William Irvine on Regionalism

“Hauling In the Fog” oil on canvas, 32 X 36 inches

Maine has its own character, soul if you wish. I felt it the first morning I woke
up in Maine, in an A-frame on Tom Leighton Point in Washington County, lobster
boats droning off shore, gulls crying, the smell of herring bait. A smudge of islands on the horizon. I had arrived from Scotland, and our two souls bonded. It was love at first sight.

As my work developed, it seemed to be formed by those two places: the
white fishermen’s houses of Jonesport and the whitewashed farms of Scotland; the presence of the Atlantic, sometimes moody and turbulent and other times fresh and clean as linen sheets.

“Girl With A Boat”, oil on board, 12X16 inches

So I worked with those visual stimulants, but the depiction of landscape is
never the end intention. For the creative artist it is the vehicle through which he
expresses something more universal, the landscape of the mind, where we all live no matter our physical location.

John Marin’s seascapes are not just about Maine scenery; “The Written Sea”
comes to mind, a favorite of mine. Marsden Hartley’s paintings of Mount Katahdin
are presences that go beyond Maine—they have the grandeur of a Tahitian god or a Greek hero, like Heracles.

So does it matter where we live? I think it does, for each artist finds his
comfort zone, a place he feels connected to. Van Gogh in Provence, Marin in
Addison, de Kooning on Long Island. It is a place that allows us to communicate
with our surroundings. We use the props at hand, be they hills or harbors; in my
case, clouds, islands, and boats. But are they any different from cypress trees, vineyards, and wheat fields? The trail of a lobster boat echoing the horizon is just,
for me, a necessary line in the composition, which strengthens the final expression.

“Heading Out 2” oil on board, 25×35 inches

Artists talk to their surroundings, but not in any local language; after all,
artists are forever from away.

Near—Here

by Mary Armstrong

Tsunami Wave, Oil and Wax on Panel, 24″X72″ 2015-17

—These images of my paintings represent a chronological order and represent the work that I feel is most directly influenced by my time here in Maine. There are other groups of works that deal with other issues and themes—Mary Armstrong, 2017

 

Summer Song, Oil on Panel, 30″X23″ 1986

I first came to Maine to go to Skowhegan (then a school of Painting and Sculpture) in the summer of 1977. I returned as co-dean (with my husband-to-be Stoney Conley) in 1980 and then as faculty wife (Stoney taught fresco) in 1984-85. How lucky for us. The cosmopolitan nature of Skowhegan set us up, from the beginning, in a community of Maine artists and an International array of visitors that gave us a sense of Maine as a contemporary haven for all kinds of work.

 

We fell in love with each other and Maine at the same time. We were able to buy a little house on the coast at Georgetown in 1980.

Solitary Tree, Oil on Panel,24″X30″ 1984

 

For our first few decades we spent summer’s teaching-free months painting in makeshift studios. We lived a very solitary life of work. The only socializing was the occasional visit to Skowhegan for visiting artist’s lectures. Gradually we got to know some of the locals here in Georgetown. But, coming to Maine still means removing from the world, to focus, to work.

 

 

Besieged, Oil on Panel, 34″X30″ Oil on Panel, 1987

I think that there are several “Art Scenes” in Maine. We are so lucky to have the great regional museums and art centers, scattered throughout the state, that showcase really good work from artists working in Maine. I think these institutions keep us all on our toes, inspired and challenged.The Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) is especially important for expanding coverage and scouring the state for ambitious talent.

 

For me, the most interesting statement and question that you pose is: “ Today’s art culture inhabits an international archipelago populated by the educated, well- traveled, and well- read. These like-minded individuals may have more in common with their counterpart’s half way around the globe than with their next-door neighbor. Can a regional style be authentic in this atmosphere, or is it bound to be a willfully naïve affectation?

Dante’s Woods, Oil on Panel, 26″X22″, 1996

 

I think It’s important to keep an open mind and a raging curiosity about what other artists are doing.  Now, at this later stage, it is just as important for me to make work that closes the distance between where I am, what I think and feel about that, and how paint, as an embodying material, can explore that.

 

Near Here, Oil and wax on Panel, 22X24″, 2010

There is an important balance between the world and the work. But, ultimately, the deeper wells of inspiration come more and more from simply being….in the light of Maine and my imagination. Perhaps I am willfully naive. If that can be translated into moving with rigorous simplicity, I’ll take it!

Bruised Sky, Oil and Wax on Panel, 22″X24″ 2018

Estuarial, Oil and Wax on Panel, 32″X36″, 2016

 

Lift Off, Oil and Wax on Panel, 36″X42″ 2016


David C. Driskell

above:                 David Driskell,   Pines Trees, Full Moon, Mixed media,        30” x 24”

David Driskell, Maine Woods, Skowhegan, Watercolor, 8” x 9.75”

Traditionally, Maine has served as a special place where artists, beginning in the 19th century, found solace in an attempt to get away from a busy city life. But I came to Maine to learn and experience the beauty that its landscape and nature offer.   From the time of my first visit to the state in 1953 as a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture until now, I have felt both a physical and spiritual connection to that great tradition here, where artists interact with nature, people, and events, which adds measurably to one’s creative prowess.

David Driskell, Ski Slope, Sunrise, Watercolor, 10.75” x 9”
David Driskell, Lake Front Maine, Watercolor, 9” x 12”

Although my roots are southern (Georgia and North Carolina) and I have lived in different cities from Nashville to Washington, DC, no one place has informed my art more so than the environment and spirit of Maine.

David Driskell, Study for Majestic Pine, Watercolor, 20” x 15”
David Driskell, Still Life With Clams, Watercolor, 12” x 9”
David Driskell, Accent of Autumn, Acrylic and Mixed Media on handmade paper, 42.25” x 30”

Stoney Conley

above: Stoney Conley, Cove North Island Afternoon, watercolor,   11 x 15 in., 2016

So we ask what does Maine mean to you?

Stoney Conley, Cove North, Kayak in Cove, watercolor, 11 x 15 in., 2016, photo S. Conley

I have a personal history with Maine, in 1977 my wife Mary and I met in Maine at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, so Maine has a special history for us. We have spent summers in Maine since 1981. At Skowhegan I was introduced to Fresco, which I painted in for a decade, and taught at Skowhegan for a few summers, my paintings at the time referred to the history and process of fresco. Now for over two decades I have painted the landscape in Maine, a direct response to what I see and experience. But I didn’t always and being in Maine made me observe the natural world closely.

Stoney Conley, Cove South, Afternoon, watercolor, 11 x 15 in., 2016, photo Chris Soldt
Stoney Conley, Cove North, Clouds, watercolor, 11 x 15 in., 2016, photo Chris Soldt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does it affect your work or does your art have nothing to do with where you live?

Over the 36 years we’ve been coming to Maine it has influenced my work profoundly. Overtime I became a painter of landscape, of water and skies and woods. I intend these works to have a sense of place. The light and color are essential elements in these paintings. Even the months I am not in Maine my time here influences my work, I learned to see nature here, I learned to see here.

Stoney Conley, Vernal Equinox, 2017, acrylic and collage on canvas, 31 x 48 in., photo Chris Soldt

Are you drawn to Maine by some romantic idea, by the landscape?

For a period I painted abstractly but after walking the beach for a decade I painted the sea. It took me ten years to learn how to see it. For the last decade I made collage-paintings of the afternoon light as my studio faces west. I paint trees as a distant horizon, or as a group, or an individual form, investigating the environment around me.

Stoney Conley, New England Sky: Yellow, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 35 in. , photo Chris Soldt

Do you summer here to escape the heat of the city?

Stoney Conley, Cove West, Odyssey Into Dark, watercolor, 11 x 15 in., 2016, photo S. Conley

Although I work in Boston in the winter, I balance that with Maine’s sea breezes,the shade of its trees, a walk in the woods in the summer. I cut a field and plant trees and put down roots like the plants that grow here. I return to the city when the days grow short and the fall semester starts.

 

Do you feed on the local art culture or does it oppress you, confine you? Is it special, or parochial, or is it, dare I say, provincial.

Stoney Conley, Cove West, Spar Island, watercolor, 11 x 15 in., 2016, photo Chris Soldt

I studied in New York, then Boston and then the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Skowhegan had the broadest range of teachers and students. I find the Maine Museums a rich resource, showing contemporary as well as historical work, when I need a shot of culture. However I find I often stick to my studio and paint from local places. Time feels short; that gives you focus. I’m focused on what’s before me, get it down before it changes, get it down before I’m gone.

Stoney Conley, Northern Sky: Yellow Violet, 2012, acrylic and collage on canvas, 39 x 27 in., photo Chris Soldt

Emilie Stark-Menneg

above:  Emilie Stark-Menneg, Summer in Maine, 2016, 70”x70”, acrylic and oil on canvas

Deep underwater, I scramble to find the cave opening. Once inside the narrow passage, I tug myself along, hand over hand, until the rope ends. As I flail for another line, blue light cuts through the water. I surface, just out of breath, inside the Grotto Azzurra in Capri, Italy, a sea cave that glows ultramarine.

Emilie Stark-Menneg, Dream Team, 2016, 48”x36”, acrylic and oil on canvas
Emilie Stark-Menneg, My Guy’s Smokin’, 2016, 48”x36”, acrylic and oil on canvas

I often think about diving into that luminous cavern when I am painting in my studio in Maine. It helps, that in a shared studio, under the afternoon light, my partner John Bisbee’s forged and welded sculptures, seem to undulate like coral or seaweed. His work feels like an ocean adventure. Walking back into my space, I begin to paint, totally onboard with this dangerous and thrilling expedition into the unknown.

Emilie Stark-Menneg, Add Gulls, 2017, 48”x36”, acrylic and oil on canvas

The painting, “Add Gulls”, depicting a couple of bathers looking out to sea, is one of many of my paintings that seeks to uphold and subvert the romantic allure of the Maine coast. In the background, the vintage wallpaper depicting a port town, peels away, as if to suggest a fleeting relationship to nostalgia. Thanks to the ephemeral qualities of the airbrush, the two figures hover in an uncanny digital haze, adding a fresh look to the ubiquitous Maine swimmers. I included a trompe-l’oeil sticky note, scrawled with the words, “Add Gulls”, as a way of pointing to a perfect Vacationland picture without ever getting there.

Emilie Stark-Menneg, American Popsicle, 2017, 48”x36”, acrylic and oil on canvas

In “American Popsicle” I wanted to create a somewhat traditional snapshot of a group of bathers posing for a summer pic. I discovered the eerie bands of color bisecting the painting by accident; I was laying down background colors, when I realized that the effect was already so surprising that I should stop. Not following through on a plan and responding to the elements as it were, is one of the most exciting aspects of painting, an adrenaline rush, like a wayward voyage on turbulent seas.

Emilie Stark-Menneg, The Birth of Many, 2017, 70”x70”, acrylic and oil on canvas

My painting, “The Birth of Many” is of course a riff on Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”. I thought Venus might have more fun if she was not coasting solo, but rather tailgating aboard her overside clamshell with her posse, some snacks—fresh fish and “All Day IPA”, while adrift in a twinkly Maine cove. This goofy and ineffable group is an ode to my artist friends, particularly those in Fort Andross. Everyday I am inspired by them, knowing that they are each in their glowing caves, diving into strange and glistening waters.

Emilie Stark-Menneg, Fountain One Today, 2017, 28”x28”, acrylic and oil on canvas
Emilie Stark-Menneg, Pineapple Star, 2017, 70”x70”, acrylic, oil and sand on canvas
Emilie Stark-Menneg, The Potlatch, 2016, 70”x105”, acrylic and oil on canvas

Laura Dunn: Narrative; Public and Private

For the most part I work intuitively, with no intent of narrative. But sometimes a narrative appears and I find a mantra building within my head. Other times I begin with a mantra that is fleshed out in the work.

This monoprint series was created at a time of turmoil in my life, the turmoil that comes both from my internal world and from the outside world often in equal measure.

Laura Dunn, “Release”, Gelatin Monoprint, 12” x 9”

Emotions spiral up from the gut flowing around, through and out the mind.

My emotions and my intellect are always in conversation.

BALANCE is key.

This series is about that balance and the reconciliation I have come to find in nature.

I have learned that I must catch, capture, reign in and offer up my thoughts and emotions in order to stay grounded.

The offering is given over to nature, is poured out in working the land, observing growth, death and rebirth with reverence.

The offering is consumed by my intellect and sublimated by both action and inaction. The doing and the not doing. Equal in their importance.

Laura Dunn, “Trying to Catch”, Gelatin Monoprint, 12” x 9”

The earth, the garden growing, maturing, dying all feed my center.

LIFE by definition is sacred. Death sacred too.

Laura Dunn, “Finding My Way in the Garden”, Gelatin Monoprint, 12” x 9”
Laura Dunn, “Catch and Release”, Gelatin Monoprint, 12” x 9”

The work in this series centers around the celebration of this sacred dichotomy, and the peace it brings to my soul.

Grace Metzler: Visual Essay

by Emilie Stark-Menneg

With every brushstroke Grace Metzler investigates how humans behave, congregate, love and chill together.

Grace Metzler, “Bathers“, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2016, 11”x14”
Grace Metzler, “Milk House“, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2017, 86″x70”

She often depicts people interacting at what may appear to be a tailgate hootenanny turned mythic ceremony. Supernatural auroras emanate from her work.

Grace Metzler, “Mitts“, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2017, 48″x36”

In Metzler’s “Mitts”, a pair of ubiquitous oven mitts seem to have forgone their domestic duties to lend magical powers to their wearer, whose green skin and camouflage coat suggest she has become a forest.

Grace Metzler, “Make-Out Hole + Runners“, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2016, 84″x103”

Metzler’s “Make-out Hole + Runners”, depicts men jogging through a sparsely-wooded lot. Two identical bonfires rage like burning eyes. The runners appear to be enacting a ritual that might either conjure the sublime or wake the dead. In the lower right corner, a man and a naked woman make-out, which seems to suggest a fairytale or midnight kiss. But elsewhere in the painting, a figure appears to be climbing in or out of a grave. The tension between good and evil, and the magical code that sends us in either direction, lends great poise to Grace’s work, which teeters on the edge of a powerful and yet unpredictable sorcery.

Grace Metzler, “Laundry Day“, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2017, 67″x70”

In one of her most recent works, “Laundry Day”, a woman folds laundry while presumably her husband, who has just returned home, appears in the doorway, mysteriously pointing his hand upward. One wall of the living room is partially covered in depictions of horses and riders, recalling ancient pictographs. The cowboys adorning the wall might represent an accumulation of days, dreams and desires. Perhaps, for this couple, painting has the power to pattern the future, to in effect, bring home the steak dinner, which sits on a tray in the middle of the room. Metzler’s paintings seem to oscillate between portrayals of ordinary gatherings and magic rituals. She simultaneously offers the viewer a snapshot of the everyday and an epic fairytale. That both the TV dinner tray-table and the drying rack are collapsible and that the woman is folding laundry, suggests that the universe can be one thing, expansive and visible, or invisible,

Grace Metzler, “Dancers“, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2017, 12″x16”

mysterious and tucked-away.

Grace Metzler, “Swinger“, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2017, 56″x72”
Grace Metzler, “Games On”, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2016, 68”x72

Titi De Baccarat

I do not do politics, but I do practice art. My artistic creation is both poetic and social. I create because I dream. I believe things move only if we dream. But it is not just works of art that create change; change is created by the reflections, questions, and emotions that art arouse.

Titi de Baccarat, “United Nations Organization”, newspaper, fabric , mirror and sponge, 2010, 25”x25”
Titi de Baccarat, “Biafra War”, toys and sponge, plywood and acrylic, 2010, 25”x25”
Titi de Baccarat, “Immigration Is Not a Color”, dust of wood, leather, mattress, mirror and spray paint, 2016, 25”x25”, photo by Kyle Dubay
Titi de Baccarat, “I Saw”, dust of wood, metal and spray paint, 2016, 25”x25”, photo by Kyle Dubay

In this time of globalization that is weakening some of the world’s population, there are more than 60 million refugees in the world. Men, women, and children have fled their countries due to economic crisis or war. Meanwhile, governments cannot find solutions to welcome those fleeing and restore their human dignity. It is in these most critical moments that I create and invent new artistic forms. I create art to challenge, to create awareness, and to stimulate both reflection and dialogue on political and humanitarian issues. My hope, above all, is to touch the hearts of people in a sensitive and emotional manner.

In  Africa, my art described the history of the Black Continent.

Titi de Baccarat, “Kilimanjaro”, bark, wood and metal, 2016, photo by Kyle Dubay
Titi de Baccarat, “1994 (Rwandan Genocide)”, dry paint, nail and acrylic, 2010, 25”x25”
Titi de Baccarat, “Our Trees, Our Lives”, dust of wood and roots of tree and bark, 2016, 27”x39”, photo by Kyle Dubay

I channeled my experiences of democracy, promoting a culture of peace and solidarity, and denouncing armed conflict and war which have claimed millions of lives in Africa.

Titi de Baccarat, “Mvett”, branches of trees, leather, wood, fabric and mirror, 2016, photo by Kyle Dubay

In the USA, my collections of ethnic jewelry and paintings made with various materials—leather, wood, and assorted metals—celebrate the beauty and struggle of peoples around the world standing to face their oppressors.

Titi de Baccarat, “Thanks America”, bark, flag and dust of wood, 2016, photo by Kyle Dubay

My collection of clothing for men and women, inspired by the concept of conjoined twins, consists of 27 designs focused on solidarity and humanity. I experiment with recycled materials, along with a coded language , with the aim of suggesting a more open attitude to the potential of these materials that overflow into our garbage and into our lives.

 Are our lives not considered waste in the eyes of some?

Titi de Baccarat, “Message of Hope During War”, mirror, leather, mattress, dust of wood and acrylic, 2016, 25″x25″, photo by Kyle Dubay

Titi De Baccarat is an artist who possesses many facets ­­ at once: painter, sculptor, jeweler, clothing designer, and writer. Dedicated to justice in a hostile political context, he was forced to flee his country, Gabon, with only the wealth of his artistic ability. He has lived in Portland since February 2015, and is working through his African identity and artistic expertise to contribute to the culture of the city.

Daniel Minter

Narratives

Boxes, vessels, holes, jars, and bottles all hold something within. I believe this is where my use of narrative begins.

A wall of Daniel Minter’s paintings, boxes, and assemblages from A Distant Holla’ exhibit at the Abyssinian Meeting House, Portland

Through these common references, I tell my own personal narrative. This thread runs through all of my work. Viewers can then find resonance with these themes that may reflect their own personal stories.

Daniel Minter, “Resistance Faith”

An example of this type of imagery is 3 eggs in a nest, the primary incubator of life. For me it relates a story my father would tell of the guinea hen, from whose nest you could take eggs. However, you must always leave at least 3 in the clutch or she would become agitated and abandon the nest. My father used this as a metaphor for my mother, who raised twelve children. As they grew up, she became increasingly restless as the last of her children were leaving the house.

Daniel Minter, “The Industry”

Objects also become the patterns I use as layers in my work. The ovals within a circle, for me contain the whole of the previous story.  Another element that I use to carry forward a narrative, is the organic shape of the cotton boll with its beautiful natural form painted in the deep earthy red of Georgia clay. It can appear to be just a flower, but for me the image contains the story of the American slave industry and Jim Crow. The imagery can be beautiful while the narrative is painful and difficult. The narrative becomes a mixture of personal and historical.

Daniel Minter
Daniel Minter, Three Mothers

See Dan Kany’s review in the Portland Press Herald