Member Submissions: Don Mallow, Anne McGurk, Leonard Meiselman, Janice Moore

Don Mallow

Sunflowers 1
ink on paper, 8″x 10″
Don Mallow
Sunflowers 2
ink on paper, 8″x 10″
Don Mallow
Sunflowers 3
ink on paper, 8″x 10″
Don Mallow

Anne McGurk

Cape May Beach
colored pencil on paper, 2.5″x 3.5″
Anne McGurk

My sketchbook drawings always begin with the idea that they are my own personal visual journal (which gives a great sense of freedom to create for the joy of creating).

Seawall Shoreline and Trees
colored pencil and color pen on paper, 2.5″x 3.5″
Anne McGurk

Traveling or walking with a small sketchbook allows me to easily record and remember my impressions of a day — light, color, season — by using succinct notation to record my visual experiences. The sketchbook offers an opportunity to experiment with new ideas, compositions or materials, and can later become a resource to inform or sometimes inspire other works or projects.

Down By the Shore
colored pencil on paper, 2.5″x 3.5″
Anne McGurk

Sketchbook drawings remain a real time record of an artist’s visual thinking, and although intended as a personal diary, because of their authenticity, conciseness, or energy, they can often stand alone as works in their own right.

Leonard Meiselman

When art empowers an artist with the truth of creativity, it sets him or her upon a path, and thrills him or her forever. LM

pen & ink, 24″x 18″
Leonard Meiselman
Self Portrait
pen & ink, 12″x 18″
Leonard Meiselman
pen & ink, 12″x 18″
Leonard Meiselman
pen & ink, 24″x 18″
Leonard Meiselman

Janice Moore

Study of Jean Paul Gaultier Ensemble from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Graphite on Strathmore Paper, 14” x 11’’, 2017
Janice L. Moore

I am an oil painter and my process is very slow. Forty-five minutes to organize my palette, lay out colors, mix glazes, select appropriate brushes, and assess the work in front of me before I touch paint to surface. This is followed by hours of mark making and erasing in very small sections. Cleaning up at the end of a painting session takes forty-five minutes as well: reorganize salvageable mixes, clear and wipe down the remaining palette, clean my brushes to carefully remove all traces of paint and glaze. I’ve learned that I cannot skip or speed up any of the steps. It all takes time and is a ritual that I love.

Alice, Not My Aunt
Graphite on Strathmore Paper, 14” x 11” 2018
Janice L. Moore

My sketchbook by contrast is immediate, requiring no preparation and taking up very little room. It’s the place for figuring out what needs adjustment for works in progress before I commit with paint. It is my catchall for sudden impressions and visual thoughts; an immediate place for pursuing ideas wherever I am. It’s also the place for catching words and quotes that have meaning and influence for me.

Pajamas & Robe (self portrait), for the Ghost Series
Graphite on Strathmore Paper, 14” x 11” 2017
Janice L. Moore

Drawing involves a piece of paper, a pencil, a tortillion and an eraser. I make marks. Light and shadow only. Nothing is precious. Everything can be repaired and redone with one swipe. Fully-formed concepts are not necessary. Ideas that stray from current projects and series are fine. I explore anything that moves me without full commitment or investment. I indulge obsessions and techniques. I pursue why objects and places have meaning for me.

The ritual is unconstrained. Draw. Smudge. Erase. Turn the page. Start again.

Abandoned Saw Mill, Bingham
Graphite on Strathmore Paper, 14” x 11” WIP
Janice L. Moore

Member Submissions: Mark Nelsen, Marcus Parsons, Wendy Newbold-Patterson, Brian Reeves, Claire Seidl

Mark Nelsen

Long Island Sound
collage, ink, graphite, 8″x 11″
Mark Nelsen
Money Babel
collage, ink, graphite, 8″x 11″
Mark Nelsen

These pages are from trip journals.  Begun as a way to process and archive ephemera collected while traveling, they developed into a response to the blizzard of visual data many of us encounter daily.  As I traveled, I found myself collecting more and more paper.  Pamphlets, tabloids, tourist guides, posters, tickets.  Credit card slips, cigarette wrappers, food wrappers, toilet paper wrappers.  Text in unfamiliar languages, symbols both familiar and not, messages only machines can decipher.  Over time, the journals became less overtly diaristic and more abstract.  Subsequently, they began to inspire larger scale works.

Paris #1
collage, 8″x 11″
Mark Nelsen
Paris #2
collage, 8″x 11″
Mark Nelsen

Marcus Parsons

In the Surf 2018
digital painting, 20″x 20″
Marcus Parsons

These are four recent paintings that I’ve created on my 12” iPad Pro using the Procreate app, an Apple Pencil, my fingers, and other software (Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator). Using those tools has been my primary artistic practice for several years. I do that for many hours each day, creating a new artwork every day or two (more than 200 in 2018, so far). 

Upward 2018
digital painting, 24″ x 20″
Marcus Parsons

Some works are little more than sketches, and all begin that way, as a mark or two on the iPad that I then develop in whatever ways they suggest. Many of my works evolve far beyond that first mark or two, and take me days or longer to complete. The result is a personal visual journal, a record of my ongoing artistic journey, a product of my imagination and whatever skills I bring to expressing it. 

Guardian of the Soul 2018
painting & drawing, 24″ x 20″
Marcus Parsons

I print some pieces that I exhibit in juried shows and open studio events, post many of them on Instagram, and all of them on my website.  I send out a now-and-then newsletter to friends and subscribers.

First Time 2018
painting & drawing, 24″ x 20″
Marcus Parsons

Wendy Newbold-Patterson

Mother’s Dance 2018
ink & brush on paper, 9.5″x 11″
Wendy Newbold-Patterson

I always carry a sketchbook, pencil, etc. Drawing is the meat of my work, the protein, the substance. The drawings occur randomly, but there is a consistent thread of “figure” content. I draw my family, my pets, trees, women standing with their children at the lake, children playing, travelers waiting in airports, train stations, library visitors who linger, trees, leaves, seeds.

In the summer, when ventilation is accessible, I paint with hot wax encaustics. I use drawings from my sketchbooks and make trace-prints on fragile rice papers that pick up lots of useful irregularities.

Travel Into Night 2018
graphite & brush on paper, 5″x 7″
Wendy Newbold-Patterson
Wounded Child 2017
ink & brush on paper, 6″x 9″
Wendy Newbold-Patterson

The third is of my grand-daughter on her 5th birthday. She is sensitive and vulnerable, or a firestorm. Her choice.

Two of the sketchbook drawings included here were dancers from rehearsals for “The Twenty-Dance,” that was created as a response to my series, “The Twenty—an Elegy to the Children of Newtown, CT,” last November, 2017 at the Portland Ballet.

The fourth is from a video of deportees that I saw on television.

Deportees 2018
Watercolor & ink on paper
Wendy Newbold-Patterson

These images came together with others in the spring and summer of 2018, when we all watched the children separated from their parents and put in cages with metallic blankets for comfort.

Brian Reeves

Barnacles, Brains, Stumps, Thumbs, Cuttlefish,
Navels & Then Some, 2018
digital sketch, 2732 x 2048 pixels
Brian Reeves

Claire Seidl

Untitled (Ink) 2015
Ink, 9.75″ x 9.75″
Claire Seidl

I keep sketchbooks but tend to rip out their pages when they have something to do with my painting. I hang them up around the studio. Once in a while, a sketch will serve as a beginning to a painting. Other times, sketches help me change direction in a painting so I can move forward. Sometimes, I sketch during the process of painting to record what is there temporarily, just before I cover it up, as a record which might direct me later. I also make sketches to loosen up, not as a means to an end but as an end in itself. Sometimes the sketches have color, sometimes they are stark black and white. I might use pencil or charcoal or crayon or ink and watercolor with brushes.

Untitled (Line) 2016
Charcoal,  12.25″ x 12.25″
Claire Seidl
Untitled (Turquoise) 2014
Ink and watercolor,  9.5″ x 9.75″
Claire Seidl
Untitled (Colored Pencil) 2008
Pencil and colored pencils, 12.25″ x 9″
Claire Seidl

Member Submissions: Pam Smith, Bonnie Spiegel, Mary Becker Weiss, Amy Peters Wood

Pam Smith

June 1981

When confusion visits me these days, I tell myself it is the blur of growth.

Suggestion is too coy for the real meaning of a painting. I struggle with whether my images are complete or incomplete, not with what they might suggest.

July 1981

It is color, color, color that moves me.

I am an ambassador for the color green, a spy for the color red, and a surgeon sent to insert the color blue.

In private life, I am white’s lover. And gray’s.

Some days, I feel like I am a dictionary in reverse, cataloguing all the possible meanings, and then coming up with a word.

November 1982

When I paint, my colors are a shape and a placement. I paint their boundaries. Just this much I paint. Here. And how.

Sometimes I enhance the boundaries by painting them as lines. Sometimes I let the boundaries be where two areas bump into each other.

The way to become an artist is to apprentice yourself and make a thousand stupid mistakes from the heart.

When I paint, the world is malleable. It is up to some definition the paint and I work out.

In the 1980’s, when I was painting in my studio in Bath Maine, I wrote notes to myself in my sketchbooks. The sketchbooks are long gone, but in the late 1980’s, I still had them, and I referred to them for a talk I gave at Bowdoin College in 1988, on Creativity.

In 1990, The Georgia Review published a double volume  “Women and the Arts,” and excerpts from my studio notes were included as an essay titled, “Powerful Red Dogs.”

Bonnie Spiegel

Stan Sleeping 1995
pen and ink, approx. 9″ x 11″
Bonnie Spiegel

I’ve got a lot of good memories of Stan. I used to draw him a lot after those enervating TV programs put him to sleep. I would jump at the chance to draw him, whipping out my pen and sketchbook while he slept, so still and so cooperative. He might not appreciate my showing him at his best like this. Or maybe he’d be okay. After all he was used to my intrusions. Wherever he is, I hope he’ll forgive me.

Stan Sleeping 2013
pen and ink, approx. 9″ x 11″
Bonnie Spiegel
Stan Sleeping 2014
pen and ink, approx. 7″ x 7″
Bonnie Spiegel
Stan Sleeping 2015
pen and ink, approx. 3″ x 10″
Bonnie Spiegel

Mary Weiss

I was impressed by the idea of maintaining a personal visual work board when I first came across Whitefield artist Roger Majorowicz’s notes to himself pegged outside on his barn wall, well beyond the concept and scale of a table-top sketchbook. Among some indecipherable scribbles to himself and many affirmations which I assume kept Mr. Majorowicz going through the years were, “the man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man doing it” and a quote by Emile Zola, “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work.” 

My own work board is comprised of a number of elements which for all intents and purposes resembles a disparate ransom note: quotes, titles, poetry, scraps of paper, magazine articles, line drawings, postcards, vintage maps, cards and stamps (an addiction), photographs of textures (another addiction) and travel keepsakes. From this menagerie of elements I create my encaustic montages. By going back to the beginning, I am able to affirm my direction and to stay focused ~ I learn to see with a new perspective.  As Lillian Hellman in Pentimento said, “perhaps it would be well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again.”

Amy Peters Wood

When complete, my hand sewn and bound sketchbooks contain private ruminations, rants, ideas, travel logs, poems, scientific illustrations, architectural plans and inventions, and the thumbnail sketches for my large format egg tempera panels. Starting out as sewn signatures, and carried in a small leather satchel I made years ago,  everything I need to do a quick watercolor, carbon smudge, colored pencil, pen and ink or charcoal drawing is with me at all times. I have included some of the tamer examples.

paper, ink, pencils, 7”x 9”
Amy Peters Wood
paper, ink, pencils, 7”x 9”
Amy Peters Wood
paper, ink, pencils, 7”x 9”
Amy Peters Wood
paper, ink, pencils, 7”x 9″
Amy Peters Wood

Lewis Rossingol discusses “tic” for “tack”: Maneuvering around Tourette Syndrome.

The thing about Tourette syndrome that many people don’t know is that it hardly ever presents itself as uncontrollable loud swearing. I wish I knew this because I was especially well-read, and not as a result of nearly three decades of first-hand experience, but that’s my reality. My Tourette’s mostly presents itself as facial and finger tics, throat clearing, and sniffing. While I’ve experimented with different prescribed medications, nothing has helped control my tics as much as sketching. Drawing in my sketchbook is the most therapeutic, or remedial, thing that I do in my studio practice.

My tics are cyclical, and can get really severe and debilitating, especially when I feel anxious. It feels like there’s all kinds of pressure built up inside of me, and the tics are my body’s natural way of releasing the pressure. I’ve discovered that while I’m drawing, it’s as if the pressure is being released through my pen instead of my face, and it’s such a relief. My tics are embarrassing, and make me feel very self-conscious. During periods of severe cycles I don’t even like leaving the house because I know it’s only a matter of time before I see a small child in a store copying my tics, until their parent catches them and tells them to knock it off. Kids don’t know that pointing or mimicking is rude, but the fact that they notice my tics assures me that everyone else is noticing too.

I am so thankful that through my sketchbook practice I have managed to train my body to release pressure in a much less embarrassing manner, and even though as soon as I stop sketching my tics come right back, I am grateful for the short relief that drawing gives me each day. For this reason I am constantly sketching, and have filled over 1,000 sketchbook pages in the last 12 months alone.

 Last month I released a book called “Remedial Sketches” that is filled with some of my favorite pages from the past year. This book is very personal because of how important sketching has become to me. It’s also like revealing a part of myself that I’ve never had a comfortable way of revealing before. The work within the book is actually a pretty accurate artistic representation of Tourette syndrome. It explores the boundaries between creative expression and an uncured neurological condition. The jagged lines and sporadic marks embody my twitches, tics and vocalizations perfectly. To me, these sketches seem as awkward and self-conscious as I feel when my tics act up in public. If you were seeing my work for the first time at an exhibit and the curator walked up to you and said “this artist has Tourette syndrome,” you would think, “that makes total sense.” In fact, I think the next time I have to write an artist statement to accompany my exhibited work I may just simply quote this hypothetical curator and leave it at that.

I know that if they come out with a cure for Tourette’s tomorrow I’ll still draw, but I do wonder if it will affect my work. Will my lines tighten? Will my marks become more constrained? Without the relief, will I enjoy drawing as much? Will I even be the same artist, and if not should I even bother with the cure?

Member Submissions: Ellen Hodgkin, Nina Jerome, Suzanna Lasker, Lin Lisberger

Ellen Hodgkin

Ceramics Workshop
Sharpie and graphite on paper in handmade book, 13.5″x 9.25″
Ellen Hodgkin
Stedelijk Museum
graphite and acrylic on paper in handmade book, 10.5″x 7.25″
Ellen Hodgkin

My sketchbook is always with me. It is my memory, my datebook, my therapist. I use it to plan future projects, record interesting things I see and hear and read, take notes at workshops and classes. It holds my doodles during meetings, finished drawings that I am not sure enough about to commit them to “real” paper, and helps me understand things more completely through drawing. It is a safe place to put anything that is making noise in my head, though and is self-care through tough times.

Sharpie on paper in handmade book, 6.25″x 9.25″
Ellen Hodgkin
Sharpie on paper in handmade book, 13.5″x 9.25″
Ellen Hodgkin

Nina Jerome

Wild Grape Duo 2017
water soluble graphite, 9″x 12″
Nina Jerome

I spent the month of April 2017 in Virginia, and was attracted to the wild grape that wrapped and clung to trees along roadways and through the woods. Their invasive, chaotic, and complex structures made their way into my work and have engaged me since. Originally, I recorded their baroque movement through the surrounding space, eventually focusing on the knot of the vine, which will be formatted into a grid structure in a current project. In my preparatory sketches I enjoyed exploring the endless compositional variations with different materials. Many of my favorite studies were done with water-soluble graphite on paper.

Twisted Tree 2017
water soluble graphite, 12″x 9″
Nina Jerome
Wild Grape 2018
water soluble graphite, 12″x 9″
Nina Jerome
Four Vines 2018
water soluble graphite, 12″x 9″
Nina Jerome

Suzanna Lasker

Suzanna Lasker

My studio upstairs is draped with spiderwebs and clotted with storage boxes. What happened? Lost my inspiration? Doubt my creativity? Run out of material? No, I’ve gone digital. My Ipads are filled with pencil drawings, watercolors, and scribbled ideas. Almost any image that pops up in my imagination can be instantly sketched in pixels, any size, any color, any media. Can’t remember what a giraffe looks like? Hundreds of photos are available for research. Mistakes are erased completely by double taps. I carry my studio with me and it weights about a pound. The Ipad is also a camera and can record scenes to be later translated.

Suzanna Lasker
Strange Friends
Suzanna Lasker

Of course there are negatives. The drag of an Ebony pencil on paper, the scent of turps, brushing a three foot slash of vermilion on canvas…all can be reproduced digitally, but it is like drinking a glass of water thinking it is coffee—-some experiences are lost. An original work of art can be sold with the understanding that no other tangible copy exists.  However digital images are now art products for sale (which still have to be framed to be hung in some galleries). 

Thousands of tutorials are available online. Other artists are colleagues for reachable conversations, typed or Skyped. And like tangible studios, digital sketchbooks can become just as cluttered as a studio. The clutter is unused apps, half-baked ideas and thousands of images.  

All I need is an Ipad, Apple Pencil and available WiFi and electricity. Paper and pencil are kept for blackouts.

Life Workshop Drawing
Suzanna Lasker

Lin Lisberger

Loaded Hotdog 2018
graphite on paper, 9″x 12″
Lin Lisberger

I have used sketchbooks in many different ways over the years, often just as writing journals to think about new sculptural ideas, but also as a way to look back at existing work.  In late 2017 I needed more space in my studio and my head to find a place for new sculpture, so I parted with lots of pieces.  As each piece went out the door I drew it in my sketchbook.  In the beginning these were pretty highly rendered drawings, but in January 2018 I decided to loosen up my hand and brain and draw only right-handed (as I am a lefty).  These are four of the right-handed drawings that I did at the time, some representing existing pieces, and others new ideas. Wonderfully, this created new room for new sculptures. Some of the new work will be in a show I have curated at the Portland Public Library in March 2019–ON BOOKS: Sculpture that References Literature.

Knotted 2018
graphite on paper, 9″x 12″
Lin Lisberger
Knot 2018
graphite on paper, 9″x 12″
Lin Lisberger
Snake Boat 2018
graphite on paper, 9″x 12″
Lin Lisberger

Member Submissions: Valera Crofoot, David Estey, Emma Geiger

Valera Crofoot

Alaska Range on Location
ink on paper, 3″x 5″
Valera Crofoot

I was born in Bangor, Maine in 1958, and began drawing and painting as a youth. My early influences were the seasonal moods of the wild coastline of Maine and the artists in my family and circle of friends. Growing up in a remote location with the absence of television, I reacted to my environment by painting. The ocean and sky were constant sources for observation and expression. I studied art at Colby College and with Maine painters Henry Isaacs, Philip Frey, and Judy Taylor.

Nahmakanta on Location
ink on paper, 3″x 5″
Valera Crofoot

My current influences are:Max Ernst, Kathe Kollwitz, Emily Carr, Max Ginsberg, Jim Carrey, Milton Avery,Waldo Pierce, Rockwell Kent and The Group of Seven. My goal as an oil painter is to move away from inanimate subjects that convey the comfort of nature’s beauty and to move towards human subjects that embody life’s tragedies.

David Estey

Sketchbook 1, Arms & Hands 1961
graphite and ink, 15″x 11″
David Estey

I just started my 96th sketchbook. Fifty-eight years ago at RISD, most pages were filled with drawings of classmates, figures or anatomical studies.The images were quite realistic, as I came there self-taught, wanting to be Norman Rockwell.

Once I discovered primitive art, Picasso, de Kooning and other modern masters, I reflected their influence in the later sketchbooks of my growing family,vacations at the Maryland shore, lunchtime crowds in Philly, commuters on the train, etc. I later filled sketchbooks with stylized self-portraits and studies of admired masters or of primitive art, hoping they would influence my work through osmosis.

Sketchbook 39, Primitive Studies 2 2003
graphite, 17″x 14″
David Estey

Figure drawings and portraits have always dominated my sketchbooks and still do, often transitioning from realism to abstraction. I have rarely considered them studies for other work. They are stand-alone pieces of art, with mark making and page design always on my mind.

Sketchbook 91, Sitting Man with Beard 2016
graphite, 12″x 9″
David Estey

Recently,after thousands of figure drawings, many of which are 19” x 24” semi-abstracts,I seem to have come full circle in my sketchbooks, back to more-academic figures. I’m not sure why, since my paintings have become almost-totally-improvisational abstractions. Perhaps the long poses each week at Waterfall Arts encourage detailed study – or perhaps it’s just a function of age.

Four Standing Nudes 2012
graphite, 9″x 12″
David Estey

Emma Geiger

Wildfire Smoke in San Francisco
pen and ink sketch, Fall 2017
Emma Geiger
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
pen and ink sketch, Fall 2017
Emma Geiger

Though from different times and places, it’s easy to draw connections between the entries in sketchbooks and journals, to find ways to understand the effects of our choices, the states of mind we’ve been in.  I began keeping a journal in third grade, and have filled many since then, the content including daily accounts, poems,sketches, musings, and letters.  They area place where my past selves gather, a place where I can always find inspiration, and trust.

You are Beautiful
pen and ink sketch with handwritten collage, Spring 2018
Emma Geiger

The sketches “Wildfire Smoke in San Francisco” and “Palace of Fine Arts Theatre” were done from 35mm film photographs that I took on a road trip from Washington to Maine.  “You are beautiful,” is from two 35mm photos I took while in college, and the words from a letter sent to me by a college friend and mentor.  “Between Notebook Pages” is a journal entry that I keep tucked between pages, along with the feather, from Whidbey Island,Washington, where I was living when I wrote the entry.  The poem refers to a day on the road trip back east from Washington, driving along the coast. 

Between Notebook Pages
typewritten note, Summer 2017
Emma Geiger

Member Submissions: Kay Carter, Alan Crichton, Crichton and Abby Shahn collaborative sketchbook

Kay Carter

Fine Sand Beach
Kay Carter

I use my sketchbooks as a place to look, study, be present, and free myself up.  The pages of the sketchbooks are typically heavy, textured watercolor paper.  I work on both the front and back of the page.  This means that there are no wrong marks in the sketchbooks, only opportunities to integrate all marks and colors into a finished page and book.  No page can be ripped out because there is something on its back which relates to another image.  Therefore, the challenge becomes incorporating all marks and all media together.

The Icons: Katahdin and Monhegan Light
Kay Carter

The pages of my sketchbooks grow over time, ultimately to become a unique book which records visual images I have explored.  I sometimes complete one page of a facing dyad and wait until an image which compliments the first is clear to me.  An example: two facing pages in my sketchbook are labeled  ‘The icons – Katahdin and Monhegan’.  The sketch of the lighthouse on Monhegan was completed in July;  the sketch of Katahdin was completed in September.  For me the two together were a statement about Maine. 

Birch Log
Kay Carter

I use permanent ink, watercolor, colored pencils, and graphite in the sketchbooks, anything which encourages me to play.  Some pages are doodles developed while listening to something in my environment.  Some pages are intentional drawings.  With the sketchbook, I take the opportunity to center myself, be present in a silent place, and focus on line, form, color, value, and energy. This later informs larger works, not as replicas, but as a way of being present in the work.

Kay Carter

Alan Crichton

Double Landscape
watercolor on paper, 3.5″x 11″
Alan Crichton

I have carried a sketchbook and a pen every day for many years. Frankly, I feel a little lost without them. I prefer pen, because graphite smears when pages rub, so pencils and charcoal are for sketch books that stay in the studio.

Every Shoulder
pen and watercolor on paper, 3.5″x 11″
Alan Crichton

And every day, I take out my sketchbook and enter something: a name, address, portrait, landscape, invention, a to-do list, a scribble or a watercolor, a wish, a regret, a collage, a feather or butterfly wing.

Worthless Fortress
watercolor on paper, 3.5″x 11″
Alan Crichton

My sketchbook is one of my intimate places, where I experiment, dream, observe,think, pretend, be free, fail, shape up, break it all down, remember, and forget. I keep stacks of them, often with an intention to return and dig into ideas that don’t exist anywhere else. Often, I do return to these ideas and they become something else; often the ideas stay right there and never see the light of day again. Any way it goes, each morning it’s keys, change and knife on one side, wallet on the other, with sketchbook and pen in their own pockets. Then I’m ready to face any wicked day.

watercolor on paper, 3.5″x 11″
Alan Crichton

“Gallimaufry” is a great old 1500’s word meaning, “a confused jumble or medley of things.” Often a stew or hash. My sketchbooks are my gallimaufry: a potato here, chunk of lamb there, carrot, onion, tomato in a sauce, spicy and savory, at least to me.

Alan Crichton and Abby Shahn collaborative sketchbook

This is a collaborative book, a kind of mutual sketchbook that Abby Shahn  and I made a few years ago.

Front Cover
water media on cotton, 7″x 8.25″
Alan Crichton, Abby Shahn

She and I describe our process and some thoughts about making this book.

Abby – I think that the thing I like most about this process …. about making these folded books.. about collaboration … is the way that one is forced to give up plans… to forget about intentions… because the other artist will obliterate them with a single stroke.

I’ve made these books with several different artists … it’s a nice way to visit a friend.

Peter Slinks In
water media on paper, 7″x 16″
Alan Crichton, Abby Shahn

Al – A brand new open book, open door. Fresh, heavy paper, accordion-folded and blank, ready for a conversation you can see. No rules. Start anywhere with anything interesting and send it back, let the book and friendship build, see what happens. Pages start distant, move towards each other, then overlap and layer. Always a surprise, from one friend’s hand, through many postmen’s, to the other. Real play in real time.

Great Fanfare
water media on paper, 7″x 16″
Alan Crichton, Abby Shahn

Abby – You got a new book coming this way? Hooray!

Al – Great idea! I’ll send a new start with the new year!

You Don’t Believe it? Come On, Tell Me!
water media on paper, 7″x 16″
Alan Crichton, Abby Shahn

Introduction to Fall 2018: Dialogue


This issue shares the response to our call for dialogue. The contributors give examples of artists engaged in a conversation with a place, with their own thoughts, through time, or in response to the work and stories of another. It was an opportunity to explore topics rather than reach conclusions.

Susan Smith works with a community to make her art. She collected the statements of a hundred women and their stories of abuse and screenprinted them on textiles.

Mary Bernstein writes about the 20 year long community art project, Mother Tongue, and its “call and response” way of working, based on physicist and philosopher David Bohm’s dialogues.

Writer Katy Kelleher contributes an essay on dialogue as touch.

Greta Banks writes about capitalism and our broken relationship with nature.

Kyle Patnaude contributes to the conversation: “We can’t engage with complex and diverse thought without the views of those who see and experience the world as different from our own.”

Abby Shahn and Mark Melnicove share three of their 31 painting/poem collaborations, in which the poems “add whole histories and layers of meaning to the pictures”.

The art collective Waldman-Plesch+Plesch-Waldman, “united in a creative dialogue,” was born in Hinckley, Maine, at the L. C. Bates Museum.

Lori Tremblay asserts that all meaningful relationships are sustained through dialogue.

Regular contributor Carl Little writes about artist Alan Gussow who ”carried on a conversation with his surroundings all his life, whether he was visiting Monhegan Island or running alongside the Hudson River” and “managed to combine his environmentalism with his art.”

Ed Beem writes about photographer Jocelyn Lee’s recent exhibition, her art, ideas and her “respectful female gaze.”

Dan Kany writes on photographer Scott Anton’s collaboration with the subject of his images, and Kany has a conversation with Charlie Hewitt.

Poems by Estha Weiner, introduced by Betsy Sholl, create a sense of dialogue “through the briefest suggestion.” And Margaret Yocom, in ALL KINDS OF FUR, asks what Cinderella would say if she could tell her own tale?

Andrea Curtis writes from her perspective as an art educator at the Farnsworth Museum, for our regular Insight/Incite column.

CMCA’s  Bethany Engstrom writes on dialogue in her role as assistant curator at CMCA.

Lisa Jahn-Clough shares the art of her late mother and artist, Elena Jahn. She writes of her search for meaning and legacy, of “something that speaks to us.”

UMVA member Diane Dahlke has a dialogue with time, and for Anne Strout, art “starts with those conversations in my head.”

C.E. Morse makes images that beg the question: “What is it?” which starts a conversation/dialogue.

Gregg Harper sees dialogue as “a double use of the metaphor muscle memory.” Bruno-Torkanowsky  thinks of her work as a “dance of opposites.”

ARRT! and Lumenarrt! invite us to glimpse the continuing dialogues their projects engage in with Mainers across the state.  

Maine artists are participating to help get out the vote in the 2018 election and the Maine Arts Journal is featuring some of their efforts, in partnership with Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.

Genevieve (G.A.) Morgan writes an open letter to our Senators and Representatives, as a part of the national dialogue on the ACA and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The multiple facets of this topic give the reader many voices to consider. The final word is actually a starting point for the next chapter in an ongoing dialogue. If you turn to the last page of this issue you will find the Invitation for the Winter 2019 Issue: Sketchbook. And just like that, a new conversation begins.

And now, to the Issue!

MAJ Editorial Board
Natasha Mayers, Dan Kany, Jessica Myer, Nora Tryon, Kathy Weinberg, and Betsy Sholl (poetry editor)


Creatives and the ACA: A letter by Genevieve Morgan

This letter —a part our national dialogue— dated June 11, 2018, was signed by numerous members of the creative community and sent to our Senators and Representatives.

Dear Senators King and Collins and Representatives Pingree and Poliquin,

By now I’m no stranger to you, and you know my story. However, I’m not here today to talk about kidney disease. I’m here today to talk about one of the downstream effects of the cannibalization of the ACA and the latest assault on the protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. I’m joined in my appeal by many of my colleagues and friends.

I am a writer and an editor. I came to Maine to raise my children and do my work because, like so many other creative people, I dreamed of having a modest life that would inspire my art. I needed to live in a place I cared deeply about; that is intensely beautiful; that has some space where one can think. In doing so, I joined a community of people that wanted the same and who have performed feats of amazing financial and artistic gymnastics to stay here. Much is being made these days of Maine’s “creative economy;” but have you stopped for a moment to think about what it takes for an artist to actually live here: the true cost of being one of those creatives in a state that offers very little in terms of grants, sponsorship, incentives, and regular work?

My definition of artists includes those of us who get up everyday to generate new and exciting ideas and projects: they are painters and poets, chefs and gardeners, writers and directors, musicians, craftspeople, actors, ceramicists, curators, publishers, designers, printmakers, playwrights, dancers, journalists, architects, and photographers We move into run-down neighborhoods (the only ones we can afford) and transform them with our ingenuity and “can-do” spirit—the same optimism that keeps us here when larger population centers offer a greater audience and more pay—and we love it, because making things is what we do. And making them in Maine is important to us. There is a long history of artistic endeavor in this state and to be a part of that continuum is an honor. As devalued as creative work often is here, especially at the emerging and mid-levels, we stay because we know what E.B. White (who suffered his whole life from Generalized

Anxiety Disorder, a pre-existing condition) says is true: “I’d rather feel bad in Maine, than feel good anywhere else.”

But staying is increasingly harder. It’s one thing to watch our project fees and book advances dwindle, to compete for fewer and fewer jobs, to watch with a stomach ache as the current administration reduces funding to the arts and letters. It’s a whole other thing to be helpless as Congress sits back and allows this current administration to gut access to affordable healthcare and challenge over and over again the protections for pre-existing conditions. Disease does not care if you are Republican or Democrat, a grandparent, parent or a child, a banker or a bread maker. It crosses all constructs and it kills. Allowing this administration to run roughshod over the people of this nation, and in particular your old, sick, opioid-addicted, depressed state, is a cynical move that will bankrupt the creative economy in Maine and its future. I, like many others with life-threatening diseases and genetic conditions, will not be able to stay. The luckier ones will take their skills and tax dollars and join the flight of our young people to states that are less punitive. The less lucky will go broke or choose to forgo treatment and suffer or die. You will end up representing a state on life-support.

Creative people rely on non-traditional career paths—the same paths that led many of us to Maine. We often do not have employer-based healthcare plans. Those of us who do have day jobs are frequently found in media and small businesses that don’t offer benefits; but more often than not, we are gig people: the freelancers, the self-employed. Maine has the highest rate of unincorporated self-employed workers in the country, at 11.2% at a median salary of $21,196 per year. And we, the gig workers, are the ones with the genius to create the spaces, the technology, the restaurants, the magazines, the festivals, the plays, the movies, the exhibits, the concerts, the books, the songs, the creative writing centers, the artisanal products, and the fine art and crafts that have historically made Maine a cultural place where people want to live and raise their families. We are what makes Maine more than lobsters and lighthouses.

ARRT! We Hardworking Mainers, 2018.

If you want us to be able to live here and do our jobs, please do yours. Oppose in every way possible, every single time, the efforts of the current administration to gut the ACA and the protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Thank you,

Genevieve (G.A.) Morgan, writer and editor


Invitation to Contribute: Winter Issue 2019: Sketchbook


There is a sense of privacy between the closed covers of a sketchbook. It can be a place of fresh discovery where something new is hatched or it can serve as an archive. There is a sense of time in a sketchbook. It is a stand in for a calendar with the whiff of the alchemical. This is a place where secrets are stored and revealed.

Is your sketchbook a place to jot things down, dash off a few lines or where you dig in and flesh something out? Is it a travelogue, an encyclopedia, visual treatise or memoir?

Share with us some pages from your current projects, your personal archives, or the mutterings, musings, and legacy from artists you know or have known.

Journal Submission guidelines for Members’ Showcase and featured artists:
We invite UMVA members to submit up to 4 JPEG or png images, (No TIFF files)
—Include an image list and statement or essay in Word doc. Format, not a PDF. No Dropbox.

Label each image file as follows:  your last name_Number of Image_Title_
(if you are submitting for a group put your own last name in first.)

Label your document file names: Last Name_Title

Image list format:  Artist’s Name, “Title of Work”, medium, size, date (optional), photo credit (if not included we assume it is courtesy of the artist).

Please wait until all of your material is compiled to submit.

Size of images: Images should be JPEG files, (approximately 1000 pixels on long side, resolution 72dpi) between 500KB to 1.2MB. 

Put “Sketchbook” in the subject line and submit by email to by the December 1st deadline. MAJ will limit the “Members’ Showcase” section to UMVA members who have not been published in the past year.

We are no longer able to accommodate artists’ pre-formatted visual essays. Our editors will lay-out text and images submitted using the new guidelines above.

Maine artists and arts community members can become members of the Union of Maine Visual Artists by clicking HERE. Membership helps support the UMVA’s advocacy and helps make this Maine Arts Journal: UMVA Quarterly possible. Or you can provide direct support to the MAJ via the link under “Support MAJ!” For a free subscription to the MAJ, CLICK HERE or enter your email on the side link under “Subscribe”and a link to this Journal will be mailed to your inbox.

It is the MAJ’s policy to request and then publish image credits. We will not publish images the submitter does not have the right to publish. However, we leave the question of photo credit to the discretion of the submitter when there is no required photo credit (photo by self, image ownership freely given, copyright with contract, copyright expired, work for hire).  It is to be assumed that any uncredited or unlabeled images are the author’s/submitter’s own images. By submitting to the MAJ, you are acknowledging respect for these policies.

Thank you,

MAJ Editorial Board
Natasha Mayers, Dan Kany, Jessica Myer, Nora Tryon, Kathy Weinberg, and Betsy Sholl (poetry editor)


Touch Me, by Katy Kelleher

Katy Kelleher was invited to write an essay for the Maine Arts Journal, having experienced, on the front line, a Dialogue break-down on a social media forum. As a writer she has much to offer the visual arts by thinking in an original way. She has written a piece for us about “Depression, the Me Too movement, and Touch.” She mentions and channels the video series Pop Killed Culture by artist Jess Lauren Lipton and those are the images that accompany her essay.
Katy has said of her own work, “If I had to identify a thread that runs through my writing, I’d say it’s that I’m obsessed with obsessions. I also really enjoy thinking and talking about the creative process and the general idea of beauty.”


It’s winter and I am suicidal. I often get this way during the winter. I like to say I’m “hazy about the eyes,” to quote Melville, that I feel a “damp, drizzly November in my soul.” His poetic account of the death drive gives me great comfort, but it’s also a way to obscure and elevate what I’m feeling. My emotions aren’t really so complex as all that; what I feel is apathy, cold and hard, an inner grayness that spreads through my mind, muting meaning, muffling joy. I become disembodied. I drift mentally from one funeral to another, replaying all the men I’ve lost to suicide, counting them. There are more than there should be.

It’s winter and I am staring at a computer screen. I’m watching an image of a woman with curly dark hair. The top of the screen reads “Pop Killed Culture.” As I watch, she takes her hands, which are smeared in paint, and begins to touch a man. He isn’t attractive, and this isn’t a porno. But he opens his mouth like he’s ready to receive something as she moves her hands down his neck. Like a supplicant washing feet, she bathes him with black pigment. In her hands, he becomes something else—a warrior, a baby, a rock star. She looks at the camera and her eyes are so white, her gaze so steady, I feel as though she’s seeing me.

It’s winter and I am walking in Portland. I am lightheaded from yesterday’s migraine. It came with an aura—such a beautiful word for such an awful symptom—and my brain has yet to fully recover. My head swirls with fog, and I imagine myself as a series of white glass spheres, stacked upon one and other, a fragile creature inhabited by miasma and mist. My friend Sophie grabs my arm and we walk into a pizzeria. “He’s here,” she whispers to me. I see him, surrounded by laughing friends, unaware that I’m here. (He’s never aware of me, because I am nothing to him, just another girl writer, just another person he could intimidate and objectify.) “Do you want to leave?” she asks, and I whisper yes. As we back out of the door and onto the cold Portland street, she holds my arm tightly against her side, as she often does, so that we escape together, moving as one. Sophie likes to touch. Whenever I see her after some time away, she grabs my hands and examines my rings, noting any changes, sliding the thin gold band on and off my ring finger. It is a gift, how well she knows me, how well she can read my long, bony hands. With her, I am solid, muscle and sinew, chapped skin and downy hair, red eyes and stiff neck. We compare stories about our childhood warts, and I remember hers too, as though they were mine: that one on her finger, that little ugly bump that makes her feel like herself.


My Body is Your Body is Everybody is Nobody Solo 5, single channel video stills 2017, Pop Killed Culture/Jess Lauren Lipton.


It’s spring, and I am in Miami. I give my hands to a fortuneteller, who holds them gently in her own. I can’t stop looking at her neck, at the soft wrinkles that form in her beautiful skin. Around us, women sell painted canvases with images of parrots and palm trees, tropical sunsets and swirl-tailed lizards. She takes her thumb and strokes it across my palm, sending a shiver up my spine. “You don’t know yet what you truly want,” she tells me. “You have had many losses, maybe deaths. That is behind you.” About this, she is wrong. The dead never stop demanding my attention, particularly the newly dead. (Particularly the recently overdosed, the curly blonde head laid in the coffin, the first boy I loved, the first boy who touched me, the funny and strange boy who lives in my skin, inked there forever.) But her thumb circles my palm, tracing lines—life lines, love lines, lines that tell her the future, lines that tell her about my past—and I don’t believe in magic, but I do believe in her hands. I believe fully in her thumbs and her fingers, her wrinkled neck and her hopeful lipstick. I believe in that feeling that moves up from my gut and into my head—the peace of being touched.

It is easy to forget touch. We have prioritized our senses. We know which ones go with human interaction, and which ones can be used for communication. The most important is sight, of course, followed by hearing, then smell, then touch, and finally taste. They are ordered according to their social acceptance. One can’t simply taste another person. But you can sniff them subtly. You can listen to them. You can see them.

This is how we communicate to one another. We talk and we listen, we look at faces to gauge reactions. But the problem is, so much of my communication happens on a screen. So often, there is no face to see. There is no voice to listen to, no smells to register. There are only words, coming rapidly in a stream, angry and capitalized, raw and hurt. The hurt bleeds through, always. The hurt is so obvious. It’s the defining feature of online dialogue. Sometimes, I feel as though everyone on Facebook is just crying out, “I hurt, I hurt, I hurt.” This is the winter of Me Too, and we are all hurting, alone behind our screens. We hurt, and we can’t touch.

It is righteous and good that women have begun to speak up about the abuses they have suffered. It is important that we are no longer silent. But I can’t help my inappropriate response: I want to hold and be held. Every time I learn a new story of violence, every new wound I see, every new disclosure I welcome into my brain, every assault I bear witness to—I feel an immediate urge to wrap my long arms around someone and pull them toward me.

Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I can. My closest friends have become used to my newfound appreciation of touch. I was once a rigid New England girl, self contained and wrapped in wool, an eye roll of a person, half sarcasm, half amusement. But somewhere along the way, I became an oozing tentacle monster, reaching out for more, more, more love.

Touch will not heal our discourse. The children in cages do not just need to be touched (though they do need human affection), they need to be free. The deported mothers and fathers do not need a fortune teller to reveal their fate, they need protection, a place of refuge.

But touch has opened a door in my heart, and I’m glad that bloody chamber is no longer locked. When I am feeling unmoored from myself, when I am feeling sick in the head, dizzy from the sparklers that flash uninvited in my vision, there are few things that calm me down like a pair of arms circling my torso. I have changed and become so much more tender, so much more raw. I don’t know if this is a good thing, but I have begun to believe that it is necessary for growth. That I must become tender and naked in order to move forward, in order to heal.


My Body is Your Body is Everybody is Nobody Solo 6, single channel video stills 2017, Pop Killed Culture/Jess Lauren Lipton.


For there are no words for some forms of grief, and there is no way to debate certain evils. My life has always been words, and I committed myself to language with far more certainty than I signed my marriage certificate. But even I have to recognize when the dialog has become poisoned, when the words slip and slide around, when the facts become unstable creatures and run from their pens. Even I have to see that sometimes, words fail. Sometimes, all we can offer is a hand to hold.

Fortunately, sometimes, that is enough.  


Katy Kelleher is a freelance magazine writer and editor based in Maine. Her articles about color history were published in The Awl and The Paris Review. She has written for Art New England, and Longreads.  She is the author of a book titled ”Handcrafted Maine.” 


Invitation for Fall Issue 2018: Dialogue


Dialogue is defined as a conversation between two or more people, and in literature, philosophy or art takes on many forms and formats. The purpose of dialogue is to explore topics rather than reach conclusions. It is different from a debate and more egalitarian than a monologue.

Artists can choose from many forms to explore their themes or topics. There is the interview format between two artists, or a less formal conversation format, or the lyrical, narrative format. And there is a visual dialogue, through images such as Jim Chute’s “Conversations” series, or Christine Sullivan seeking salon-style interaction.

There are questions extended to artists to explore with others and reflect on the process.

When making art are you seeking to explore dialogue between individuals or is your artwork part of a larger dialogue—a broader cultural perspective? Do curators and art reviewers guide or inhibit your conversations?  How do we foster/contribute to dialogue as artists in cultural institutions? How do schools, programs, organizations, UMVA, MAC, MECA, foster or engage their students and programming in dialogue? What is the role of the gallery? The artist?

Journal Submission guidelines for Members Showcase:

Deadline: September 1st  

A) We invite UMVA members to submit up to 4 JPEG or png images. Attach to an email, (see below.)

—Size of images:Images as JPEG files, (approximately 1000 pixels on long side, resolution 72dpi) with total file size: 500KB – 1.2MB (No TIFF files)

—Photo/image file name:  your last name_number of image_title  

Note:If you are submitting for a group put your own last name in first.

B) Include your statement, 150 words or less, and an image list in Word doc. format, not a PDF.

—Document/essay file names: your last Name_title of essay—Image list file name:  your last name_image list

Image list format:  Artist’s Name, “Title of Work”, medium, size, date (optional), photo credit (if not included we assume it is courtesy of the artist).

Please wait until all of your material is compiled to submit.

C) Submit by email to  Put “Dialogue” in the subject line.

MAJ will limit the “Members’ Showcase” section to UMVA members who have not been published in the past year.

We are no longer able to accommodate artists’ pre-formatted visual essays. Our editors will lay-out text and images submitted using the new guidelines above.

Maine artists and arts community members can become members of the Union of Maine Visual Artists by clicking HERE <> . Membership helps support the UMVA’s advocacy and helps make this Maine Arts Journal: UMVA Quarterly possible. Or you can provide direct support to the MAJ via the link under “Support MAJ!” For a free subscription to the MAJ, enter your email on the side link under“Subscribe”and a link to this Journal will be mailed to your inbox.

It is the MAJ’s policy to request and then publish image credits. We will not publish images the submitter does not have the right to publish. However, we leave the question of photo credit to the discretion of the submitter when there is no required photo credit (photo by self, image ownership freely given, copyright with contract, copyright expired, work for hire).  It is to be assumed that any uncredited or unlabeled images are the author’s/submitter’s own images. By submitting to the MAJ, you are acknowledging respect for these policies.

Thank you,

MAJ Editorial Board
Natasha Mayers, Dan Kany, Jessica Myer, Nora Tryon, Kathy Weinberg

Introduction to the Summer 2018 Issue  

State of the Studio
What an artist does daily matters. The continuity of a steady studio practice is a place of invention and exploration, as—or more important than—putting on a show.
We asked the artists in this issue to tell us “What are you doing? What are you making?”  Are you staying on a course you have long ago established or have you recently started working in a new medium?  Are you suddenly working very large or getting small? Have figures emerged or has your work been consumed with geometry? Have you added color, or moved into monochromes? Does the outside world affect your studio life, or is your interior life reflected in your art? And was there a reason— or was it a whim— that brought you to your current direction?

Featured artist, Meghan Brady shares her experiences in studio residencies and scale. A studio visit with Ron Crusan explores his work, neighborhood and influences. John Bisbee talks about his new politically-charged art. Beth Wittenberg shares her thoughts on consumption, throw-away people, and being without a studio.  Pat Wheeler writes about how we can restore ourselves in troubled times. Sarah Stites reveals how drawing is her lifeline to her work. Sondra Bogdonoff writes about how her weaving is augmented and informed by painting and drawing. Tom Flanagan tells us that drawing connects him to the world and his sensibilities. Jim Chute shares his Conversations series and foreshadows our fall theme: Dialogue.
Member contributors include Sandy Olson who gets back into her studio and finds new inspiration. And Ruth Sylmor, Ken Kohl, Pamela Grumbach,Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Michelle Leier, Amy Pollien, Alanna Hernandez all share their art, thoughts and inspirations about the State of the Studio.

Janice Moore shares an account of her experience curating what became the  USM-LA Censorship story, and we include with it excerpts from letters written by John Ripton and Robert Shetterly with an essay on the topic by Dan Kany, and the National Coalition Against Censorship’s statement about the incident.

Regular contributor Edgar Beem writes about artists’ studios he has known. Dan Kany describes Henry Isaacs’ studio filled with brushes and small canvas “notes”.

Jane Bianco, Farnsworth Museum curator writes about the 19th century portraitist and landscape painter, James Hope.
Sarah Bouchard joins us as a guest contributor and interviews Michael Mansfield, the new executive director and chief curator of the Ogunquit Museum of  American Art about his personal artistic practice.

Dietlind Vander Schaaf contributes an essay from her place of inner contemplation and asks other artists what they are working on.

Our regular Poetry Feature introduced by Betsy Sholl presents  poems by Christian Barter and Dawn Potter.
Other regular features include: Insight/Incite about Krisanne Baker’s water activist residency in Malawi.

Richard Kane of Maine Masters talks about how he’d like to see those films used in the schools.  
ARRT! makes more banners, LumenARRT!  makes more projections, Portland and Lewiston UMVA chapters present reports.

The issue is full of many essays and artists to meet and explore, so find a porch, a hammock, or an armchair by a fire and curl up with the Maine Arts Journal on a fine, or foggy summer day!

From the editors,

Natasha Mayers, Dan Kany, Jessica Myer, Nora Tryon, Kathy Weinberg


State of the Studio with Meghan Brady

Last summer I was the recipient of a six month studio residency through the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation.  I left my modest garage-studio behind my house, where I have been making paintings, drawings, prints and some sculpture over the last ten years, for a large high-ceilinged space at Lincoln Street Center in Rockland.  Shifting spaces has been transformative for me.

Studio shot, piece from “New Misfits” in process, acrylic on paper + Tyvek, 2018

Mostly I responded to the scale of my new space by following the impulse to work larger.  I painted and collaged a series of wall-sized paper pieces that I made on the floor. I had a backlog of painting ideas that I wanted to get out of my head as a way to loosen up my other work.  I found it liberating to work on a temporary, unfussy surface that I could reshape on an impulse. Not only did I find relief to my restlessness by turning my back on the loaded history of painting on stretched canvas but I also found a sense of possibility in the physical building itself.  The new studio suited me in ways that I could not have predicted and so I have stayed on as tenant.

Studio shot, acrylic on paper, 2018

I am back to working on canvas but it is unstretched and I am still using the floor as my work surface.  I’m using the same collage approach as I used with the paper pieces but the materials have slowed the mark-making down.  There’s a body-intelligence in making work with the whole physical being — walking around and across the painting or on hands and knees.  I trust it.

Installation shot of “Free-Forming” at Tiger Strikes Asteroid where the artist used the gallery space as her studio while an artist-in-residence in Brooklyn, NY, April 2018, acrylic on paper, photo: Julia Guillard

I talk a big game about being open to change in my studio but notice that I always have some hesitation or resistance to it when the crucial moment arrives.  I’m interested in that conflicted moment and what it is telling me. A studio friend refers to it as threshold anxiety.

Installation shot of “Free-Forming” at Tiger Strikes Asteroid where the artist used the gallery space as her studio while an artist-in-residence in Brooklyn, NY, April 2018, acrylic on paper, photo: Julia Guillard

Very recently I’ve been working on small stretched oil paintings in my old studio again.  I feel the same but completely different, like a tourist who has traveled and then come home.  The residency and the changes it encouraged remind me to find the place where I stay both flexible and focused in the presence of my work while allowing myself to do all those underrated non-quantifiable studio acts:  eat all the snacks, stare at the wall, read, and miss people.

—Meghan Brady, May 2018



Sara Stites in the studio: A Journey

My work has always had an organic, visceral aspect which I consider to be part of my concern with life issues, like vulnerability, passion, and the uncanny.

Sara Stites, Studio view of “Lemon,” ink, spray paint on Fabriano paper, mylar, 30” x 20′ 2018

Drawing in notebooks is my lifeline to my work whether I am in my studio in Maine or Miami or traveling on the road between them. My hand goes where it wants in these visual journals. After I fill each one, I reconnoiter, selecting and tearing out what might be used for inspiration.


Sara Stites, Journey, oil & ink on yupo paper, 5’ x 23’ 2016-17

Last summer, after completing two long narrative works, I found that I was drawing heads and faces in my notebooks. I wondered how far the features could be distorted or moved around and still read as a face.

Sara Stites, Family, oil & ink on yupo paper, 5’ x 24’ 2017

Before that, I had been mixing recognizable faces with imagined forms and questioning my need to do this.


Sara Stites,Pink, ink, spray paint on Fabriano paper, 30” x 20”, 2018

Was the realism a crutch to impress the viewer that I could do it? Was it a way of enticing the viewer into the more difficult passages of my work? Or both?

Of course, I know that my best work is not so carefully considered. It’s what emerges when faced with an empty wall. But my fascination with faces was an issue I needed to explore.


Sara Stites, Studio view, “Hanging man,” ink, spray paint on Fabriano paper, mylar, 30” x 20”, 2018

I recalled that Philip Guston, at a turning point in his work, made a series of small painted sketches that he considered his “alphabet”, his vocabulary. The photograph of his efforts has always moved me because they are so direct, without sentiment and trying to hold on to what he’d done before.

Guston realized that a lifetime of devotion to art requires the occasional jolt to one’s satisfaction. Like a long relationship, it needs refreshment and redefinition, all the while staying true to the basic alphabet.

Philip Guston alphabet. Photo provided by S.Stites.

I thought back to his efforts and decided to challenge myself to create a vocabulary of heads and faces, leaving the next phase open-ended. Guston used his basic vocabulary as the inspiration for his new work – work that was not, at first, accepted by his admirers. I sensed that I was not taking as great a leap but embraced the exercise anyway.

Here’s what I did:

I culled 20 intriguing face/head sketches from my notebooks and transferred them to sheets of medium-sized Fabriano paper, using black ink and brush. Then I placed bright, colorful, geometric forms behind the faces to give a feeling of space behind them.

Sara Stites, Studio view, “Orange,” ink, spray paint on Fabriano paper, mylar, 30” x 20”, 2018

Part of my practice, in the last few years, has been to photograph my work with objects from the studio in the foreground. Manipulation of the light source and shadows furthers a process of refinement and integration resulting in a photograph that can be seen as the final “artifact” of the process.

Sara Stites, Studio view, “Pointed Pink,” ink,spray paint on Fabriano paper, 30” x 20”, 2018

One phase of the process involved masking areas of the paper to leave white paper where there was no color. I used mylar to mask the white areas – and I noticed that it looked lovely as it fell to the floor.  Sprayed areas of color trailed off softly and marks made by tape were bold. 


Sara Stites, Collage 1, ink, spray paint, Fabriano paper, push pins, tape, mylar on wall, d/v, 2018


The discarded mylar, I decided,would become an integral part of my journey with these drawings, and I placed the scraps as objects in front of the original art. The conceptual kick of plowing my materials back into the work added to the visual mystery of the same color behind and on top of the black and white, partially-obscured drawings.

On the wall of my studio, I placed four or five drawings, arranging them with attention to their colored parts so that a head might be turned on its side. This was a way of keeping me from being too precious with what I’d already made, my carefully inked faces. The black inked lines became the girding – the strong base of my structure – while at the same time maintaining their identity as individual pieces of art.


Sara Stites, Collage 2, ink, spray paint, Fabriano paper, push pins, tape, mylar on wall, d/v, 2018

Pinning and taping the colored mylar in writhing, playful interaction with the under-color and ink drawings, I made a collage on the wall. The mylar encircled, caressed, obscured and opened up to let the drawings show through, giving life to the big form emerging as a unified, amorphous piece of work. This was the pure joy of creation.  I didn’t worry about tape or pins showing.  I’d pushed through the step-by-step process – the plodding and earnest studying – to using the results of my work in ways I hadn’t intended.

And I had my own alphabet. 

The photos of the entire collage (I made several) seem like documentation of an ephemeral site-specific installation, one that could be repeated in different locations.  The close ups of different parts of the overall collage are exciting new photographs.

Edgar Degas, The Chorus Singers, image provided by S.Stites

Afterward, I returned to the horizontal format with new interest in color and ideas of how to use the heads. Inspired by a recently recovered Degas (“The Chorus Singers”  had been stolen in 2009 and found this winter at a bus station near Paris), I borrowed the composition of singers shown in perspective. Instead of figures, I “plugged in” my heads and painted them in colors I’d been using. It came out quite well but seemed a bit decorative and tasteful until I added the realistic head and face of a somewhat cranky child.

 The journey had come full circle.


State of the Studio: Sondra Bogdonoff

After an earlier 25 year career as a textile artist, selling nationally a line of one-of-a-kind jackets and doing commissioned wall work, I returned to school to get a masters in public policy and started working full-time at the Muskie School at USM. My studio, on the second floor of the barn attached to our house in Portland, was no longer where I went to work. Although there was always something on the loom, I no longer “lived” there.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Lets Dance, linen, silk, needlepoint canvas inserts, 12” x 17”, 2016, photo: Jay York

Even when I worked in planning and development, I still thought of myself as a weaver. I considered my job to use the same sensibilities, same end result: weaving together multiple ideas, people and circumstances to move an institution (or an idea) forward to fruition. But after 20 years in university administration, I am thrilled to now be back in my studio weaving full–time. And weaving has been augmented and informed by painting and drawing.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Bark, Linen, wood inserts, 27” x 24”, 2016, photo: Jay York

I began painting while I still had a full-time job. I wanted something more immediate and transportable than weaving. Inspired by my love of casein paint and a class at Haystack with Alan Bray, I have continued painting from nature as an antidote, an opposite starting point from weaving – although I seem to often end up in the same place. When I find a view – through the woods, over the water, or out my window – there is invariably some indiscernible pattern, some underlying structure that I can’t see, but want to find. That is what drives the painting. I try to replicate what I see, but at some point, it becomes about the pattern. And I can layer and evolve a painting in a very different way from weaving.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Woods Window, casein on wood panel, 11” x 7.5”, 2015, photo: Jay York

The loom requires an end vision, and then multiple decisions, all of which have a consequence. So it’s an ongoing process of trying to stay true, decision upon decision, about color and thread and pattern. I get glimpses along the way, but truly don’t know what I have until it is finished and off the loom. I love the constraints of the loom – that both inspire and limit me. I like to work at the edge of possibilities – to see how far I can push the loom in the way it orders and structures the threads. I’ve been exploring pleating, layering and tension changes in making a surface. My husband, Jamie Johnston, has a wood studio below me in our barn, and the dialogue between us continues to play a role in my creative process.  

Sondra Bogdonoff, Ocean View, casein on wood panel, 10.5” x 13”, 2016, photo: by artist

I bought my first loom in 1974, when I moved to the Maine woods, and built a home without power or running water. I still use the same loom. When I recently did a weaving on a new loom, only then did I realize how well I know my loom, and what a relationship we have. We are good friends.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Into the Hedge/Winter, casein on wood panel, 10” x 13”, 2016, photo: by artist

Returning to my studio two and a half years ago, I had only begun to find my weaving rhythm when I became ill with a virus that lasted four months and left me with no energy for the physical work of weaving. While recovering, I began a drawing series “Stilled Life”, as an exploration of a grid structure that has long occupied my mind. I continue to love this simple process of making lines, the sense of hand, and the absolute attention it requires.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Stilled Life – Lines #7, wax pastel on paper, 14” x 14”, 2017, photo: by artist

After drawing for six months, I began to see the relation between the drawings and weaving and how I could move from lines to threads. Now that I am healthy, I’ve shifted my weaving focus to take what I learned from the drawing process and translate that into weavings, where the loom places its own parameters and opportunities.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Stilled Life – Lines #15, wax pastel on paper,16” x 24”, 2017, photo: by artist

In these recent weavings, as in the drawings, each square in the grid is made up of four colors. Two colors alternate changing right to left across the grid, while the other two colors alternate changing top to bottom. The result is that every square is one color different from the squares surrounding it. In a block of 9 squares there is a complete change of colors from the top left, to the bottom right, repeated multiple times. Each weaving/drawing uses 20 – 40 different colors.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Stilled Life – Lines #21, wax pastel on paper, 14” x 14”, 2018, photo: by artist

I’m consistently awed (infatuated) by how much energy and light is captured in a process that requires such calm concentration. And how the difference between individual threads used as lines and the same threads in a weave can look so completely different.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Stilled Life – Threads #3, linen on needlepoint, 16” x16” (needlepoint is 7” x7”), 2018

My practice is in simply working – everyday. I’m acutely aware of the cost of not weaving consistently for so many years. Although I have no regrets, I do feel committed to regaining the mental flexibility and comfort I had during my earlier career as a weaver, hopefully bringing a little more wisdom and ease to the process.  

Sondra Bogdonoff, Stilled Life – Weave #8, linen, 21” x 13”, 2018

I am totally immersed in this journey at this point – grateful that I have the privilege of time and energy to go wherever this exploration takes me.

Sondra Bogdonoff, Stilled Life – Weave #7 (photographed by artist, on the loom), Linen, 15” x 15”

Cannery Row—A Studio Visit with Ron Crusan by Kathy Weinberg

The crossroads where you make the turn towards Port Clyde is landmarked by the General Henry Knox Museum, a 1929 re-creation of the original 1794 Federal mansion. Its monumental façade comes into view almost simultaneously with the Dragon Cement Company, a large construction of chutes and appendages of the last functioning cement manufacturer in New England. The historic and the industrial languages blend to form an architectural hybrid landscape, suggestive of a Hieronymus Bosch painting or an assemblage constructed of disparate parts. What brought me to this juncture, and through the coastal villages past Tenants Harbor, to Port Clyde, was an invitation from Ron Crusan to visit his studio.


Ron Crusan, Painting 2, 30″ x 22”, 2018 Acrylic on paper. photo by the artist.


Upon my arrival we began by looking at a stack of paintings on heavily- textured watercolor paper that at first glance resembled etchings. The paintings are built up layers of dark washes with specks of brilliant color revealed in the intertwined black and gray marks. Ron is reading about Richard Serra’s drawing process and thinking about the marks as language. Perhaps it is Crusan’s experience as a museum director that also has him thinking about how to display the paintings. He considers hanging them low and paired towards each other in a corner. He hopes this will encourage an interaction with the viewer, questioning the placement, creating a dialogue, getting people thinking about how an object occupies space. He is thinking about how a work of art becomes a part of the architecture and defines the space around it.


Ron Crusan, Studio, work on easel, 2018. photo by K.Weinberg

Crusan has more time now to devote to making, thinking and talking about his artwork. For more than 25 years he was director at several regional museums, most recently the Ogunquit Museum. His move to Port Clyde from Southern Maine last year coincided with his current position as director of Linda Bean’s Maine Wyeth Gallery and collections.

Ron Crusan, Assemblage, 2017-18. photo by the artist.

Inside his home, Crusan’s sculptures and assemblages line the walls of the living room and dining room. He makes freestanding sculpture, and shadow box assemblages from old wood, rough wood, and driftwood, some from old furniture, some painted, and some cut and reassembled. The associations that come to mind are some of the familiar names of 20thcentury modernism. But those are not the first associations that Crusan wants you to have.

Ron Crusan, Assemblage, 2017-18. photo by the artist.

In 1953—the year that Ron Crusan was born—Joseph Cornell made a series of shadow boxes in homage to a collage work, “The Man at the Café,” by the cubist master, Juan Gris. A recent show at the Metropolitan Museum united those works. A pair of west Coast artists, Wallace Berman and George Herms, both contemporaries of Joseph Cornell, worked in a similar vein, as assemblage artists. Cornell feels like a figure from history, his work evokes an earlier era, but he traversed the 20thcentury, spanning the years from 1903-1972, he is on a continuum with George Herms, born in 1935, and who still lives and works in Los Angeles.

One of Crusan’s wall assemblages includes a door handle, another a rusty hinge, a key is inserted into one, while another has a small tin box inset into the wood. They evoke a sense of place. We talk a bit about realism, and what does it actually mean.  Crusan pulls a book on Andrew Wyeth off his shelf. He flips through to the painting “Brown Swiss” and talks about the composition. A barn is on the left side with a partial reflection in a pond below, and the sloping horizontal lines of fields intersect in a myriad of textures in grays and browns.  There are concentrated areas of activity that balance the space. There were windows in the original structure, Crusan said, but Wyeth left them out and so the wall becomes a slab of white. The painting is as much an observational assemblage with an underpinning of abstraction composed by Wyeth, as Crusan’s pieces are abstractions made of actual elements salvaged from a real place and composed in the studio.

Ron Crusan, Assemblage, 2017-18. photo by the artist.

Leaving the more formal rooms in Crusan’s home we enter into his workshop, which resembles a raw materials library. Piles of scrap wood are neatly organized, some are textured, or some with carving and joinery betray a previous function as chair, table, or banister. Stacks of clear storage boxes hold parts and potential projects, sorted by like items, or color. One drawer reveals stacks of old Bingo cards, another is full of Monopoly paraphernalia. One box is filled with yellow pieces of wood, another, orange. Stacks of toy blocks with cowboys, and the corresponding Indians are set up in a still life on the shelf. A ray of sun moved into the upper story window and illuminated the inside of an old doll’s head that sat with a cluster of other dolls on a high perch. “Did you catch that?” asks Ron, and I nod, holding my camera. Lids of Port Clyde sardines tins are stacked like a deck of playing cards, some rusty, some with the logo bright and fresh.


Ron Crusan, Studio view, 2018. photo by K.Weinberg


The worn blocks and iconic relics say something about the passage of cultural time: like toy diplomats they present a window into what an American childhood once was.


Ron Crusan, Studio view, 2018. photo by K.Weinberg


We walk through the snow to the two storage sheds behind Crusan’s house. There is evidence of a squirrel that sees the space as a refuge. Nature is at work on the materials, even as Crusan has plans for them as well. The aura of possibilities lingers in the space, open- ended by collecting, and arrangement, bounded only by the limits of the imagination and the changes within the culture itself.


David McLaughlin, The Cannery, interior view. photo by J.Ackerman

As I prepare to leave I ask Ron if he knew of the Waldo County sculptor, and welder David McLaughlin. McLaughlin bought, and moved into a defunct factory, known as “The Cannery” in Liberty Maine, in 1972. McLaughlin was an avid salvage collector of scrap materials on an industrial scale, including the eight-foot tall pressure cookers that once processed vegetables in the Cannery, 500 gallons of steel rings, and as a delicate counterpoint, shelves filled with birds’ nests.

David McLaughlin, The Cannery, interior view. photo by J.Ackerman

His assemblages of rusty and rustic constructions evoke a sense of nostalgia, fabricated from articles from the recent past which have never fully become a part of our own times. His estate includes 100 tons of assorted steel, iron and other materials, and is now in the care of Waterfall Arts in Belfast and the Town of Liberty.


Ron Crusan, studio view. photo by K.Weinberg


Ron is eager to talk about art and to delve beneath the surface. He mentions some of the artists in the area, Jamie Wyeth, Wilder Oakes, and the late Richard Hamilton. Ron talks of future ideas involving all of his Monopoly pieces, arranged, or scattered perhaps, the boards set out on a gallery floor, an invitation to play or to reflect on the game itself.

Ron Crusan, Studio materials, 2018. photo by K.Weinberg

Ron sees me to the door, and then calls me back in with another book in hand to show me an artist in his neighborhood, accomplished painter, and amateur astronomer, Greg Mort. Thumbing through the book, we enter Mort’s world of exquisite still life—delicate arrangements of shells and planets—assemblages of sorts.

Driving away I feel the potential from all those raw materials, seeds of the mind that might come to grow on fertile soil. I think about Ron Crusan reading, and working from the ideas of Richard Serra, making his own response to those works, his steady and patient collecting of objects, and the absorption of culture and ideas—incorporating the past through its marks and materials.

Ron Crusan, Painting 3, 30″ x 22”, 2018 Acrylic on paper. photo by the artist.

The search for ephemera through the chance findings of flea markets perhaps now joins the realm of beat poetry, part of an America that is closer to the world of pre-Interstate highway. Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road was written in the era of the two-lane highway, and published in 1951, two years before Ron Crusan was born, and five years before the Federal Highway Act of 1956.  As I drive home through the networks of coastal and back roads, I think about how this landscape still has much in common with the roads that Kerouac traveled.


Ron Crusan, Studio materials, 2018. photo by K.Weinberg

UMVA Member Showcase — Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Pamela Grumbach, Alanna Hernandez and Kenneth Kohl

Judith Allen- Efstathiou

The state of my studio is always in transition – seasonally packed in a suitcase and moved from one continent to another (I have three studios in all: one in Portland, one in Athens, Greece and one on the Island of Kea).  I split my year in half between Portland and Greece, traveling with a suitcase full of artworks in progress. Asian paper and cloth work best, light and easily folded or rolled into a suitcase and ironed flat again on arrival. There is never room for cloth in my suitcase, and it is always opened and checked by TSI.

My studio in Athens is three blocks from the Acropolis. How does that proximity affect my work? I’m not sure. I feel the energy of The Rock, but happily don’t have a view of the Acropolis from my studio. That would be too overpowering. Instead I look out at my walled garden. When it gets too hot in Athens, I travel to my third studio on the Island of Kea, and again my works in progress travel with me.

I spend winters in Portland and love the quiet contemplative time of winter in my studio. This year my Portland studio was transformed radically as I started making sculpture again after many years. I had the honor of being granted the Maine State House copper reuse commission, to make artwork with the beautiful 100-year-old copper removed from the State House dome in reroofing. I managed to finish and install the commission in March just before packing my bags again for Greece, a good thing because 47” long copper would not have fit in my suitcase.

Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Portland Studio
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Outside In, Acid cut copper, three sections, 47 x 15 x 2.5” each, 2018 in Portland studio
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Athens, Greece Studio
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Outside In, Acid cut copper, three sections, 47 x 15 x 2.5” each, 2018, installation over the Law and Legislative Reference Library, Maine State House, Augusta


Pamela Grumbach

Perhaps it is because I have had to empty personal possessions and histories in a few houses lately, rummaging through basements and closets.  Perhaps it is because of a fascination with the shape and design of things used in a bygone era. Perhaps it is because of a concern about the rapid obsolescence of things that we now acquire as we discard sturdy old items. Perhaps any and all of these are reasons why I looked more closely at old discarded tools, deciding to make them a focus of my recent painting.

With this new focus, moving away from the bright landscapes of the region, I now use a limited palette to capture something important about forgotten times and items. I muse about whose hand held these tools, about the strength and dexterity required to use them, and how they once made tasks easier.

Pamela Grumbach  “Oarlock” watercolor 11″ x 14″

Pamela Grumbach  “Grant’s Hammer” watercolor 7″ x 10″
Pamela Grumbach “Drop Line” watercolor 10″ x  7″
Pamela Grumbach  “Old Paintbrush” watercolor  8″ x 11″

Alanna Hernandez

I moved to Maine from Colorado in October. I grew up on Cape Cod so the East Coast is my home, but Maine is all new to me. Moving asks you to sacrifice a previously comfortable way of living. It requires that you be creative and adaptable to fall into a new flow of living and working.

My new studio flow includes lots of time working at home alone. I’ve always enjoyed being alone with my thoughts and imagination. I’ve also lived with anxiety and agoraphobia for years, so this extensive alone time at home feels almost indulgent. This leads me to examine my inner state frequently. I get a lot of inspiration from sitting with, and confronting my anxiety. “Sad Girl” and “Mental Health Day” are pieces I created from observing and expressing my feelings, viewing myself as not a body or a person, but as a feeling or an environment.

My small work space confines me to drawing, so I use ink, colored pencil, and oil pastel. I combine the three materials and use them a bit unconventionally. I play with traditional methods of line illustration and let my lines overlap. I am working towards more layering and depth in my pieces.

Another theme I explored this winter was partnership. Living with another person in a very small house through a particularly cold Maine winter brings that relationship into a clear view. I’m always inspired by birds, and the way that they generally choose just one mate for a long period of time, or for life. I created “Avocets”, “Grebes”, and “Egrets”, each with a distinct color palette and overlapping lines to explore different facets of partnerships.

When I’m not focusing inward, I look out to nature, and especially to birds and plants for inspiration. Being limited to working at home, I use what I see in my yard and neighborhood. “Regularly Scheduled Chaos” is inspired by a flock of starlings and a few odd grackles that inundated my yard for a month and a half, eating up all the birdseed every few days.

I listen to and read the news often while working. Sometimes the titles of my pieces reflect my fears about the state of the world. I feel selfish and privileged to be insulated in my house creating art while American leadership destroys civility, decency, the environment, healthcare, and the lives of immigrants. I’m currently exploring themes of nature and chaos, using overlapping  lines and bold color to express my feelings about the current state of America.

Alanna Hernandez, “Mental Health Day” ink and colored pencil on paper, 12″ x 8.5″ 2017
Alanna Hernandez, “Sad Girl” ink and colored pencil on paper, 12″ x 9″ 2018
Alanna Hernandez, “Grebes” ink and colored pencil on paper, 14″ x 17″ 2018

Alanna Hernandez, “Regularly Scheduled Chaos” ink and colored pencil on paper, 14″ x 17″ 2018

Kenneth Kohl

These four graphic pieces are an exploration of photo collage and color.  This is a very different process for me. I have to a large extent used wood as my primary medium in which color and form are generated. Using the wood as sketch, through process into product, the physicality of the process draws me in and out of the work.

The past 3-4 years have been an exploration.  I have felt the need to say more than framing beauty from found wood. I dove into dance, performance, video, and have landed here with pixels, in the form of photos, shapes and color.

And amazingly enough it has brought me back to three-dimensional work and ideas that have been waiting for the opportunity to find expression.

These four graphic works have been part of that process.

Kenneth Kohl, “sale, HOME” Photo collage poster, 11″ x 17″
Kenneth Kohl “PLccell” Photo collage poster   11″ x 17″
Kenneth Kohl “Tipping Point” Photo Collage poster, 11″ x 17″
Kenneth Kohl “Herstory” Photo collage poster, 11″ x 17″

Origins Stories—Anna Mikušková

I grew up in a house made of books: children’s books, classics, detective stories, forbidden publications that escaped communist censorship being passed down by generations of writers. Books lined the walls of our house, a parish established by my minister grandparents who had moved to my small hometown near the Czech-German border after the Second World War.  

Books filled the bags my mother brought home from her job at the library. They shaped the quiet moments I spent with my father, an archivist who at times would bring home a rare treat, an old book as big as his desk, that I was not allowed to touch, only admire the yellowed pages and elaborate images that formed the first letters of every chapter.

Anna Mikuskova, “Valtice”, Czech Republic, Gelatin Silver Print, 2017, 12 ½” X 10 ½”

On the weekends, I would spend long dreamlike hours at work with my parents, run in the hallways and between the tall stacks of the library and the archive, both buildings becoming my playground. The infinite wealth of stories they held offered a safe refuge from the confusing world around, from school that represented the communist establishment which was so at odds with home, with my intellectual anti-communist parents and my grandparents who dedicated their lives to Church, an increasing oddity in the secular domain of the regime.

Anna Mikuskova, “Birches”, Acadia, Maine, Gelatin Silver Print, 2013
Size 11 3/8 X 15”

The never-ending tales on the pages intertwined with the stories I heard about my family; humorous anecdotes exchanged at dinner about the absurdities of communism or eerie accounts of time gone that were only hushed and whispered when the women in the family gathered on Sunday afternoons. Over yarn and needles I listened to the life story of my great-grandmother who became a political prisoner in the early days of communism. Always an excellent cook, perhaps she had learned in the ration days of the war to make something out of nothing, she improved the conditions of her incarceration by offering the jail her cooking skills.

Anna Mikuskova, “Zeyer Monument”, Prague, Gelatin Silver Print, 2016
Size 7” X 8 1/2”

I heard stories of my grandfather who had been taken to a labor camp for his involvement with the Church. I listened to accounts of my grandmother who left alone with two young children took over the ministry, fighting hard to keep a Church presence under a regime that persecuted its members. Decades later when, unbeknown to all of us, the gray days of communism were coming to an end, my mother, too, became the breadwinner when my father, suffering from depression, was taken away to a mental institution. To supplement her librarian income, she would sell the handknits she crafted in the evenings.

Anna Mikuskova, Cathance River Preserve, Gelatin Silver Print, 10X12, 2014

Just as my grandfather’s landscape paintings that brightened our days with their vivid greens and yellows, the lives of my parents and grandparents inspired me with the every-day creativity of those who time and time again had to reinvent themselves in order to survive.


The Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat believes that every immigrant is an artist, that “the experience of touching down in a totally foreign place is like having a blank canvas.” In the August 2013 issue of the Atlantic, Danticat suggests that “You begin with nothing, but stroke by stroke you build a life. This process requires everything great art requires—risk-tasking, hope, a great deal of imagination, all the qualities that are the building blocks of art. You must be able to dream something nearly impossible and toil to bring it into existence.”

Anna Mikuskova, “Boothbay Harbor”, Maine, Gelatin Silver Print, 2015
Size 16 ½” X 11 3/8”

Like many others who have moved across the world to create the work of art that is a life well lived, I have adjusted to my new home, and like the women in my family, I have crafted a livelihood out of eggs and flour, at times yarn and fiber.



Anna Mikuskova, “Winter River” Cushing, Maine, Gelatin Silver Print, 2016
Size 8 1/4” X 9 7/8”


And when words were not enough to give me the answers I needed, where is home and who am I, I reached for the camera, dove into visual language where boundaries are blurred, worlds co-exist and time is but an idea, where in the landscapes taken over here you can hear the echo of the stories whispered over there, where the glossy cobblestones of the streets in my hometown reflect the dreams I spun in my new home, dreams I write down in silver.


Anna Mikuskova, “Phippsburg” Maine, Gelatin Silver Print, 2015
Size 11” X 9 ½”

Art Origins: My life as a half-blind art critic

By Daniel Kany

When I was four years old, I wound up with a steak knife in my eye. I had more than 20 stitches on my cornea and I spent two weeks in the hospital, during much of which, I had patches covering both of my eyes. The damage was severe. To keep my optic nerve from atrophying, the doctors tried contact lenses, which, in the early 1970s, were hard plastic and not much fun for a wriggly little boy.

I feel very lucky that my left eye tracks reasonably well with the right one. But for all intents and purposes, I only see out of my right eye. My left eye works, but in such a blurry and useless way that my midbrain disregards it. I cannot see stereoscopically.

My brother and sister are older than me and they are superior athletes. My sister is a world champion rugger and both were the stars of essentially every sports team they were ever on. That would not be my path. The vision issue was only part of it: I lacked their natural ability. I play soccer and excel at ping pong, but, as a youth, I quickly got tired of letting down coaches excited about “another Kany!”

Monocular vision is a handicap, but it does offer a few benefits. Television, movies, and photography, for example, are made with a single lens and one of painting’s great triumphs was the invention of single point perspective. I can’t say that these things are more satisfying to me than to two-eyed folks, but since they match my typical experience of the world, I suspect they are. Paintings work hard to convince viewers of depth by means of modeling, atmospheric perspective, etc; and so, from time to time, paintings appear to me with more depth than the real world, at least, from a stationary perspective.

Rather than trying to keep up with my siblings in the athletic arena, I took up music. I began playing bass in rock bands when I was in eighth grade. That was in Waterville, home of Colby College and its vaunted art museum. One day when I walked into Bixler — Colby’s music and art building — I looked up a staircase and saw a painting by Abbott Meader on the wall on the landing. I was in high school, but that painting appeared to me as a vision and it was immediately etched into my mind. It is not an easy painting to describe. It is an abstract landscape, highly controlled and focused. Across the top is a horizontal band that looks like a view of a road through Southwest farm landscape (green field on the left and fallow straw on the right) seen through ski goggles from a motorcycle. Shooting forward to that visual horizon is a series of colored lines that gathers thickly at the bottom of the image and converges towards the top. Pink horizontal bands flow into the scene from the right to reinforce the idea of landscape, but on the left side they billow like drapery or even a ghostly figure. That painting struck me immediately as both visually and spiritually transcendent. That was 1982.

Abbott Meader, Nike / Western Sundown, acrylic on canvas, 1972, photo by the artist.

(N.B. I sent this above description of the painting to the artist and it was enough for him to recognize the painting and send me the image included with this text.)

I hadn’t found painting. It had found me. I began to make art somewhat seriously, but I was more interested in seeing and learning about art. At Bowdoin College I studied art history — but not painting. (I now cringe at my rationale: When asked by a friend why I didn’t take painting classes at Bowdoin, I replied: “I don’t need anyone to teach me how to express myself.” Ouch.)  I went to Paris and studied art history at the Sorbonne. While in Europe, I wandered into the Rothko room in the Tate Gallery and had what is probably most commonly called a mystical experience with one of Rothko’s, Red on Maroon (1959).

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon, 1959, image courtesy WikiCommons.

The thing about this kind of experience is its fundamental undeniability. It happened. And it was powerful. And indeed, the easiest way to understand or talk about such experiences is in the traditional terms of mysticism. I can see how when someone would mention this kind of experience to others, they would then easily accept it as proof of “God”. This type of experience is profound and personal, however vague, so it makes sense that people would generally see it as reinforcement of their own cosmology.

Not surprisingly, I have long been drawn to artists who produce such work and who are not caught up in specific religious dogma. My favorite artists have long included Kasimir Malevich, Rothko, Matisse, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt as well as landscape painters with a propensity for bold colors, such as the Fauves (particularly Braque and Derain), Kandinsky, van Gogh, Cézanne, and the German Expressionists. On one hand, I would like to believe my taste has become more refined after 35 years of looking. Maybe it has, but considering my favorite works in the light of my first transcendent art experience — that semi-psychedelic Meader landscape at Colby — I am not so sure it has.

What has been consistent for me is the transportive experience of art. (Transcendence and being transported aren’t the same thing, but they have much in common.) I think we can see this in the movement from artists like Kandinsky and Mondrian from landscape into abstraction. I like to explain the invention of abstraction as the realization by artists that when it comes to legibility, instead of having the viewer need to recognize a legible subject of the painting (that thing, that person, that place, etc), it is enough that the painting be recognized  (i.e., legible) as a painting. That is similar to the move from transportive to transcendent.

What I struggle with is akin to the idea that stereoscopic vision sees a physical world while monocular vision sees a visual world. I can’t remember what it was like to see stereoscopically and my closest art friend during all this time — a fellow Colby brat and career art professional — also had eye issues and so could not see stereoscopically. However bizarre and unlikely that may be and however much that might have tainted our ability to understand the vision of others, I don’t think it was by chance that we both have remained steadfastly dedicated to professions in the arts as well as huge fans of painting and visual art in general.

I do not like the scene from Un Chien Andalou, the 1929 silent surrealist short film by Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. (Spoiler Alert: That straight razor slashes open her eye. Ouch.)

Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí were absolutely sick, and yet I love this movie…

There is a cliché of a movie director making a square with their thumbs and forefingers and squinting to look through it with one eye. We all understand that: They’re trying to see a scene as ifit were being filmed. What they are doing, however, is orienting themselves to see the scene monocularly. I believe painters do this all the time: They stand directly in front of their work and view it from a fixed point. (And unlike hearing, seeing is based on the dominant eye and backed up by the other.)  So, yeah, y’all two-eyed folks can do it, and you often do it on purpose. But some of us—fortunately few (hardly the fortunate few) — can only see the world that way.

Let me be clear: Taking a knife to the eye was a nightmare. (I can still remember the feeling from 48 years ago and it was hellish.) But it does make me wonder if I would have found this enriching life in the arts if I hadn’t mangled myself. I am not glad it happened. But I can say I would much rather be a half-blind art critic than a mediocre athlete.

Summer 2018 Issue: Theme and Invitation

Ethan Hayes-Chute, studio view, December 2017.

State of the Studio

One of the Founders of the former ArtFellows Gallery in Belfast (local photojournalist,  Richard Norton) always had the same question for the artists working around him, “What are you doing? What are you making?” 

This neighborly, over-the-fence question is a way of saying that what an artist does daily matters. The continuity of a steady studio practice is a place of invention and exploration, as—or more important than—putting on a show.

Are you staying on a course you have long ago established or have you recently started working in a new medium?  Are you suddenly working very large or getting small? Have figures emerged or has your work been consumed with geometry? Have you added color, or moved into monochromes? Does the outside world affect your studio life, or is your interior life reflected in your art? And was there a reason— or was it a whim— that brought you to your current direction?

Share your own State of the Studio with all of us at the Maine Arts Journal for our Summer 2018 Issue.

Journal Submission guidelines for Members Showcase and featured artists:

Journal Submission guidelines for Members Showcase and featured artists:

 Deadline: June 1st  

A) We invite UMVA members to submit up to 4 JPEG or png images, (featured artists 8-12 images). Attach to an email, (see below.)
—Size of images:Images as JPEG files, (approximately 1000 pixels on short side) with total file size: 500KB- 1.2MB (No TIFF files)
—Photo/image file name:  your last name_number of image_title 

Note:If you are submitting for a group put your own last name in first.

 B) Include your statement, or essay, and an image list in Word doc. format, not a PDF.
—Document/essay file names: your last Name_title of essay—Image list file name:  your last name_image list

Image list format:  Artist’s Name, “Title of Work”, medium, size, date (optional), photo credit (if not included we assume it is courtesy of the artist).

Please wait until all of your material is compiled to submit.

C) Submit by email to put “State of the Studio” in the subject line.

MAJ will limit the “Members’ Showcase” section to UMVA members who have not been published in the past year.

We are no longer able to accommodate artists’ pre-formatted visual essays. Our editors will lay-out text and images submitted using the new guidelines above.

Maine artists and arts community members can become members of the Union of Maine Visual Artists by clicking HERE. Membership helps support the UMVA’s advocacy and helps make this Maine Arts Journal: UMVA Quarterly possible. Or you can provide direct support to the MAJ via the link under “Support MAJ!” For a free subscription to the MAJ, enter your email on the side link under “Subscribe” and a link to this Journal will be mailed to your inbox.

It is the MAJ’s policy to request and then publish image credits. We will not publish images the submitter does not have the right to publish. However, we leave the question of photo credit to the discretion of the submitter when there is no required photo credit (photo by self, image ownership freely given, copyright with contract, copyright expired, work for hire).  It is to be assumed that any uncredited or unlabeled images are the author’s/submitter’s own images. By submitting to the MAJ, you are acknowledging respect for these policies.

Thank you,

MAJ Editorial Board
Natasha Mayers, Dan Kany, Jessica McCarthy, Nora Tryon, Kathy Weinberg

Gigi Aea—Journey

In the spring of 1996, Gigi Aea designed and produced his first hand-painted jacket that was featured in the Metropolitan Museum Fashion Gala, and is still housed in its permanent collection. But the Gigi Aea story begins far away, in a land that juxtaposes European and Asian influences – Georgia, an ancient land formed in 13th century BC.

Gigi was born into a family of three generations of artists. His great-grandfather Alexander Ronishvili was the first pioneer of photography in Georgia and one of the great benefactors of his time, opening multiple schools, hospitals and universities. He photographed everyone from kings to paupers. The astonishing and distinctive life that he led ended dramatically, murdered at the age of 50, poisoned by his rival who also burned down his studio, destroying much of Ronishvilli’s work. The remaining works are housed in the Georgian National Museum and the family collection.

Gigi’s grandfather Giorgi “Gogi” Ronishvili was Gigi’s first and most important teacher and his guide into the world of art. An accomplished cubist painter and creative director of the Georgian children’s magazine “Dila”, he taught Gigi the essentials of drawing and color relationships, while also encouraging experimentation and the development of a unique style. Gigi’s memories of his grandfather are that he was very gentle but very resolute.

Gigi Aea 06-L’Ville-Butterflies, fabric design

European art training starts at the earliest age. Being an artist was never a conscious decision for Gigi, it was more like an end result to the life he led. Having no choice in the matter was like having to breathe to stay alive. There was art created everywhere he looked. Monica, Gigi’s grandmother, was a ballerina and a dance teacher at the Theatrical University. She often danced in the house. Her every act was a performance, her every step a dance.  Gogi and Gigi often painted together in the loft studio and Gigi observed and learned every one of his grandfather’s masterful strokes of the brush whether in the colorful city rooftops or intricate cubist paintings unique to his style that appeared as if looking through the angled prism of glass.

Gigi Aea, Chrysanthamums,
fabric design

In his grandfather’s studio Gigi learned valuable lessons in the way that perspective is built, from masters like Vermeer, and the way it is destroyed, from masters like Matisse. He studied the color palettes of the Impressionists and the colorless Zenga paintings of Japanese masters that influenced the Abstract Expressionists so much. But through all his study and all his work he approached each painting with the fresh, wondrous eyes of a marveled child experiencing the world for the first time, perhaps because becoming a painter was never a decision or a choice, but rather a condition of floating full of sensations and imagery.

Gigi Aea, Maine-in-Blue, fabric design

In 2014 Gigi’s homage to his grandfather was to organize and co-curate a posthumous show of most of his work at the Georgian National Museum of Art. It was an extremely successful, well-attended and televised event.

Gigi’s father, Nodar Gaprindashvilli was a well-respected portrait painter and a theater stage designer for a number of premier theaters in the Soviet Union. In his father’s studio Gigi learned the harshness of the life of an artist and prepared for the Academy of Arts exams. Gigi was expected to dutifully accept his student responsibilities as an apprentice in his father’s studio. His tasks ranged from cleaning the floors to repairing the skylight and cooking for his father and his friends.

In his grandfather’s studio he was a protégé. In his father’s studio he was a servant. Both lessons have served him well.


Gigi Aea, My-Garden-in-Tuscany, fabric design

Gigi was deeply influenced by American culture from his introduction to the Blues and Rock’n’Roll to Abstract Expressionism, and always dreamed of coming to New York, to experience the hub of raw creative energy.

After attending and graduating art schools in Tbilisi, Georgia and Bremen, Germany, Gigi embarked on his long-awaited journey to New York City with $500 in his pocket and his portfolio of paintings. The paintings, unfortunately, were stolen in the Berlin airport right before his flight. He arrived in New York without any English language skills, job prospects, or work visa. His $500 dollars were stolen from him by a street hustler in an apartment deal that didn’t exist.

Broke and hungry, Gigi relied on the kindness of his childhood friend from Georgia, Agassi, who lent him some money to get a basement apartment in the furthest corner of “bumfuck” Queens. Agassi had emigrated 5 years before and was employed as a fashion designer for Mary McFadden Haute Couture. Gigi’s apartment consisted of a mattress and an ugly metal filing closet. Depressed by the hideous environment, Gigi painted the filing cabinet to look like a grained walnut wood closet. His landlord made it his habit to invasively check on what Gigi was up to every day. When he saw the cabinet that Gigi had painted, he liked it so much that he confiscated it right away and took it out of the apartment. Gigi had to carry it out.

Now Gigi only had a mattress. Still without work, Gigi often went hungry for days, relying sometimes on a local pizzeria to give him scraps of unfinished crusts and an occasional lunch from his friend. He needed to find a job, any job. At the end of his options, he applied for work at Moishe’s Movers in Brooklyn, where he was an outcast and only given an opportunity to work on occasion if nobody else showed up. He had two such opportunities. And the last was pivotal.

Down to his last quarter, Gigi called Moishe’s to inquire if there was work the next day and was told to come in at 7am. He was happy to hear this news. However, not having  eaten for three days, he doubted his ability to move furniture for eight hours. Gigi then went into a local Korean grocery store and stole a loaf of bread and a small ham with the full intention of repaying the store owner when he got paid. But he was caught in the act and put in the walk-in meat freezer with a 6’5” security guard. Gigi pleaded, in his broken English, with the store owner not to call police, but to no avail. The store owner went to call the police and Gigi thought that would be the end of his American adventure and he’d be deported. Twenty minutes went by and nothing happened. He was still in the meat locker, but the guard had since left. Gigi was in the locker for another twenty minutes. Unable to stand the cold and humiliation any longer he busted out and walked calmly down the aisle past the guard and the store owner onto the street, where to his surprise and delight, there was no police waiting for him. Gigi remembers that in that instant he was overfilled with a love for New York and understood that everyone there, to some degree or another, has been in the same predicament. The generosity of the Korean store owner was but a proof of this.

Now free, he no longer felt hungry but ready to face the next challenge.

Gigi Aea, Monaco, fabric design


The next day he got up early and went to work using his last subway token. It was a long ride from the end of Queens to the end of Brooklyn. He arrived there with full confidence and strength to work and make money, but alas, he was told that he was not needed after all.

Completely destitute and despondent he called his friend Agassi to help him get back home to Queens, to the basement apartment with the tyrannical landlord. What Gigi didn’t know was that fate had something else in mind for him.

Gigi Aea, Aztec-Gold, fabric design

All throughout his stay in Queens he kept working on a textile design for the new Mary McFadden collection inspired by Japan. This effort was a test run that Agassi suggested he should try. Gigi was always fascinated and influenced by Asian art, Japanese art in particular. He used Ogata Korin’s screen, The Great Waves of Matsushima, as his inspiration for the jacket he was creating. Without any prior knowledge of the particulars of textile design and Haute Couture, he simply painted as he would paint any original painting, but with restrictions on the dimensions, material’s borders, design arrangement, and location, since the most challenging and fascinating thing about textile design is its transformation of two-dimensional art into three-dimensional applied art. Every one of the waves, drops and color juxtapositions mattered in the final concept of the piece, the way it would sit on the model and appear on the runway.

Gigi was working with borrowed art materials and painting on MaryMcFadden’s luxurious silk organza, with borrowed money and on borrowed time. He gave his hand-painted textile for Mary’s review to Agassi shortly before his work day at Moishe’s in Brooklyn.

On that day while he was stranded and close to tears somewhere in Brooklyn, somewhere in Manhattan Mary wanted him as her next textile designer for the Haute Couture house. Upon returning home to Queens he found out that he was hired for the exclusive position. The next night he made his great escape from the clutches of his oppressive landlord, fitting everything he had in an old lady’s grocery cart and wheeled it down to the Jamaica Van Wyck subway station where he got on the train that took him to Manhattan’s Upper West Side where he spent most of his New York years.

Gigi Aea, Monet’s-Garden, fabric design

Gigi continued to create for Mary McFadden, finally designing the “Desert Jacket” which was her all-time best seller and featured in the Saks Fifth Avenue book “Obras de Moda.” On the side, Gigi designed for Oscar de la Renta and Donna Karan in New York until his move to London where he worked on a collection with Alexander McQueen.

Gigi Aea, Magic, fabric design

Today Gigi Aea is running his own Haute Couture textile design company where he takes great care and pride to create hand-painted designs which are printed in Como, Italy. His textiles are used for both interior décor and fashion and are known for their dramatic design and color juxtapositions. The designs are larger than what is commonly done, which creates the sense of being enveloped by the textile and by the world that particular design depicts.

Gigi Aea is represented by the design house of Studio Sofield in N.Y.C. and Leslie Curtis in Camden, Maine.   

Introduction to the Spring 2018 Maine Arts Journal

Our theme for the Spring 2018 Maine Arts Journal Issue is Origin Stories.

We asked you to tell us the stories you tell of yourself, to share who you are, and how you got here. The thoughtful responses have taken on those questions in varied and individual ways.

Our Feature Artists include Alice Spencer and her Katanga series, informed from the collection of patterned materials gathered from her travels, and which influence her work. Anna Mikuscova shares her black and white photographs and personal journey. Clare Morin reflects on places where she has lived and written about the arts, from England to Hong Kong and Maine. Gigi Aea starts his essay and his journey from an ancient culture and cultured family legacy. Susan Drucker’s delicate yet fully present drawings are a re-imagined family photo album, an alternate history.  Included are the beautiful artbooks of  Cynthia Ahlstrin, a family portrait by Juliet Karelsen,  and more.

Regular contributor, Ed Beem, shares his self-portrait as an arts writer, an aesthetic journey with family and friends. Frequent contributor, and author, Carl Little writes about the extraordinary gift his Uncle William Kienbusch gave him. Contributing MAJ editor, Kathy Weinberg writes about the painter Martin Wong’s retrospective, that ties into a family history and a road trip. Dan Kany is in the Critics Corner with a story of his own vision.

In conjunction with this issue, and narrowing the lens of the topic more specifically to Immigration, Kifah Abdulla (Portland poet, artist from Iraq), Titi De Baccarat (Portland artist from Gabon) and John Ripton (writer, photographer and historian from Maine) have curated a show of the work by Portland area immigrants around the theme of “Migration Experience.”

Included also is a portfolio of images from 12 artists in the Camden Library, and Jonathan Frost Gallery Show “Migration Stories.”

Julie Poitros Santos writes about an upcoming show at ICA MECA: TRACES, TRACKS, and PATHWAYS: Making Migration Visible.

In our Members’ Showcase we welcome Maggie Muth, Lesia Sochor, and Clara Cohan who share their art and stories, and the editors share some highlights of members’ essays.

We have regular features, Insight/Incite: Jane Page-Conway on skateboards, and a poem by Craig Sipe introduced by Betsy Sholl. And a Special feature: Mirlea Saks contributes an essay on Nancy Davidson, the dynamic curator of the Maine Jewish Museum, who has helped shape the art scene in Portland.

Look to the “submit” page for our Theme and Invitation for Summer 2018: State of the Studio: Tell us what you are making and what you are doing. Follow the guidelines for submission.

And now to the issue—Enjoy!

From the editors, Dan Kany, Natasha Mayers, Jessica McCarthy, Nora Tryon, Kathy Weinberg

TRACES, TRACKS, and PATHWAYS: Making Migration Visible

TRACES, TRACKS, and PATHWAYS: Making Migration Visible
Upcoming Exhibition co-curated by Julie Poitras Santos and Catherine Besteman
Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, Maine
Accompanied by statewide connected programming
5 October – 14 December 2018


Mohamad Hafez, Desperate Cargo, 2016, Mixed Media: plaster, Paint, Float, Found Objects, MP3 Media Player, rusted metal, Lighting; 144 x 48 x 40 in

Around this time of year, in the 1930s, my Franco-Canadian grandparents migrated, walking across our northern border into Maine in search of work. They crossed the St John River on foot through spring melt and ice flows that reached the height of their knees. I imagine there were times when, from the middle of the vast river, they questioned their decision and their safety. My father relates that they were “running away from their lives” and toward the possibility of work. And as Lucinda Bliss relates, in her Tracking the Border project,

“There were many Canadian immigrants coming to the United States in the early 20th century, largely because of a complex mix of economic and social factors, and the difficult balance of agriculture and industry in the two countries that lasted through the two World Wars and depression, until the explosion of new industry in the mid-twentieth century. The tense post-war relationship between Canada and Great Britain also contributed to a period of instability and high unemployment, and affected the emigration numbers.”

Ultimately, my grandparents settled in the Caribou area, farming the potato fields and contributing productively to the Maine economy. My father, born in Caribou, has worked as an organic farmer, and a town and city planner, making connections in early farm-to-table movements and often fighting to retain what is unique and special about Maine.

As an artist, writer and curator, my work focuses on pathways and nomadic translations of space, using walking as a means to perform field research, and encouraging community through collective walking practices and site-specific storytelling. Moved by recent political conversations and challenges to international movement inspired by xenophobic and nationalistic discourse, and contemplating the vast numbers of people engaged in long walks and journeys across our planet, I wondered about the challenges and narratives inscribed in those passages.


Mohamad Hafez, Desperate Cargo, 2016, Mixed Media: plaster, Paint, Float, Found Objects, MP3 Media Player, rusted metal, Lighting; 144 x 48 x 40 in


As a child I loved to hear the immigrant stories of my ancestors, who arrived in the U.S. from Holland, Wales, and Scotland. They became farmers and miners: tough men and women whom I imagined as adventurous journeyers in pursuit of a good life. Only when I married an immigrant did I begin thinking about political borders. Because his Colombian passport flagged him as a ‘security concern’ our border crossings were interrupted by searches by border guards. Borders became an annoyance, an interruption, an opportunity for petty power plays by men empowered by the government to harass travelers.

Later I began working with Somali immigrants in Lewiston, some of whom were refugees from a small village in southern Somalia where I had lived as an ethnographer during 1988-9. To get to the U.S., they had fled genocidal violence across a vast desert on foot to Kenya, where they spent over a decade negotiating safe passage across other borders in search of a permanent home. From them I learned how borders kill, incarcerate, and interrupt not just journeys but also lives. I have spent the past decade interrogating borders, asking whose interests they serve and who they empower, and trying to make the borders visible to those for whom they are merely an annoyance.


Jason De León, Vulture scavenging recorded by motion sensor camera, 2013.


The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 258 million people, 3.4 percent of the world’s population, lived outside of their country of origin in 2017. The U.N. calculated there were 10.3 million people displaced from Syria alone by the end of 2017. Worldwide, an estimated 65.6 million people are displaced from their homes. Whether migrants in search of better economic and social opportunities, climate refugees, or refugees fleeing violence, wars, or other inhumane conditions, millions and millions of people are currently on the move, seeking refuge and setting up lives in entirely new and foreign locations.


Patricia Tinajero, Find Your Match, 2014. Installation; found materials, cast off objects and recycled materials.

In light of the global refugee crisis, the presence of new immigrants in Maine and a vibrant national dialogue about immigration, our curated exhibition TRACES, TRACKS and PATHWAYS: Making Migration Visible seeks to make connections between local communities and illuminate the ways in which we might further understand displacement, exile, mobility and the pathways and stories occurring between loss of home and the invention of a new home in a new place and culture. TRACES, TRACKS and PATHWAYS brings artists together to create forms that provoke community conversations about migration and mobility, and the artists included share an interest in creating work that evokes stories about displacement, exile, mobility, identity, and community.

Ranu Mukherjee, begin, 2017; wool; 48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm); commissioned by the FOR-SITE Foundation; courtesy the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco; photo: Robert Divers Herrick

In addition to the exhibition in the ICA, nearly 50 organizations and institutions throughout the state of Maine are planning related programming in the form of public talks, panels, exhibitions, films, community workshops, and poetry readings during the time frame of the exhibition. A calendar of all associated events will be published in efforts to foster connections between community partners and to inspire public engagement. A symposium will be held in the ICA and an accompanying catalogue will include visual material and essays engaging the works on view.
Artists in the exhibition include: Caroline Bergvall, Edwidge Charlot, Jason De Leon + Mike Wells, Eric Gottesman, Mohamad Hafez, Romuald Hazoume, Ranu Mukherjee, Daniel Quintanilla + United Yes, Patricia Tinajero

Juliet Karelsen- Origin Stories

My current work is a response to the Maine woods. It’s work that describes an experience of “being” in a more direct way than any art I have made in years. The parts of Maine that deeply move me visually and spiritually – the unique beauty, the stillness, the magic, the microscopic as well as vast views of varied landscapes –  inspire and encourage me to be present.

Juliet Karelsen, Ursula (head shot of my actress mother), 8″ X 10″, Needlepoint on canvas, 2016

After having been a painter for many years depicting figures (people, objects, landscapes and fantasy worlds in a broad range of styles and techniques), I took a stitching workshop at Haystack in 2015. Deer Isle is to me the most exquisite spot in Maine.

At Haystack, through stitching, I began to depict what for years on Deer Isle has blown me away – the mosses and lichen. Working with threads, floss and fiber did something to circumvent my “what I paint” brain and freed me to work with my imagination to describe what I was seeing in the forest in a way I could never have imagined. I experimented with various techniques and ideas, expanding on these first lichen pieces and then the following summer I took a second fiber workshop at Haystack that focused on sculpture. I had always felt intimidated by the concept of making anything 3D (I was a painter after all, right!?)

For the past year and a half I have been making large and small 3D sculptures of lichen-covered rocks, minerals and gems, and am now exploring further into the realm of sculpture.

Juliet Karelsen, White Rock, 30″x 24″x 12″
Paper, wool, thread, embroidery floss, wool fiber on felt stuffed with fiber fill and dried lentils,

A new start. Although of course not brand new. All my years of painting inform my stitching. I couldn’t do one without the other.

My grandparents, my mother (age three) and her younger brother (my uncle) made a new start in America after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1935. My maternal Grandfather (Hans Levi) was Jewish and my grandmother Bridget Marqvart was not (although she later converted). My grandfather was studying to become a doctor and being inexplicably turned down for residences. My grandmother had two older brothers and one was in the Nazi party, quite high up, Goring’s right hand man, to be precise. He advised my grandparents to leave Germany immediately. They tried to convince my grandfather’s mother to join them and go to America but she refused, choosing instead to remain, in a small town close to Stuttgart called Muensignen, where she lived and where my grandfather had grown up. She eventually went into hiding in Muensingen where a young girl from the town brought her provisions. In return, with heartfelt gratitude, my great grandmother bestowed upon this girl items of her clothing, jewelry, cutlery and other valuable objects.

Eventually my great grandmother was discovered and then, like thousands of others, was killed at the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Meanwhile my grandparents and their two young children safely made it across the seas and eventually settled in Lindenhurst, Long Island where my grandfather developed a thriving practice as a GP doctor, and where my grandmother (despite having had her dreams dashed about going to art school in Germany) became a successful commercial artist.

Fast forward seventy years to 2005. My mother received a letter from a woman in Germany saying:

“I have been looking for you for many years. I was the little girl (now elderly lady) who brought your grandmother provisions while she was in isolation. We are having a museum exhibition in the town of Laupheim which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and we are displaying some of the items your great grandmother gave to me. We hope you can attend the reception.”

Juliet Karelsen, Clown Figurine, 12 x 12 Gouache on paper, 2014

My mother and brother were thrilled, went to the reception and had an incredibly rich, moving and welcoming experience in the town that had turned our family away.

Two years later my mother, daughter (then seven years old) and I went back to Muensignen. We visited our new friends, the old house where my grandfather had grown up, the graveyard where my great grandmother had a stone, the museum at Laupheim, as well as art museums in Munich. It was beyond memorable and meaningful and felt like a timely gift to be with my mother and young daughter visiting our family history. Two weeks after we returned to the states my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died two months later. We all marveled at the timing of our trip. Some of her ashes are buried in a plot in the small and charming cemetery in Muensignen and the young girl (now elderly lady) is to this day the one who tends my mother’s grave.

Several years before attending graduate school at The Art Institute of Chicago, I began painting psychological self- portraits. This was the focus of my work for many years and saw me through my graduate studies, pregnancy, post pregnancy and more.

Juliet Karelsen, Pill Bottle
7″ sampler hoop, Embroidery floss on linen

The work I made during 2013-2015 (before beginning my lichens and mosses) is entitled “The Apartment.” It is the work that most directly connects to my family and where we come from. Symbolic and metaphorical, the work represents my grappling with the loss of the apartment I called home for fifty years. I grew up in this apartment in New York City’s Upper West Side and remained connected to it throughout my adulthood, the early years of my daughter’s visits there, through my mother’s death and then through my elderly father’s life until he died in 2013.

I loved the apartment tremendously and was very attached to it and when it came time to clear it out to sell, I took on the job. My sister was living in Los Angeles with young children and it was difficult for her to get to NYC, but truth be told, I wanted to lay my hands on every item there.

Juliet Karelsen, My Father Dead (from The Sympathy Series),
7″X5″, Gouache on paper, 2013

As I sorted through things, the baby shoes, the pots and pans and plates and cutlery and silver and vases and tea sets, the broken blenders, the whisks and wooden spoons, the books and LPs, the once white now yellow linen tablecloths that belonged to my grandmother from Germany, the porcelain figurines, the paintings, the sheets and towels, the photo albums, the black socks my father wore when he worked as a lawyer, the old toothbrushes and pill bottles and unused Depends, the sweat pants and red fleece jackets my father wore the last few of his eighty six years, the candles, the hammers and screwdrivers, the saved toys for the grandchildren, the art projects my sister and I made as kids, the “important” papers and old bills, my dad’s framed diplomas and NYC Law BAR certification, my old diaries, my mother’s journals and stories she had written for her writing class at The New School, the saved newspaper clippings and black and white head shot photos of my mother as an actress, the Christmas ornaments and VCR tapes and on and on and on and on.

I took note of the items that resonated with me and either kept them, or took a photo of them. The pieces in the body of work entitled The Apartment are responses to these objects using various mediums. It was a powerful body of work for me to make and it truly helped me to let go.

Juliet Karelsen, My Father’s Custom Fitted Tennis Racquet, 20″x33″
Acrylic on canvas, 2015

Maybe it even allowed me the psychic space to make a new start with stitching, with making work that has no blatant psychological content, that is about translating what I see and experience when I go into the woods, that often doesn’t have a plan when I start out. As my teacher from Haystack said “You either make a picture, or you make a field.” After making pictures all my life as a painter, with fiber I am making fields. I am sure I will return to making pictures at some point, but for now I am enjoying being in the fields and forests.

Juliet Karelsen, Grass
2.5″ x4.5″, Thread on painted linen, 2015

There are many things I love about Maine – the woods, the coasts, the mountains, the wildlife, the small towns, a certain scruffiness in the landscape (that you don’t see in Vermont for example and is a different kind of scruffiness from the kind in NH), the resourcefulness of Mainers and their ability to understand irony (I have found, living in various states in America, that not everyone does!).

Juliet Karelsen, Gray Rock,
30″x24″x24″, Wool fiber, thread and embroidery floss on felt stuffed with fiber fill and dried lentils, 2016

I have been here on and off (mostly on) for twenty seven years and yet I sometimes still feel like an outsider. From away. It may be that I am one of those people who always feels a bit out of place no matter where I am. I think the combination of my NYC roots (my father’s side of the family is fifth generation from New York City and my father, grandfather and great grandfather attended the same school I did and my great great grandfather helped start it).  My maternal European ancestry, and the Jewish culture that surrounded me growing up have all contributed to a feeling that I am different from most Mainers – at least in Farmington where I live most of the time.

The Sandy River Players (the community theater group in Farmington) put on The Sound of Music a few years back. My daughter played one of the Von Trapp children and I played a nun. A dream come true as I had been (like many) obsessed with the movie for my entire life. Besides the wonderfulness of playing a nun, I also had the amazing opportunity to paint a 14′ x15′ backdrop painting for the show. I made a translation of an Oskar Kokoshcka painting that depicts a mountain, the sun partially hidden by clouds, and heavenly rays of light that stream down onto the dramatic landscape. It fit the spirit of the play – hopeful, spiritual, inspiring and grand. Like the Von Trapps and my own family, Kokoschka fled Nazi Germany and escaped to a safe land. While sitting with my fellow cast members in rehearsal I started to wonder whether there was anyone else sitting there (besides my daughter) who had a familial connection to the Holocaust and thus to the story of the Sound of Music. No one did. I ended up telling my story to the cast who were very appreciative and responsive.

Later that same year I had a show at The Jewish Museum in Portland, another experience that allowed me to connect with my roots but this time within a larger community with shared histories. 

Although at times I do feel like an outsider living in Maine, I also find a deep connection to those around me who treasure the beauty and quality of life (the way it should be!) that a place with fewer people, fewer strip malls and less corporate contamination offers. I knew even as a child growing up in New York City that I didn’t want to live in the city.

Juliet Karelsen, Gems, (clockwise from lower left: Turmaline, Rose Quartz crystal point, Rose Quartz, Jet, Amber, Emerald, Amethyst),
Varying sizes (fit in the palm of your hand),
Embroidery floss on felt filled with dried lentils, 2017

I remember a summer when I was about eight years old and my family had rented a house on Cape Cod. I would go out into the scrub oak forests and find trees whose trunks had hollowed out and fill them with moss carpets and acorn bowls and construct miniature worlds made of sticks and pine cones and whatever I could find. I was alone there in a way that I was never permitted to be alone as a child in the parks of New York City.

And I remember feeling how I was so NOT alone while there in the woods. That there was a kind of company, a silent, greater company that was with me. I encounter that company daily in the forests and on the coasts of Maine.