a publicist.  Easier said than done.  There are MANY more filmmakers than publicists.
But I did succeed in finding an extraordinary Outreach Director, Marga Varea, who has made all the difference in getting our last two films on Ashley Bryan and J. Fred Woell seen.  FYI March 29, 2018 we’re having a NYC Premiere of our latest film J. Fred Woell: An American Vision at the Museum of Arts and Design with a panel of icons of the American Crafts Movement.

Stay Tuned:

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There’s lots happening with the Maine Masters film series.  The BIG NEWS is that Geoffrey Leighton and Anita Clearfield have begun work on a docu-art film project about our own beloved Natasha Mayers: An Un-still Life.  Anita and Geoff thank the contributors to their successful Indiegogo campaign —  many of whom are UMVA members — and  hope to have the project completed by the end of the year.  Stay tuned for more Natasha magic in Maine!

Next Project:

Moving into the fundraising phase of a film Robert Shetterly: Americans Who Tell the Truth.  See the trailer:  https://vimeo.com/220552230

We are also creating a Vimeo portal to have all our Maine Masters available on Vimeo.com/ondemand  and am working with several teachers to create short versions that would be appropriate to use in schools and full length vimeos on demand for senior centers/retirement communities.

 

Members’ Voices

Excerpts from Journey Home

by Renu O’Connell

above: Renu O’Connell, Past and Present, casein, 26 x 34

This year I found myself coming home both to myself and to my ‘homes’ that hold my past and present.

I will begin by by describing the journey back to the place that never felt like home but now does. I was born In Detroit, Michigan, lived there in my formative days, then moved to the suburbs that did not feel like home.

Months before this visit I had been asking myself what mattered the most to me in the political climate of 2018. The issue of immigration is central to our country. I started to look for images of immigrant farmers to paint and found many who were urban farmers in Detroit. So, excitedly, I began to read that there was enough land to feed the whole city which was considered a realistic goal.

There is an intimacy between decay and life and there is a contrast between what seems gone and what is actually growing life. What I saw were 1400 farms, many that have community connection; centers for education, places to gather and eat, all contained in an area that could fit San Francisco, Boston, and the borough of Manhattan within the city limits. I began to paint Detroit farmers, many of whom had roots in the great migration from the South. Many of these people’s children and grandchildren are coming home to their innate sense of nurturance of the land. Farmers see themselves as makers of history.

Other immigrants, like my ancestors from Ireland, came to Michigan to farm as a result of the great potato famine. For the first time in my life I considered the pure hopelessness and destitution they had to face. When they arrived in their new home on Mackinac Island, they tried to farm but the soil was too rocky.

How does this journey take anyone back to self? First off I believe until we mourn our ancestors’ losses, we will never be whole in ourselves. This is why it seems valuable to fill in the “holes” in our ancestral backgrounds. As we come closer to understanding their lives, we can see our selves belonging to a universal family. It is a human need to want to experience the “Phoenix rising from the ashes”. It is human to seek newness and hope. It is in all of us that we wish to plant seeds that germinate and offer nourishment on so many levels.  For me there is something passionate within that wants to participate in the mending of this united fabric of states belonging to our immigrants and relatives and for this I give thanks to the pioneers past and present.

 

Excerpts from Origin Stories

by David Wade

David Wade, Seaweed Abstract, photograph, 15 x 20

For me, as with many artists, the sea is an inspiration, an eternal muse  … it’s a font of creativity… it’s a call to play and make art and discover… and a trip to the shore is like a return to my beginnings, both ancient and modern … like going back home again… and it’s no coincidence that all of us have in our veins the same percentage of salt in our blood that is in our oceans…and that salt is also in our blood, in our sweat, and in our tears… so whenever we go back to the sea, we are going back to our very origins, to the source from which we came… these origins go back to before the dawn of history, when the first life began to bubble up from the primordial soup, where our original ancestors took their first breath and Life itself began…

These Maine shores draw me like a tide, which I cannot resist. At the shore, I hear the ocean sing its siren song… it seduces my eyes and ears, and serenades my soul… the sea speaks to me… and I answer…  like a child, I put my ear up to a sea shell and listen…  and I hear the distant sound of eternity.. …  the sea’s cycles bring me back into tune with Mother Nature and the slow pulse of eternal time…    always the seaside sets my spirit free….…and it is where I am most like a child, filled with inspiration, awe, and endless wonder……

Humble Origins — How art can create identity

By Edgar Allen Beem

above: watercolor by Betty Beem

Our home is filled with fine and fun art, almost all of it created by friends and family. The art we live with has become an important part of my own identity and I trace this aesthetic definition of self back to my mother. Most of the art in our home is by artist friends, among them Susan Amons, Dozier Bell, Kathy Bradford, Alfred Chadbourn, Howard Clifford, Maury Colton, Matt Donahue, Charlie Hewitt, Alison Hildreth, Eric Hopkins, Frederick Lynch, William Manning, Mathew Pierce O’Donnell, Abby Shahn, Todd Watts and Mark Wethli. But the first things you see when you enter our house are the Twombly-esque scribblings all over the garage wall where I have invited our grandchildren to leave their marks and the big bold flowers I have slathered on the same wall with leftover house paint.

Betty Beem, watercolor

 

Easily overlooked in this cheerful graffiti is a small watercolor of an iris blossom that hangs on the little landing outside the door to the mudroom. Irises are my favorite flower. I kind of wish the artist hadn’t added the little blue butterfly that is virtually indistinguishable from the iris petals, but then you don’t criticize your mother.

 

 

My mother was the only artist I knew growing up. She was an enthusiastic amateur who studied and painted watercolors all her life.

Among my mother’s paintings hanging in our upstairs bedrooms are a sprig of blueberries, a still-life frieze of fruit, and my favorite, a flutter of white flowers, a sort of abstract floral fantasy. There are also a couple of my mother’s efforts in oil. The watercolors are often deft, but the oils – a cheerful pink conch shell and a rather Ryder-esque farmhouse landscape – show the effort involved.

Betty Beem

My mother came from humble origins. She was born Bertha Harrison in Bath in 1922, became Betty Gibson when she was adopted in 1926, and then Betty Beem when she married my father in 1948. All of her surnames were given to her by men, one she never really knew and two she loved very much. I’m not sure where my mother’s artistic interest came from. She studied early childhood education at Westbrook Junior College and Lesley College and taught nursery school as a young woman. All of my life she was a kitchen table painter and she took art classes wherever we lived.

When we lived in Groton, Massachusetts for a few years in the 1950s, my mother sent me to Saturday morning art classes at the Paint Bucket. Making clay pinch pots and paper mache animals was my first experience making art unless you count the elaborate battlefield drawings I made about the same time. It’s a boy thing I guess. So my exposure to art as a child was pretty much limited to calendars and her watercolors. On a couple of occasions, my maternal grandmother, a widow living alone on High St. in Portland, took me to the Portland Museum of Art, but all I remember about those visits were bands playing on the High St. steps under the Copper Beech and the smooth, cool deathly realism of Akers’ The Dead Pearl Diver at the foot of the circular stairs in the Sweat Galleries. I thus knew nothing at all about art until I got out of college in 1971. Then it took me a decade or more to understand that a true appreciation of art means unlearning the prejudices of art historical orthodoxy.

As a young man, just about the only work of art I owned was a gilt-framed reproduction of Andrew Wyeth’s iconic “Christina’s World.” I was a Maine boy and Christina was a Maine icon. I was so ignorant of the content of that painting and innocent of all the death, sex and violence in Wyeth World that I imagined Christina Olson as a lovely young farm girl sunbathing in the meadow. Who knew she was a crippled spinster dragging herself across the field? Apparently everyone but me.

Between about 1971 and 1978, I had something of an artistic awakening when my then-brother-in-law, a Jewish interior designer from New York, took it upon himself to educate me in fine art by exposing me to works of Leonard Baskin, Alfred Chadbourn and Ben Shahn. I started going to the few contemporary galleries there were in Maine and began looking at art in earnest, not as décor but as investigation, a search for meaning every bit as valuable as that of science or religion.

White Lillies, by DeWitt Hardy. Collection of the author.

By the time I started writing about art in Maine in 1978, I had somehow “learned” that my mother’s art was amateur stuff and that Wyeth’s art, while popular, famous and expensive, was considered reactionary and rear-guard by the art establishment, a romantic throwback no more a part of the ongoing 20th century artistic dialogue than my mother’s aqueous flora.

My function as a reporter and self-proclaimed art critic then, first for The Portland Independent and then for Maine Times, was to be judge, jury and executioner. It was my responsibility to separate the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the dross, the worthy from the rest. Never mind that I had no art education whatsoever, I had a good eye and a way with words. Art objects were open to interpretation and I was good at coming up with a plausible explanation. All art, I soon discovered, is a con job, in a good way of course. Perhaps confidence game is a better phrase. The artist, in collaboration with dealers, curators, and critics, must create confidence in collectors and the public that the useless objects s/he makes have value beyond utility, both intrinsic and extrinsic, critical and commercial.

I participated in this aesthetic conspiracy for a dozen years or more, merrily pronouncing this artist important, that artist not so, this work fine art, that applied, this piece a work of art, that a craft object, etc. Sort and dispose. It is not enough to know what you like, I reasoned. A viewer who could not distinguish between serious art and pretty pictures was as culturally impoverished as a reader who could not distinguish between great literature and chick lit, Romantic poetry and Harlequin Romances. The one was an act of engagement, the other an act of escapism.

Beem Family Interior

Of course, my idea of what constituted value in contemporary art was borrowed largely from New York and the slick art journals where a premium was placed on individuality and originality. Most, if not all of what I knew about the art enterprise I knew from talking to artists and observing them at work. Writing for publication gave me entrée to the studios of artists ranging from Neil Welliver, Alex Katz and Andrew Wyeth to Dozier Bell, Celeste Roberge and Abby Shahn.

I learned a great deal from talking to and observing dozens and dozens of artists in Maine, but it was an offhand remark by Abby Shahn that first threw a monkey wrench into the finely-tuned and well-oiled gears of my art critical machinery. I was visiting Abby at her home and studio in Solon, talking to her about her art and art in general while she transformed some frozen squash into one of best bowls of soup I ever ate, when I chanced to ask her opinion of an artist, perhaps Wyeth but definitely one problematic in terms of both content and style.  “Given a choice between bad art and no art,” said Abby, “I’ll take bad art.” That generous, open-minded comment made me start to question my whole judgmental approach to appreciating and writing about art. And once you get beyond seeing art through the distorted lens of quality, you start realizing all the other biases that operate on our perceptions of art, art history tending to be an exclusive Eurocentric male view.

Abby Shahn’s comment began a re-examination of my own elitist male prejudices about art that eventually led me to the realization that there really is no such thing as bad art.

I probably knew this a priori as a child, but it came as something of a revelation to the “sophisticate” I had become. On a moral scale of human activity from genocide at one end to sainthood at the other, all art making, whether that of children, amateurs, outsiders, fine artists or geniuses, is way up there at the divine end of the spectrum. It’s a good thing to do whether the art establishment or the art market values it or not.

My approach to writing about art has evolved such that I now attempt to see and accept all art for what it is and what I imagine it is trying to do. I endeavor to be the best audience an artist can have, someone who will look long enough to ask questions and think about what the artist is up to whether they are trying to save the world or just make it a little more beautiful. To the degree that I can help the average reader find ways to approach difficult art that is what I want to do as a writer. But you do have to know a little something about art history to understand why a rectangular block of rusty steel by Richard Serra or a compacted bale of tin cans by Adriane Herman, to name two of my favorite pieces of art in Maine, are important works of art. But that’s a story for another time.

My long-winded point here is that as I matured as a writer, I came to a renewed appreciation of my mother’s modest achievements as a watercolorist. Watercolor, except in the hands of a few painters such as Winslow Homer, John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andrew Wyeth, tends to be seen as a lesser medium than oil, acrylic, casein or tempera. Watercolors are humble things, a little powdered pigment mixed with water, the stuff of school children, illustrators and amateurs.

Watercolor was my mother’s medium. Her wet-on-wet still-life, landscape and floral paintings were only seen in the homes of her family and friends and once a year at the holiday art show at her church. Something about watercolor spoke to my mother and now she speaks to me through it.

The last two paintings we acquired – a lily by DeWitt Hardy and a pair of dark, brooding views of the apple tree in his New Brunswick backyard by Stephen Scott – are watercolors. It was not until a visitor saw the Hardy painting and asked if it were by my mother that it dawned on me that a lot of the appeal of the lily and the apple trees is that they are fluent in the fluid language my mother tried to speak.

Betty Beem

During the last two years of their lives my parents’ world was reduced to a shared room in a nursing home. Other than family photographs, they took precious little with them when they could no longer live in their own home, but one of the few things my mother took were her watercolors. As she approached 90 and eternity in the nursing home, my mother created an identity for herself beyond that of old lady, invalid and patient. She painted small watercolors for staff members and fellow patients, taking special requests and sharing her time and talent right to the very end. Painting gave her an identity. Betty Beem was an artist. I know that now, but I didn’t always.

Alice Spencer

above: Alice Spencer, Kasaya#8, Hand printed paper/collage on board, 35×46, 2013, Jay York photo

I have always made things–paintings, drawings, things with clay. Making things as a child never seemed like something I did but something that was continuous with who I was. Looking back I think my early experience with art making was one of the reasons I grew to love ethnic textiles and to use them in my work.

Baby Carrier, Batik, Indigo dye, Miao Tribal People, Yunnan Province, China, Dimensions Variable, Bernard C. Meyers photo

In many traditional societies hand-made textiles are deeply tied to civic life. They are practical and useful but also function as a societal signal system. They create cohesion and provide a framework of shared values. In many of these communities, textiles hold an ethos, a spiritual center. They are an essential source of identity and connection.

Mirror Cover, Lakai Tribe, Afganistan, Cotton and cotton embroidery, 20th century, 18×18, Bernard C. Meyers Photo

Handmade work is not commodified, as in much Western art, but continuous with the natural and spiritual laws of the world, an agent of meaning that informs everyday life.

 

 

In traditional weaving communities girls and boys grow up in families with weaving almost written into their DNA, learning to incorporate mathematically dense and aesthetically rich patterns into warp and weft. Weavers are valued citizens and their work is vital to the well-being of the community.

I grew up in a world where, like most of us, textiles were machine made and bought already made into curtains or jackets. My mother didn’t sew, I didn’t sew, and the only weaving I did was to make potholders for Christmas presents. I attended an elite private school where Home Economics, which taught the skills of domesticity in public schools, was considered inferior to the life of the intellect.  In college I took studio art, visited museums and galleries, studied art history, never doubting I would be an artist. But at times I felt like an outlier, not tuned in to the ongoing debate about the -isms of art.  On visits to New York I began to seek out shows of folk art and a new genre known as “outsider art”.

Cradle Cover, Turkey, Silk embroidery on cotton, 20th century, 30×40
Headscarves, combs, Paduaung Tribal woman, Myanmar, Photo by author

 

About 40 years ago I went to Guatemala with my husband, Dick.  We fell in love with the women’s hand woven huipile blouses and learned that each village had its own unique colors and patterns.  At one point we spotted a gorgeous blouse, but someone was wearing it. The woman noticed us admiring it and disappeared behind a bush. When she emerged (wearing another) she offered it to us. A favorite first piece in our collection, it still smells faintly of smoke, sweat and goat dung.

 

 

From that time on we began to travel to countries where we could find handmade textiles. Seeking out workshops and weaving villages, often in remote places, became a way for us to experience each country at a deeper level than would otherwise have been possible.  In all these years we rarely have set foot in Europe, the place of my heritage. Its textile traditions are no longer alive; textiles are dusty artifacts in museums.

Kemba, Woman’s breast cloth, Three color batik, Java, Indonesia Photo Bernard C. Meyers

 

 

We have now acquired close to 80 textiles from about 20 countries, including Bhutan, India, China and Cambodia. We bought tube skirts while visiting our Peace Corps kids in East Timor. We found the embroidered tails of a ritual dancer’s skirt in Ecuador, an Akh-nif cape with its huge woven eye in Morocco, and ikat robes lined with Russian chintz in Uzbekistan. Someone gave us a burqua. and we discovered 3 gorgeous Korean bojagis (wrapping cloths) in a flea market in Seoul. I also attended an auction of Jack Leonard Larson’s collection of ethnic textiles in New York. Surrounded by eager collectors, I finally landed a mud cloth from Mali. Most of these pieces, with the exception of those that attract moths, are piled on a high kitchen shelf. The layers of bright cloth bring me pleasure and inspiration every day.

Over the years I also had the opportunity to teach printmaking in both Mongolia and Zanzibar (Tanzania), which opened another path of connection to other traditional arts-centered cultures. Art students in Mongolia, most now living in the city in Ulaanbaatar, revere their country’s nomadic past. The iconic horse of the steppe still is an important subject in their work.  In Zanzibar, the women I worked with learned henna body decoration in the traditional way: from their mothers or their aunts. While still practicing this ancient art for weddings and other celebrations, they have now learned to use their henna designs in brightly-colored acrylic paintings.

 

 

Alice Spencer, Crazy Quilt Improv#2, Hand printed paper/collage on board 16×16, 2016, Jay York photo

It was while traveling, teaching and collecting textiles abroad that the idea of re-imagining textiles in paintings emerged as a path for my work. While Matisse called his textile collection his “working library,” for me textiles offer a lexicon, not just of formal structures, but of conceptual associations that provide the content and language for my work. Fold, pleat, pattern, patch: these actions find new applications in paint or collage. Referencing the evolution of textile motifs that occur across cultures and through generations I use multiple stencils to create each pattern. Each pattern holds within itself a small sample of the sweep of history and time.

Recently, I have started making collages that are based on patchwork textiles. Combining craftsmanship with thrift, patchwork has brought vibrant beauty to clothing and other humble household necessities throughout history. The ancient tradition of recycling is now a focus in both contemporary art and daily life. In exploring this form I have been looking at quilts from the American South made from the clothing of deceased family members and at others where quilting norms are subverted and the music of the quilters’ African forbears can be tracked in the off-kilter arrangements of patched squares. I have also looked at Japanese fishermen’s coats, thickly layered with patches, and becoming increasingly warmer and more beautiful through time, as well as the kasayas of Tibetan monks who, vowing humility, follow an exacting protocol as they stitch together remnants of once fine brocades. These and other quilt traditions are the source of my recent work.

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Alice Spencer, Kasaya#3, Hand printed paper/collage on board, 48×63, 2013, Jay York photo

By borrowing from  an enduring cultural tradition, one in which art and daily life flow as one, I celebrate it and find a meaningful path for my work.

Alice Spencer, Kasaya#6, Hand printed paper/collage on board, 30×41, 2013, Jay York photo

Susan Drucker

above: Susan Drucker, “Benjamin Wood Fairbanks and Douc Langur. China. 1880.” Pencil, eraser. 2017

Susan Drucker, “Marianne Jones Fairbanks and Marmoset. India. 1882.” Pencil, eraser, ink. 2016.

These drawings are part of an on-going book project based on reimagined family photos. A “picture book for all ages”, it will track the lineage of my family over four generations along with their imagined animal companions. The book will resemble a photo album, with each image captioned by names, dates, places, and occasional notes.

Susan Drucker, “Gladys and Gorilla. Montclair, NJ. 1901.” Pencil, eraser. 2017

The focal point of the book will be my great-grandparents, Charlotte and Frank. I imagine Charlotte’s parents (Benjamin and Marianne) traveling internationally during the 1870’s, eventually bringing back the first generation of animal companions: a gorilla, two golden tamarins, a douc langur, a spider monkey, a secretary bird, and a giraffe.

Susan Drucker, “Frank and Spider Monkey. Montclair, NJ. 1908.” Pencil, eraser. 2016

Charlotte, and later Frank, will develop unique relationships with these animals, as will their children (Gladys and Jack), and their grandchildren (Nancy and Chips).

Susan Drucker, “Jack and Secretary Bird. Montclair, NJ. 1910.” Pencil, eraser. 2016
Susan Drucker, “Pop Dutch and Nana. Casanovia. NY. 1920.” Pencil, eraser. 2016

I hope that the eventual addition of names for each animal (which I have yet to pinpoint) will help illuminate their profound “humanity”, as well as make the details and longevity of the human/animal relationships more clear. I have taken great pleasure in portraying the amazing presence of animals — both real and imagined — in our collective lives.

Susan Drucker, “Frank, Charlotte, and Tamarin. Bay Head, NJ. 1931.” Pencil, eraser. 2018
Susan Drucker, “Nancy and Giraffe. Casanovia, NY. 1934.” Pencil, eraser, ink. 2017

Please note that all images are works in progress.

Susan Drucker

Diane Giardi

above: Diane Giardi, “Release”, stoneware & oxides, pit-fired

Diane Giardi, “Molten Lava” stoneware & oxides, pit-fired

The loss of a beloved grandmother, father and then my young husband of 38, brought my art to its focus on spirit and the concept of the physical body as primarily the shell/wrapping for the soul.  As a ceramist in graduate school, the stoneware sculptures I created appeared almost as layered, peeling armatures left behind.  The clay bodies, heavily textured and pit-fired, were singed in large brick kilns constructed by hand, outdoors, and filled with wood, sawdust and oxides.  With daily firings, I believe I spent three years smelling like I just came from a barbecue, wherever I went.  Working in handmade fiber as well, as in “Winged Amaranth”, these lighter structures of abaca, cotton, and seagrass, seem to be lifted upward as if just releasing the energy within.

Diane Giardi, “Winged Amaranth”, sea grass, raffia, abaca fiber

Enjoying the texture, translucency and opaque qualities of another medium-encaustics, I spent a great deal of time exploring and creating works that were layered and often combined with other materials. In “Text Memories”, a largescale work, 6 ft. x 5 ft. 6” x 1.5”, I sewed 12 encaustic squares on canvas that contained circles with the repetition of names of important people in my life.

Diane Giardi, “Text Memories”, Detail 1, Encaustic, ink, thread

Writing in script each name 200 times in the circle created a particular textural surface.  The writing itself was a contemplation/meditation on that person and my feelings for them.

Working as a hospice volunteer for over 20 years has given me experience knowing others, aside from loved ones, through the dying process, and their loved ones, through the grief process.  I have witnessed the joy that can also be alive along with the sorrow – the connection and appreciation of all that is still there throughout and until the end.

Diane Giardi, “Grecian Shadow”, photo

Living with full awareness of death is important to me, as in the biblical line “Remember man that you are dust and onto dust you shall return”. And to be ready, as Ram Dass narrates so beautifully, “I’ve learned to relax my hold on this body, to rest in life – as a wonderful Saint put it – like a bird resting on a dry branch, ready to fly away.”

Diane Giardi, “Light Torso”, photo
Diane Giardi, “Soft Realm”, photo
Diane Giardi, “Light Sculpture”, photo

 

 

My new work deals with light and its’ reflections, often on everyday objects.  Streaming sun and its’ shadows creates sculptures and imagery that draws me into its’ focusing ability and ethereal qualities.  I am now chasing the light and continuing to explore.

 

“Even in Death Mobility”
(New York Times Headline, Oct. 25th, 2011)

Diane Giardi, “Ribs of Light”, photo

Even in death there is movement.
The soul kayaks out,
spirit climbs the Stairmaster,
vision hang-glides,
perception, reception, bungee-jumps,
senses dance, a final drum song.
Even in death, action
Forces transpire, take hold, transform,
manifest.
The heart still stirring,
brain still carrying
remains of vitality,
now transmitting, dematerializing,
dissolving into
a sacred, intangible world.
Even in death
ethereal ripples.

-Diane Giardi

(from a series of poems I wrote, inspired by New York Times
article headlines)

Upcoming Maine Masters Film—Natasha Mayers

HELP FUND A FILM ABOUT LONGTIME UMVA ACTIVIST/ARTIST, NATASHA MAYERS!

Click on the above image  to see the film trailer for “Natasha Mayers: An Un-still Life” and even if you can’t donate, please share!

Natasha Mayers, Mountain, acrylic, 2017,44×40

Now, more than ever, people want to see truthful, creative role models like Natasha Mayers, who is known as the  “best activist artist” in Maine and who Senator George Mitchell called a “state treasure.”

The film about Natasha Mayers shows what’s possible when the power of art touches hearts and minds and brings people together.  The video will take this message to inspire a wider audience to apply those values to bring meaning and beauty to their own lives…and get active!

Cheryl Lichwell

  above: Cheryl Lichwell, “Home”, 12x8x23

 

How does an artist express doubts, inner thoughts, or wishes?

Cheryl Lichwell, “Friend or Foe”, H 12″ other dimensions variable
Cheryl Lichwell, “Seeking Direction”, 24x24x36

At first glance my ceramic sculpture may look mythical. I have chosen to use both animals and people to express emotions that we all may share.

The inner stories we create about how we protect ourselves, deal with inner dialogue or hide our fears, are sometimes better revealed through an animal’s sense of preservation, such as a rabbit’s wariness, or the solemn contemplation of a chimp.

Cheryl Lichwell, “Arrogance”, 14x14x28
Cheryl Lichwell, “Balance”, 15x17x24
Cheryl Lichwell, “Distractions”, H30 other dimensions variable
Cheryl Lichwell, “Past And Present”, 10x12x24
Cheryl Lichwell, “Go Ahead And Take It”, 8x10x30

 

 

Cheryl Lichwell, “The Wish”, 12x10x16

I find it comforting to know that others share my fascination with the inner workings of humanity. What drives us to behave the way we do? This question is what motivates my work.

Cheryl Lichwell, “Innocence”, 18x18x26

UMVA Portland Chapter Fall Update

above: UMVA Gallery sign at 516 Congress St.

The UMVA Portland Chapter is preparing its 2018 calendar. Applications for shows are still available, though there are only 3 or 4 months left open. Please contact John Ripton at jartphotos@gmail.com for an application and list of exhibit guidelines. If you wish to be considered for the 2018 calendar, please prepare and submit an application by October 15th. UMVA Gallery accepts and considers applications at any time during the year. Submissions are reviewed and decisions made in one or two months.

The July members’ show was very successful – approximately 60 member artists submitted work. More is expected for the November show, titled “Memories.” Contact UMVA curator Ann Tracy (anntracy51@gmail.com) for guidelines for the November show. The submissions are due October 9th.

Roland & John at Addison Woolley Show

UMVA members supported the search for new flooring at CTN (Community Television Network). CTN is changing their name to Portland Media Center, so watch for new signage. Members also contributed to CTN’s telethon on September 22nd and 23rd with members Jim Kelly and Roland Salazar Rose painting live on cable and donating their work to televised auction. Members Janice Moore and Matt Devers designed a new banner. It now hangs in the window of CTN. Mark Barnette developed a permanent panel briefly explaining UMVA’s purpose to be installed in the Gallery.

The Addison-Woolley exhibit will run through October 27th. It is a wonderful show of photography and art. Visit the show at the UMVA Gallery at 516 Congress St. in Portland. Check out David Wade’s photos in slide show below of opening night.

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A few UMVA members are on the selection committee for Creative Portland.  http://www.creativeportland.com/about-us 

Several UMVA members were accepted at the Barnes Foundation’s juried show over the summer. The group included Roland Salazar Rose, Jim Kelly, Ann Tracy and Dave Wade.

The UMVA is pleased that the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation has established itself in Portland at 13 Brown Street. Visit the Foundation’s Web site: https://www.rabkinfoundation.org/ 

UMVA Portland Chapter invites any and all members to join them in discussion and decision-making every third Monday of the month, 6-8 p.m. The next meeting is October 17th. The principal agenda item is determining the 2018 calendar for the Portland UMVA Gallery.

Portland Herald News reporter Bob Keyes did an article on UMVA member Janice Moore’s show at L-A Museum in Lewiston. You can read it at http://mainetoday.com/maine_art/paintings-photos-artifacts-pay-homage-maine-mills/ 

UMVA Portland Chapter encourages all artists who read these notes to register as a UMVA member at http://www.umvaonline.org/index.php?page=journal Also, check out the archives of UMVA Maine Arts Journal at the same site.

 

UMVA Member Essay: “The Politics of Art” by John Ripton

Politics does not stop at the museum or gallery door, neither should it be dictated by commissions or commissioners. Diego Rivera said as much when he refused to remove an image of Vladimir Lenin in a mural he created in Rockefeller Center in 1932. The mural projected a hopeful future where humans reached across social class lines and used technology to benefit all humankind. It is a message that resonates loudly in the world of American politics today. Rivera’s mural, however, was chiseled from the wall in 1934 at the orders of the art patron and business tycoon John D. Rockefeller.

“I don’t think anyone can separate art from politics,” asserts contemporary Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei. “The intention to separate art from politics is itself a very political intention,” he explains.*

Everyone, including artists, are enmeshed in the politics of economic and social injustice and environmental calamities. Artists can no more escape these realities than any other human being. Because all means of expression and communication evolve from relationships with others – family, community and wider national and global societies – personal creative expression is profoundly shaped by social forces. Thus an individual artist’s experience, as with all human experience, depends very significantly on class background, education and other social agency.

Freedom of expression has been an ongoing struggle throughout history. When discussing the history and demise of the Bauhaus School (1919-33), Artnet Magazine associate editor Ben Davis writes, “Art cannot afford to turn away from history.”** According to Davis, the idealistic and leftist leaders and teachers in the Bauhaus of Germany’s Wiemar Republic, failed to directly confront the historical circumstances and class divisions that the Nazis successfully exploited. When the Nazi regime came to power in 1933, it closed the Bauhaus. Hitler declared all modernist art “degenerate.”

Nazi denunciation of modernist art was a direct assault on intellectual and creative production, a pretext for cleansing culture of the questions, criticisms and visions art expresses. Purification of culture – we must remember – is the first step toward purification of blood. “The Nazis burnt Picassos, Dalís, Ernsts, Klees, Légers and Mirós years before they built Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Birkenau,” Yara Zgheib points out.***

Today, democratic culture is under direct attack in the United States and throughout much of the world. Though paintings, books or other works of art have not been publicly burned or destroyed in mass rallies, an assault on culture is nevertheless underway. “Alternative facts,” “fake news” and the nationalist appeals of the “alt-right” are part of the ongoing attack on the “liberal media.” And, as government relaxes regulation on media corporations, nationalist media is poised to extend its reach and influence. Already Sinclair, the largest broadcast media company, plans to expand its politically conservative programming beyond the quarter of the nation’s household it now reaches. Combined with the proliferation of right-wing social media and widespread reactionary radio talk-show hosts, nationalist and nativist voices are now engaged in an aggressive attempt to fashion headlines and gain ground in the daily news coverage.

The emergence of branding in national politics is another crucial concern for artists. The most abject form of advertising, branding seeks to establish loyalty among it followers. As such, it seeks to displace critical inquiry and scientific evidence, to undermine competing voices. Message repetition, subliminal messaging and soundbites are key tactics in both commercial and political branding strategy. Branding also carries connotations of marking for ownership, as commonly practiced in the livestock industry. It is, of course, a genuinely ominous development for democratic politics. When branding becomes political strategy, when symbols and words evoke political loyalty, the shadow of doubt engulfs all forms of criticism. Reality can be stood on its head. Social and moral chaos may ensue.

Artists in every media are quite familiar with the technical elements involved in eliciting human response – to color, to sound, to motion, to image, to words. We know the power of symbols. Because we work in these currencies, we have a social role and responsibility to keep a dynamic and critical culture alive.

If we do not elevate our criticism of socioeconomic inequalities and environmental deregulation at this moment of national and global existential crises, then a new culture with fewer critical voices may evolve very quickly.

Do not allow isolation, indifference, fear, lassitude or social class overwhelm our critical creative voices.

We must be politically conscious and remain engaged in the world. In words often attributed to the indefatigable philosopher, writer and activist Rosa Luxemburg, “The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening” ****

 

*(Liang Luo, The Avant-Garde and the Popular in Modern China, University of Michigan Press, 2014, p. 226)

**(http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/reviews/davis/bauhaus1-28-10.asp).

***TheEuropean(http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/yara-zgheib/9957-the-relationship-between-arts-and-politics .

****(https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jun/14/saturdayreviewsfeatres.guardianreview19 ).

 

Marsha Donahue on Regionalism

Marsden Hartley, Mount Katahdin Autumn No. 1,            oil on panel

2. John Marin, Sea and Gulls, oil on canvas

In some skewed kind of logic, regional art of Maine could be argued around to where art is sometimes defined as Maine. Take for instance Marsden Hartley (fig.1) or John Marin’s (fig.2) work. With Marin’s extraordinary coastal Maine watercolors I find it hard to identify him with few other places more than Maine, even though he certainly painted other places, as did Hartley.

3. Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, egg tempera on board

When one says regional art of Maine, what comes to mind? Andrew Wyeth (fig.3), certainly, but beyond that, it would depend on your depth of understanding and taste and would probably be subjective, based on your experience and education. But how does Maine fit within the definition of regionalism?

 

‘Regionalism’ as an actual movement, as defined by Wikipedia, was an American realist modern movement popular from 1930-1935 “that included paintings, murals, lithographs and illustrations depicting realistic scenes of rural and small-town America…Regionalist art in general was in a relatively conservative and traditional style that appealed to popular American sensibilities, while strictly opposing the perceived domination of French art.”

As a result, when in art school in the sixties, the words “regional art” were delivered derisively to mean pedestrian art. Teachers would say about an artist that they were only a regional artist, meaning not to be taken seriously or given much weight, or even trite. By the time I graduated, I said, “Oh my god, I’ve got to avoid at all costs being regional.”

4. Fairfield Porter, Still Life with Boats, oil on canvas

But regional as a damning label began to lose validity as I came to know regions in the world that represented a standard in art; the Barbizon woods where Parisian landscape painters painted en plein air, Provence en Aix where Cezanne made the light and shapes recognizable, Cuzco with its golden Peruvian art, Benin in Africa known for some of the earliest sculpture, and many more of which I came to be aware by education and travel. The denouement was when I walked into the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC as a young art student and saw that the signature painting in a show of Luminist Hudson River painters was Frederick Church’s painting of Katahdin from Millinocket Lake (fig.6). All I have mentioned were important and historic places and the art from them defined and was defined by the region. One not only pictured a style but a quality of work from each place. How does the region inform the quality? Is it by some level of familiarity or brand that we assume a certain quality? Do artists come to Maine to seek out a certain brand, thereby assuming that quality goes with it?

Talking with a couple of artists about regionalism recently, one said that she felt the people that come to paint the Maine we so jealously guard as our own seemed like interlopers after a bit of the Maine panache. Take for instance the number of plein air workshops that have sprung up along the coast in the last few years, often even taught by visitors. You have to wonder if people are being attracted by some greater global connectivity, such as the internet, advertising our mystique.

6. Frederick Edwin Church, Katahdin from Millinocket Camp, oil on canvas

It may be true that the internet connectivity has begun to draw more artists to the region but artists have been beating a path to Maine for over a century and a half, ever since Frederick Church came to Maine in the mid 1800’s. In fact artists with their tools were the original visual reporters of these regions, be it the unexplored West or Maine’s rugged coast and interior. Connectivity may have enhanced the allure of our region but there is plenty of evidence that it was well established before the internet. Even if the sales and promotion often exists in an urban setting like New York, that does not take away from the regional nature of the art. That is why I see Maine as an identifiable region, as is Rockport, Massachusetts, for its community of seaport painters, or Abiquiu, New Mexico as interpreted through the eyes of Georgia O’Keeffe.

The region defines the art defines the region. So I return to the question, does the region inform the quality and how much does familiarity influence our judgment of quality? Some work begs the question, but regionalism can sometimes carry the day. I remember the great, groundbreaking show at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC of Black folk art from across the South back in 1978. Some of the artists went on to be international sensations but it was the region that carried all the artists on its tide. Authenticity can count for a lot; a sense of truth and integrity in the work or the power of a regional brand.

And sometimes an artist lands exactly where they are supposed to be, a kind of magic coupling of the level of inspiration of a region with the artist’s particular sensibility. What would Marin have been without the Maine coast, or Fairfield Porter (fig.4) or Stephen Etnier (fig.5) without Maine light, or Hartley without Katahdin?

5. Stephen Etnier, Still Morning, oil on canvas

Or Hartley without Stieglitz? When Hartley wanted to revive his flagging career and reestablish himself as “the painter of Maine” Stieglitz mounted a solo show of his work at Gallery 291 in New York City in 1909, including images of Katahdin, and thereby located his work of Maine before an international art audience. So without the connectivity to a larger audience, would we even know regionalism?

7. George Bellows, Sunlit Surf, oil on canvas

Ultimately the connection to an urban sales and exhibition venue is crucial to our connectivity to outlying regions, and even though it has been enhanced greatly by the advent of the internet, the “connectivity” is the catalyst, the vehicle, whether in the mid 1800’s when Luminist paintings of Mt. Desert, Maine were put before the Rockefellers or in 1913 when George Bellows (fig.7) began

8. Alex Katz, Homage to Money 2009, oil on linen

summering on Monhegan and returned to New York City, or when Alex Katz (fig.8) came to study at the Skowhegan School in 1950 and brought his en plein air visions of Maine back to his native Brooklyn, N.Y., or when Stephen Pace (fig.9) showed his light coastal Maine paintings in New York.

9. Stephen Pace, Early Morning, oil on canvas

But how does this connectivity really affect the quality and character of work from this region? Aren’t we just as likely to produce regionally substandard or trite work or does Maine really have an edge, a distinctive look, where the landscape serves the artist and, even if the artist has only passable skills, will produce work of distinct appeal and quality?

I have a gallery in North Light Gallery of mostly emerging artists who paint this region. The region is the subject, but the artists are not necessarily from this region. Andrew Wyeth did not start as a Maine regional painter but came to embrace this region after being raised and schooled in Pennsylvania, but he will forever define a quality of Maine painting; a reduced palette and emotional austerity typical of the Maine farmlands and coast.

10. Marsha Donahue, Intersection, oil on board

Which brings me back to the question, how is perception of a region changed in the world view by painters who are not from that region adopting it and bringing their sensibility to it? Would any painter who did not have a deep relationship with Maine have painted Christina crawling through the field? Having grown up here I am mostly preoccupied with rocks (fig.10), as many of my friends would tell you, but is that what a visiting artist would relate to? Maine is a known region, because it is familiar, because it has been made familiar and because it continues to draw artists because of where it is. But seen through the eyes of those who are not from Maine we are often shown a different interpretation of a familiar theme. Was Wyeth’s attraction to Christina in the field really influenced by his childhood farm environment in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania? Have visiting artists, because of their earlier influences, perhaps shown the world a different place than we as natives might have?

11. Phillip Barter, Moonrise Mount Katahdin, oil on board

After five years running this gallery, one day I suddenly saw with awful clarity, brought back from art school days, that I was running a regional gallery. I began to understand from that day forward what value regionalism has and to embrace it. I began to see how the region has a strong brand and how that gives every artist that paints here a leg up. But, regardless of the brand, I can look at a painting of the north of Maine by Philip Barter(fig.11), a prolific painter of the Maine landscape, and see an arrangement of colors and shapes similar to what I saw in an Arthur Dove at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. many years ago, and know that I am looking at greatness and quality, whether it is Maine or not.

12. Linden Frederick, Night Neighbors, oil on linen

If a work of art is good, it doesn’t matter where it was painted or by whom. Oftentimes the tide of regionalism can raise an artist with real potential into the mainstream that we might never have noticed otherwise. Once in the mainstream that label may drop away, but it might also end up defining what we see. As an example, Linden Frederick paints Belfast, Maine (fig.12), a town I spent many years of my childhood in as my grandparents were there, and though he paints a unique and authentic view of that place, it is very different from the memories I have from my childhood, though just as true. His regional view is very different from mine and he has redefined the region with his truth. I always worry about falling into the “regional” label trap and then failing to recognize and to support some of the true talent around us, regardless of where the artists are from. Linden Frederick is a master and has taken the language of our region and established it with a global audience. In the end all of us from this region may have been buoyed up by those master artists who have ventured here, painted their truth and connected us to the rest of the world.

ARRT! Update

The Artists Rapid Response Team! is a project of the Union of Maine Visual Artists. Members of ARRT! are UMVA members and activist artists who work to provide visuals for progressive groups throughout Maine, seeking to add a visual voice to help carry their messages far and wide. The following images are recently completed banners. Click on them to expand images.

The slideshow below gives a glimpse of the July 4th 2017 parade in Whitefield Maine, titled “Liar Liar Pants on Fire!” Artist Natasha Mayers has organized a community Independence Day Parade in her hometown of Whitefield for decades. Many of the props, banners and constructions in this year’s parade were created by ARRT!

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LumenARRT! is a project of the Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!).  We work through the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) to advocate for artists and further the work of progressive non-profits in the state of Maine.  Our video projections create a visual voice for these organizations and like electronic graffiti, bring awareness to issues of social, political and environmental justice.

LumenARRT! participated in the River Jam Fringe Fest in Biddeford Friday, September 15 with a projection of “Warming of the Gulf of Maine” video-mapped on the facade of the Marble Block on Main St. Festival goers of all ages also joined in the draw-your-own-comments/electronic graffiti using “Tagtools” and shadow puppets projected around the corner on a Franklin St wall.

Click on images below to see a short video of the project.

On July 14th, LumenARRT! created a projection extravaganza at MIFF (Maine International Film Festival) Opening Night Party.  Click on image above to see a video of the event. FIVE projectors were going and had an interactive component was available so viewers could Tweet and draw onto the party tent.   They were reacting to finding out the air quality in their zip code. Try it now! Visit the 10Green project at the University of Maine –> http://10green.org/ #WhatsYourBreathableNumber

Other LumenARRT! projects:

9/22 —Tag tools interactive projection on Mechanics Hall celebrated the Community Television Network and highlighted their annual fundraiser, UMVA Gallery renovations and transformation to becoming the “Portland Media Center” 516 Congress St.

10/6 — First Year anniversary of opening of the LGBTQ Equality Community Center:  LumenARRT! will be projecting interviews (with sound) on shapes in the Plaza, as well as some interactive components on Mechanics Hall, 511 Congress St, Portland.

Visit: lumenarrt.org for more.

ARRT! is thankful for the generous contributions from the Broadreach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation and the support of the UMVA and its members.

UMVA Members Jo Ann Bianchi, Janice L. Moore, Stephanie Berry and Shelah Horvitz on Regionalism

above: Jo Ann Bianchi, “Egg on your Face”, acrylic on canvas, 24”x24”, 2017

Jo Ann Bianchi

My recent seasonal move to Maine was for the cool summer climate, its geographical remoteness, its earthy scenic lure, and the dynamic artistic pulse of Portland.

Jo Ann Bianchi, “Impermanence”, acrylic on canvas, 24”x24”, 2017
Jo Ann Bianchi, “Let’s Tangle”, acrylic on canvas, 24”x24”, 2017

My creative inspiration and expression comes as a visceral response to an ever changing geopolitical climate as seen through social and mass media.

Jo Ann Bianchi, “Upstream”, acrylic on canvas, 36”x36”, 2017

 

Janice L. Moore

Regionalism for a painter has an established meaning: it’s painting what an artist lives with, in, and around. I’ve lived and painted in Maine most of my life. My work is specific to my experience here. I’m interested in what’s real and particular about us; namely in the landscapes of our Maine work that speak directly of who we are and how we got here.  

Janice L. Moore “Beer Plant, Portland”, Oil on Canvas, 24” x 36” 2016

Maine is my context; it’s not negated because I’ve lived and worked in other locations.

Janice L. Moore “Paper Mill, Rumford”, Oil on Canvas, 24” x 36” 2014

Neither is my connection negated because I’m exposed to a wider culture or other influences and art forms. These influences will be filtered through my experience as a painter grounded in Maine.  My portrayal of place is in direct response to an increasingly homogenous popular culture dominated by national brands and franchised box-stores. My connection to place helps me find reliable truth in the face of the barrage of “alternative truth” and selective reality.

Janice L. Moore “Bean Factory, Portland”, Oil on Canvas, 24” x 48” 2016
Janice L. Moore “Milk Plant, Portland”

 

Stephanie Berry

Stephanie Berry, “Buggy Night”, 30×40, oil and cold wax on linen, 2017

I love Maine other than the prolonged winters and short summers.  We get to experience the fullness of 4 seasons.  We have diversity of landscape from the coast to mountains to the rolling hills of Aroostook County.  It would be abnormal to my mind not to be influenced by where you live.  An art teacher told me once to paint what you love.  I love my home state of Maine.

Stephanie Berry, “Scarecrow and Washer”, 18×24, oil on linen panel, 2010
Stephanie Berry, “Winter Clouds”, 16×20, oil and cold wax on Masonite, 2016

 

Shelah Horvitz

Regionalism is absolutely relevant within the US because the attitudes and values of the people around you reflect the landscape/cityscape and the local industries. In Maine, I am living on the edge of wilderness. It is a cold, mountainous and rocky country where the summer plants grow like a jungle. A certain type of person chooses this place as their home. They must be people who love the wilderness, who see the sublime in the landscape around them, who rejoice in the ferocity of the environment.

Shelah Horvitz, “Front”, acrylic on panel, 16″x12″, 2017
Shelah Horvitz, “Firs”, acrylic on panel, 12″x16″, 2017

UMVA Members John Ripton, Judy O’Donnell, Suzanna Lasker, Marguerite Lawler-Rohner and Ann Tracy on Regionalism

above: John Ripton, “Executive Meeting”, Photograph – Inkjet on Archival Paper, 12”X16”

John Ripton

A wall is a wall until it is art, or until it is torn down, as happened with this colorful street mural (above) on a wall in Portland. I gave the photograph an ironic title to express the tension that often exists between street art and commercial interests. This is a universal phenomenon and truth in our cosmopolitan world.

John Ripton, “Tat-Tat-Tat”, Photograph Inkjet on Archival Paper, 12”X16”

Rauschenberg painted brooms and goats. Duchamp exhibited a standard manufactured urinal and a bottle rack as art. Ai Weiwei suspended 886 stools at the Venice Art Biennale 2013. In this photograph an anonymous Biddeford tattoo artist uses an electric needle to paint an anonymous man’s flesh.

John Ripton, “Hand Becomes Violin”,
Photograph Inkjet on Archival Paper, 12”X16”

One of the first conscious acts in human evolution is applying our hands and minds to shape physical materials. To our existential peril we forget that artifice engages humans with their environment for survival. Here in a room in a former textile mill above the Saco River a violin-maker hears notes that will travel around the world and may one day awaken humankind to the music of forests and minerals.

John Ripton, “Singing with Wings”, Photograph Inkjet on Archival Paper, 12”X16”

This group of Portland teenage musicians on Congress Street are influenced by various strands of American and world music including American punk rock and scream-style music as well as traditional Irish ballads. The young female vocalist appropriates the winged boots of the Greek god Hermes and the drummer experiments with a towel on his snare drums as the young Ringo Starr once did.

 

Judy O’Donnell

Judy O’Donnell, “Orange Woman Reclining”,
Steel, Particle Paint, 64″ x 67″ x 27″, Photo by Jay York
Judy O’Donnell, “Orbs 2″, Oil, collage, 12″ x 12”

 

Suzanna Lasker

What Maine Means to Me as an Artist

My husband and I moved here from

California to Maine twenty years ago

to be near family and to experience seasons

again.

Suzanna Lasker, “Wood”

Especially winter. We love winters in Maine,

all of winter with its storms, heaps of snow, slow

melts and, yes, the ice.

 

My husband writes dramas and I draw memory

pictures during gray winter days

Suzanna Lasker, “Winter Flu”

Something in the soul needs something to

endure – it is winter for us.

 

Marguerite Lawler-Rohner

My focus as an artist is the Maine landscape, studying the interior woods or small islands in the midday light. On location I observe and paint the high contrast of light, the shadows and the forms it creates in nature. My work is representational but not literal. I paint with the intent is to compose form and spatial depth, combined with personal imprint.

Marguerite Lawler, “The Ledge”, 24″x24″,oil, 2017
Marguerite Lawler, “Inner Circle”, 24″x24″, oil, 2017
Marguerite Lawler, “Mossy”, 24″x24″, oil, 2017

 

Ann Tracy

Ann Tracy, “Winter Tree”, 2016, 20×20
Ann Tracy, “Forest Bathing I”, 13.5×16

UMVA Members David Wade, Renuka O’Connell, Lee Chisholm, Anne Strout, David Allen and Sandra Beck on Regionalism

above: David Wade, “Sumi”, archival pigment print,                16 x 21″,  2012

David Wade

What Maine Means To Me

I think every artist is influenced by their environment and choose to be where they feel most inspired and free to create. Maine’s empty open spaces and shorelines do that for me… I like to work alone with my camera, with no fixed preconceptions, and let the natural landscape talk to me and tell me what to do… Maine is one of those perfect places to escape to and leave behind all the noise and confusion of daily existence …

David Wade, “Study in Green”, archival pigment print, 15 x20”

The energy of the landscape at the shore’s edge where the water, air and land all meet is extremely powerful and primal territory, and it calls me…

David Wade, “Swirlin’ Seaweed”, archival pigment print, 12 x12

It is where I can stand at the edge of creation and look upon it in awe… where I can recharge my batteries, make my art, and refresh my soul…

David Wade, “Octopus’ Garden”, archival pigment print, 15 x20”, 2014

 

Renuka O’Connell

I find that being in Maine definitely influences my art. It gives me a chance in this rapidly changing world to stop and reflect on the human experience, while being nourished by its peaceful yet powerful surroundings.

Renuka O’Connell, “Mourning I”, casein, 37” x 27”

I have been on an amazing journey spent with women artists who I have created and co-created with to make our environment open enough to express deepest longings. We strive to know what is going on in the world, we respond to it, we delve into making art to reveal our authentic selves. We ask the questions of what we need in our daily lives to grow our art. So I would say that innovation or provincial is a matter of the artist’s personnel perspective. Nature will never fail the human experience unless we rob it of it’s resources.

Renuka O’Connell, “Boothbay Intersects”, mixed media, 28”x 36”

Through our art we can advance ideals of living free and equal, of always having clean water, air and food for everyone; as well as freedom of expression.

Renuka O’Connell, “Mourning II”, casein, 38” x 46”

 

Lee Chisholm

Lee Chisholm, “Clammers”
Lee Chisholm, “Rockweed and Sea”
Lee Chisholm, “Harbor Reflections”

 

Anne Strout

I am a Maine artist, loving the land, the sea, the freedom; grateful each and every day for all that Maine offers.

Anne Strout, “We Hold Up the Sky”, encaustic, 12”x24”

My artistic focus, however, is often miles away from here. Much of my art is about daily struggles, human connections and global issues that confront us all. I usually paint the challenges that face us in our complex world. Working alone in a rural studio, sometimes, it is just too much!!

Anne Strout, “Global Warming Conversation”, encaustic, 20”x 10”
Anne Strout, “Waiting”, encaustic, 13”x16”

Then I re-center myself by painting Maine trees, Maine waters, Maine skies. Thank you, dear Maine. You give me the strength to carry on.

 

David Allen

Maine Regionalism

I identify as a Maine artist because this is where I am from, and where I have decided to make my home and earn a living. My family has been here for generations: they worked in logging, agriculture, and in Maine’s once-thriving mills and factories. My art is informed and influenced by this history, and I consider it to be a continuation and expression of this living narrative.

David Allen, “A Days Work”, mixed media collage on panel, 30 x 24 in.
David Allen, “Wooden Ships”, mixed media collage on panel, 18 x 24 in.

I understand there is a long history of art tied to the landscape of the Maine coast, but I grew up in central Maine, and many of my childhood experiences revolved around trips to remote areas up north on lakes and streams. That said, I sometimes have a hard time relating to much of the coastal landscape paintings I see saturating local galleries because they do not speak to the Maine I know. That’s not to say these are not valid expressions of Maine’s beauty. But I do worry that their pervasiveness, and the tendency of the market to cater to what most easily sells to tourists, might limit other expressions out there, and it may be the only Maine most people will ever know.

David Allen, “Timber”, mixed media collage on panel, 30 x 24 in.
David Allen, “Granite Quarry”, mixed media collage on panel, 8.25 x 18.25 in.

This submission contains excerpts from my solo exhibition The Gravity of Place, which utilized historic Maine photographs in collage to depict various industries and labor that once thrived in Maine.

 

Sandra Beck

I have lived in or visited every state except Alaska, as well as traveled in 52 countries – including Peru, Australia, Russia, Bolivia and Nepal. Everywhere I go, I absorb the local culture, and tastes of it inevitably appear in my artwork. Portland, Maine has rubbed off on me artistically by inspiring and encouraging me to be more spontaneous, abstract, whimsical, courageous and not so oriented or driven toward academic perfection. I am grateful for this particular inspiration, as I am extremely appreciative of other influences, for example Islamic Art, from the several months I lived in Pakistan, and visited India and Turkey.

Sandra Beck, “Family Portrait” Pencil, and Ink on wood, 2017
Sandra Beck, “Still the Long Road Remains” 2017, Pencil, Ink on Wood
Sandra Beck, “Some Connections Never Happen” 2017, pencil, watercolor and ink on paper

LUCY LIPPARD ON REGIONALISM

Being in Place from Lure of the Local –senses of place in a multicentered society

Page 34-37 Chapter Two

The New Press, New York, 1997

with permission from Lucy Lippard

Place is most often examined from the subjective viewpoint of individual or community, while “region” has traditionally been more of an objective geographic term, later kidnapped by folklorists. In the fifties, a region was academically defined as a geographic center surrounded by “an area where nature acts in a roughly uniform manner.” Today a region is generally understood not as a politically or geographically delimited space but one determined by stories, loyalties, group identity, common experiences and histories (often unrecorded), a state of mind rather than a place on a map. Perhaps the most accurate definition of a region, although the loosest, is Michael Steiner’s “the largest unit of territory about which a person can grasp ‘the concrete realities of the land,’or which can be contained in a person’s genuine sense of place.”

“Regionalism” –named and practiced as either a generalized, idealized “all-Americanism” or a progressive social realism—was most popular in the thirties when, thanks to hard times, Americans moved voluntarily around the country less than they had in the twenties or would in the fifties.  During the Great Depression, the faces and voices of “ordinary people” became visible and audible, through art, photographs, and journalism, and had a profound effect on New Deal government policy. John Dewey and other scholars recognized that local life became all the more intense as the nation’s identity became more confusingly diverse and harder to grasp.  (Allen Tate called America “that all destroying abstraction.”) The preoccupation with regionalism was a “search for the primal spatial structure of the country…(for) the true underlying fault lines of American culture.”

Bioregionalism seems to me the most sensible, if least attainable, way of looking at the world. Rejecting the artificial boundaries that complicate lives and divide ecosystems, it combines changing human populations and distinct physical territories determined by land and life forms. But most significantly, a region, like a community, is subjectively defined, delineated by those who live there, not by those who study it as in Wendell Berry’s description of regionalism as “local life aware of itself.”

In the art world, the conservative fifties saw regionalism denigrated and dismissed, in part because of its political associations with the radical thirties, in part because its narrative optimism, didactic oversimplification and populist accessibility was incompatible with the Cold War and out of sync with the sophisticated, individualist Abstract Expressionist movement, just then being discovered as the tool with which to wrench modern art away from Parisian dominance. Today the term regionalism, most often applied to conventional mediums such as painting and printmaking, continues to be used pejoratively to mean corny backwater art flowing from the tributaries that might eventually reach the mainstream but is currently stagnating out there in the boondocks.

In fact, though, all art is regional, including that made in our “art capital,” New York City.

In itself extremely provincial, New York’s artworld is rarely considered “regional” because it directly receives and transmits international influences. The difference between New York and “local” art scenes is that other places know what New York is up to but New York remains divinely oblivious to what’s happening off the market and reviewing map. Yet, paradoxically, when the most sophisticated visitors from the coasts come to “the sticks” they often prefer local folk art and “naive” artists to warmed over syntheses of current big-time styles…………

Instead of getting angry, defensive, or discouraged, it might be a good idea for local artists to scrutinize their situation. Why does this very local art often speak so much more directly to those who look at a lot of art all over the place? What many of us find interesting and energetic in the “regions” is a certain “foreignness” (a variation on the Exotic Other) that, on further scrutiny, may really be an unexpected familiarity, emerging from half-forgotten sources in our own local popular cultures. Perhaps it is condescending to say that a regional art is often at its best when it is not reacting to current marketplace trends but simply acting on its own instincts; the word “innocent” is often used. But it can also be a matter of self-determination. Artists are stronger when they control their own destinies and respond to what they know best—which is not necessarily related to place. Sometimes significant work is done by those who have never (or rarely) budged from their place, who are satisfied with their lives, and work out from there, looking around with added intensity and depth because they are already familiar with the surface.  These artists may seem marginal even to their local artworld, but not to their own audiences and communities.

It has been argued that there is no such thing as regionalism in our homogenized, peripatetic, electronic culture, where all citizens have theoretically equal access to the public library’s copy of Art in America if not to the Museum of Modern Art……On another level altogether, middle-class museum-goers living out of the centers do become placeless as they try to improve and appreciate, and in the process learn to distrust their own locally acquired tastes. They are usually unaware that mainstream art in fact borrows incessantly from locally rooted imagery as well as from the much-maligned mass cultures—from Navajo blankets to Roman Catholic icons to Elvis to Disney.

Everybody comes from someplace, and the places we come from—cherished or rejected–inevitably affect our work.

Most artists today come from a lot of places. Some are confused by this situation and turn to the international styles that claim to transcend it; others make the most of their multicenteredness. Some of the best regional art is made by transients who bring fresh eyes to the place where they have landed. They may be only in temporary exile from the centers (usually through a teaching job), but they tend not to waste their time bewailing their present location or getting away whenever possible. They are challenged by new surroundings and new cultures and bring new material into their art. As Ellen Dissanayake has observed, the function of art is to “make special”; as such, it can raise the “special” qualities of place embedded in everyday life, restoring them to those who created them. Yet modernist and some postmodernist art, skeptical of “authenticity” prides itself on departing from the original voices. The sources of landbased art and aesthetics remain opaque to those who only study them.

In all discussions of place, it is a question of abstraction and specifics. If art is defined as “universal” and form is routinely favored over content, then artists are encouraged to transcend their immediate locales.

But if content is considered the prime component of art, and lived experience is seen as a prime material, then regionalism is not a limitation but an advantage, a welcome base that need not exclude outside influences but sifts them through a local filter. Good regional art has both roots and reach.

 

UMVA Lewiston/Auburn Chapter Report

above: Julia Muzyka Public Art, Gary Stallsworth photo

UMVA-LA has had a great summer filled with so much creativity blossoming all around us!  Our Inaugural Art exhibit “Then and Now” was hosted by Kimball Street Studio, showcasing both early and recent work by the artists.

Then and Now exhibit, Gary Stallsworth photo

The exhibit opened at July’s Art Walk and closed with our August meeting where we held a Pecha-Kucha formatted artist talk with all the exhibiting artists.  It was inspiring hearing the journeys of so many wonderful artists. Stay updated by following us on FaceBook  https://www.facebook.com/UMVALewistonAuburn/

We had an artist talk by Grayling Cunningham, owner of The Studio (shared artist space in Lewiston), co-founder of Art Walk L-A, chair of the UMVA-LA Chapter, advisory board president of Outright L-A, and wearer of many hats in the community. We also had the honor of hearing Jody Dube ceramicist and educator at Lewiston High School and all around amazing and inspiring person! Jody shared his journey, his work in schools as well as being a long time member of the Maine arts community.

Jody Artist Talk, Gary Stallsworth photo

We have installed more public art, including one crosswalk that is about to be installed, more fire hydrants, murals, and have much more planned!  The Hive Artist co-op also hosted a public art talk to help inspire folks to get involved and also let them know what opportunities are available.

Art Walk Lewiston Auburn season is in full swing and is being extended until December.  AWLA is held on the third Friday of the month from 5-8pm.  We will be creating more of a shop local, shop small artisan and crafter culture through the November and December Art Walks.  FMI https://www.facebook.com/ArtWalkLewistonAuburn/

Sunday Indie Market is held the third Sunday of every month from 12-4 at Dufresne Plaza located on Lisbon Street in Lewiston.  UMVA-LA is collaborating with the Downtown Lewiston Arts District to create a monthly event with local art, artisans, vintage wares, live music, a beer and wine garden, and food trucks.  FMI https://www.facebook.com/SundayindiemarketLewiston/

Harvest Masquerade Ball 2016, Gary Stallsworth photo

The UMVA Lewiston Auburn and Downtown Lewiston Art District would like to invite you to join us for our second annual Harvest Masquerade costume ball Saturday Oct 28th 8pm -12am at the Agora Grand Event Center 228 Bates St Lewiston. This is a fundraiser for our UMVA-LA chapter, for our continued work with public art projects, and for our work with the local arts community.

Celebrate the season with a night of dancing, to our fabulous DJ from last year’s event and our amazing live music The Youngerbloods!!!! Halloween-inspired art, tours of the crypt, costume contests and a silent horror film on the giant projection screen.

Tickets can be purchased at http://events.eventzilla.net/e/harvest-masquerade-ball-2138928087

We would really love for folks to get in the spirit and have Costume Ball Attire. Couples who dress together in Ball Attire will be entered to be named King and Queen (or King and King or Queen and Queen) Prizes will also be awarded for our Dungeon Master (Scary Costume) and Jester (Funny Costume) of the Ball!

FMI https://www.facebook.com/events/244293976052483/  Invite your friends!

Submitted by: Grayling Cunningham  He, His, Him

www.graylingcunningham.com

Union of Maine Visual Artists Lewiston Auburn

UMVAlewistonauburn@gmail.com

Moving Stone

above: Marguerite Lawler, “Mossy”, 24″x24″, oil, 2017

Submitted by Gary Lawless

Introduction by Betsy Sholl

Gary Lawless has been a presence and force in Maine poetry for many years.   He grew up here and runs with his wife Gulf of Maine Books.  But he is also a world traveler, or I should say an “earth traveler,” having residencies in national parks, studying with Gary Snyder in the Pacific Northwest, and, he writes, heading off for a residency in Venice this fall.   His work also includes making room for others–teaching poetry workshops for immigrants, translating, bringing to our community the voices of those we haven’t heard before.  My sense is that Gary is very grounded in place, but it is an expansive place,  because he honors the fact that every living soul also has a place.   It’s as if he makes no distinction between “here” and “there.”   After all, our stones have already been fire and vegetation and sand, have been under the earth and high above.

Moving Stone

 

The stone is “full of slower, longer thoughts than mind can have”           Ursula LeGuin

1

Birds skim the surface

Just above, just below

Layers of light

Stone below the

Surface, many surfaces

What is revealed and

What is hidden

 

2

Inside the stone

 

Up in the woods,

In the circle among the beech trees,

Last winter one of the lumber horses split a stone

Horizontally, with a clip of his big steel shoe.

It had seemed to be a plain gray stone,

But when it was opened a black wall appeared,

Rusty at the edges, flecked with pale checks

Like unknown constellations, and over all

Floated wisps of blue-grey, trailing feathers of clouds.

 

I brush away the fallen leaves

And stare into the distance inside the stone.

If one could become a bird –

If one could fly into that night-

If one could enter the light of those stars –

 

And then the woods become very still,

The beech leaves blur at the edge of my vision,

I find I am bending lower and lower.

 

Kate Barnes

 

 

3

The Stone

 

I don’t know if they bleed, the stones.

Or if they scream, if they howl under

The wheel & the mace, or if the knife’s

Blade wounds them, deep in their flesh,

Slicing through them.

 

I know that the loam that sometimes

Runs from them, no matter how red, is

Not blood.

 

And I’ll say nothing of their

Tenderness, from stone to stone, from

Water to air.

 

 

But what I know is that our blood

Comes from the stone. And our flesh

Comes from nowhere else, come from

Stone we are stone, we are dust and

Wind’s smoke.

 

That our blood is blood of stone,

And our heat is of the sun, and our wail

The howl of the stone, through which

Our soul passes full-bodied, that we are

The soul of the stone – but tell me, the

Stone, who is the stone – where does

She come from?

 

Marcela Delpastre

Translated from the Occitan

By Nicole Peyrafitte and Pierre Joris

 

 

4

 

Driving home from Belfast, into the crescent moon

(for Dudey Zopp)

 

I hear the granite singing,

And it is alive.

I want to tell you

That granite is a migratory species

(think plate tectonics, continental

Drift, glacial erratic)

But you can read the flow lines

From when granite was

Liquid, and moving, quickly –

I want to tell you

That lichen is

A language of granite,

That granite speaks

With air

And water and light –

We might never know

What stories it holds

Deep within the rock.

 

Gary Lawless