Every year, from May to October, the L.C. Bates Museum holds an exhibition that showcases artists from Maine or with ties to the state. In keeping with the museum’s collections and activities, the summer exhibitions always explore different aspects of the natural world of Maine with themes such as the Maine sky, its landscape through the seasons, its fields and open spaces, and of course the beings who inhabit these spaces—humans and animals. The 2017 exhibition, Maine Wood(s) was not only about the landscape but also shed light on how our environment provides an important artistic material, wood, and thus also offered the occasion for a reflection on the making of art—a theme and approach not unlike that of the 2011 show Drawing from the Collections, when artists came to sketch in the museum and their works were displayed next to their sources of inspiration. For the 2023 exhibition, L.C. Bates Director Deborah Staber and I thought about the centrality of the notion of balance for life in general and for nature in particular. For the prompt that was sent to artists, we wrote:

Life is about balance. Far from being static, balance in nature is achieved through dynamic processes. Balance involves circulation, exchange, regulation, and negotiation; it also involves diversity and creativity. Balance is also fundamentally fragile and its disruption can have effects both positive—think about pearls, the result of an uninvited particle (in fact, it’s referred to as an irritant!), or ponds created by a beaver dam—and negative, threatening ecosystems and living organisms.

We were of course thinking of the growing threats to the balance of our environment, with images vivid in our minds from Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 experimental film Koyaanisqatsi (with an unforgettable score by Philip Glass). Its title means “life out of balance” in Hopi.

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Opening reception at the L.C. Bates Museum’s summer exhibition In Balance/Imbalance, 6 May 2023 (photo: John Meader).

Each year, I select and oversee two Colby students to curate the L.C. Bates summer exhibition (Anna Jaubert and Zehra Gundogdu this year). When the museum closed due to the pandemic in the spring 2020, we held the show virtually. This year, although we were finally able to return to a physical show, we retained a virtual component that can be viewed here (previous exhibitions are here).

Véronique Plesch


This showcase presents the work of the following artists: Karen Adrienne, Stephen Burt, Alan Crichton, Fred Dearnley, Michel Droge, Jeff Epstein, Adriane Herman, Izzy van den Heuvel, Andrew Johnson, Renate Klein, Maggie Libby, Amanda Lilleston, John Meader, Rachael O’Shaughnessy, Ellen Roberts, Elin O’Hara Slavick, Susanne Slavick, and Barbara Sullivan.

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Opening reception at the L.C. Bates Museum’s summer exhibition In Balance/Imbalance, 6 May 2023 (photo: Richard Tryon).

Selections from the Exhibition


Karen Adrienne


Karen Adrienne, Passage: Choice, monotype, 32 x 26 in., 2022.

While I am working it is hard to separate labor, emotions, and intentions. And then there is chance. This, like in life, can be the directional force and impetus for more conscious decisions. Some decisions, like observation, seem imperative and others are more spontaneous.

My prints are conceptually and physically embedded in reciprocity. They are built by the mutual relationship of concealing and revealing, plan and chance. As I investigate the properties of nature with marks and inky flats of color, I explore the properties of paper by folding with the pressure of the press. Layers are built upon until I have captured a momentary balance of chance with a fugitive experience of nature. It’s about chance and the urge to capture a moment and the vision of that experience.

In these perilous times when all of us are burdened by palpable loss in the world, feeling both angry and anxious, I insist on portraying the beauty of nature–its mystery and its vibrancy. It’s as though I’m conducting the song of the earth with color. My printmaking process moves me slowly and repeatedly through light and darks, and a spectrum of complicated emotions. Perhaps the antidote in art for this sense of loss is a search for, and insistence on, the sublime.


Stephen Burt


Stephen Burt, Empathy, brush painting with ink and acrylic paint on red-orange prepared paper, 24 x 72 in., 2022.

This work is part of an ongoing series that highlights values that I believe are lacking in our relationship to others and to nature. This lack has brought us to the very precipice. We find ourselves at a crossroads; the world around us is out of balance, weather careening from one extreme to another. We are in a state of flux. Disasters are mounting and already we have entered uncharted waters of rapid extinctions and resource losses.

It is clear now that our writing and language have not prepared us for the challenges and crises of our current world. In fact, language has been used to cleverly obscure the very real and pressing issues of our time. This work asks the viewer to reimagine and reconfigure their use of language. Highly stylized calligraphic letters are modeled using Renaissance techniques to suggest movement, light, and form. They are then intricately tied to an elemental “natural landscape.”

Created with improvisatory methods, these images are intended to speak with vibrant intensity. It is not too late to bring the values of reciprocity, empathy, and compassion to the world that quite literally gives us life. It is not too late to bring the utmost care to both our use of language and our relationships to each other and the natural world.


Alan Crichton


Alan Crichton, Family, watercolor on paper, 5 x 7 in., 2021.


Alan Crichton, Burning Love, watercolor on paper, 7 x 5 in., 2021.

These small paintings all date from the midst of the recent pandemic at its worst—a time of deep imbalance everywhere. By all counts, we should be rebalancing, and hopefully, we are—though inequity, worldwide threats to democracy, diversity, climate, food, housing security, and peace are still very much on the edge, or in the midst, of disaster. Family, our primary group, seems always in the midst of re-balancing or falling over the edge as personalities appear and disappear, become entangled or distance over time. Mother Earth really has every reason to be enormously angry at us—the human population that, for no good reasons, threatens her more and more every day. As I watched a video of tornadoes tearing up the world, I thought of Mother Earth whipping us for the damage we do. She’s not just an endlessly tolerant and forgiving goddess; she feels a divine wrath. Hatred and war both seem based in fear, yet humans across the world refuse to see each other as colleagues or peers in the planetary game of mutual survival. Power over others, the have/have not game, the centuries of religious and ideological wars—all symptoms of our collective insanity rather than our common need for cooperation in an exciting creative game that would truly create an endlessly inhabitable future.


Fred Dearnley


Fred Dearnley, Zucchini, digital photograph, 18 x 12 in., 2022.

In balance and imbalance are like two sides of the same coin. You need one to recognize the other. Together they make up the whole.

Photography is an opportunity for me to observe and discover my relationship with the world around me. I find that it is better if I look closer, to find details that I can recognize as elements of natural design that make up our environment. It also confirms that I am a part of the environment.

The act of creating an image requires engaging emotionally with the subject, to have a connection that is more than superficial. Being aware of your senses and memories can cultivate a better connection.

There are many things that we as humans can agree on as being visually attractive. They meet our expectation of being pleasing to the eye, but they may lack a deeper meaning. Abstract images may not be as forthcoming, but when understood can provide insight into new meanings. But not all images are pleasing to the eye. They may be instructional or reveal a darker truth. Photography can be thought of by some as a Realist view, with a photograph being perceived as an exact rendition of reality, but it is only true if everyone agrees on what it represents. Actually, all images are subjective and intentional. A photograph is an image of an ephemeral moment in time. An idea of what the photographer saw and felt. It’s their reality.

I find that trying to describe an image can be limiting for me. Words sometimes are inadequate to relate feelings and emotions. On the other hand, I find that I need to be able to state what my intentions are about an image I’ve created.

Art is not a fixed thing. It is a statement about your feelings, emotions, and opinions at the time it was created, a statement about who you are. It is a step along the way in your development as an Artist. Art is a lifelong pursuit with no end.


Michel Droge


Michel Droge, Portal, oil on wood, 22 x 30 in., 2022.


Michel Droge, Psychedelic Medusa, oil on wood, 40 x 60 in., 2022.

This work is from an ongoing project that I began in the spring of 2021. The paintings are inspired by the research of the deep sea and the creatures that live there and the importance of conserving and maintaining the balance and care of this ecosystem—especially in the face of potential deep-sea mining and its destructive potential, which will cause a whole world out of balance.


Jeff Epstein


Jeff Epstein, Poplar with Wires and Poles, oil on panel, 17 x 20 in., 2016.


Jeff Epstein, Propane Tank and Garden Hose, oil on panel, 20 x 10.75 in., 2016. 

My paintings explore the intersection of the natural and made landscapes. The results of interactions between people and nature are not always dramatic, extreme, or easy to classify as either positive or negative. There exists a nuanced space where moments of natural beauty are interrupted by human-made intrusions, where disruption and harmony are both possible and the ordinary and sublime coexist . . . sometimes uneasily. It is that balance that I want to describe.


 Adriane Herman


Adriane Herman, Prelapsed, reductive relief print on kitakata, 16 x 20 in., 2022.

I initially dismissed this print as a failure, yet my partner’s appreciation for a photo I forwarded led me to reconsider. Our diverging takes on things can yield balance but often generate strife, particularly since I hit menopause, which exacerbates ADHD. I see myself as essentially predetermined to fail, i.e., “prelapsarian,” since I have begun myriad projects I have yet to complete. The forms evoke a colon—a crucial site of digestion and absorption, but one prone to prolapse, meaning to fall out, come undone, i.e., shift from a position of normalcy to a position below or protruding. Like others who bulge, I am hyperverbal and outwardly focused–out of balance by standard metrics.The ongoing costs of struggling with things others seemingly achieve with ease are high and painful. I irritate and frustrate many. Balancing that are treasured people who offer me succor despite my deficits.


Izzy van den Heuvel


Izzy Van den Heuvel, Seed, artist’s book of linoleum-cut prints in accordion binding, 3 1/4 x 5 x 1/2 in., 2021.

Seed grew from a challenge I presented myself: could I take one block and tell a story as I carved the block from total black to total white, and in this way, bring the block back to its starting point of even blackness? As I began carving, I did not have a story in mind. Eventually, I saw the images as a story of relationships, how we plant them and how we tend to them. With their growth, we evolve. The growth changes who we are and what we then carry with us into new relationships. The structure of the book is such that the front and back covers are held at the spine by a magnet, but can detach so that the accordion can be displayed stretched out one line, or reattached at the fore-ends of the front and back cover, so that the book, and in turn the story, form a circle.


Renate Klein


Renate Klein, Wild, Artist book, accordion structure, pulp-painted handmade paper, photopolymer etching of original pencil drawing, closed: 8 x 11 in.; fully extended: 96 in., 2021..

I am interested in the impact of human activity on the natural environment, in particular changing habitats, pollution, and the precariousness of human-made structures as they are exposed to natural events. Everything that exists reflects a balance of forces that is constantly changing, and not necessarily to the benefit of humans.

In terms of artistic media, I have a particular interest in etching, both traditional forms such as spit-biting and aquatint, and newer techniques such as photopolymer etching. I also work with handmade pulp-painted paper that I make at the Paperstudio John Gerard in Rheinbach, Germany.

Wild addresses the disappearance of wildflowers in intensive agriculture. Heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides creates monocultures that leave only small islands here and there where wildflowers might still survive. This artist book with accordion binding is made from handmade, pulp-painted paper printed with images of wildflowers. The prints are photopolymer etchings based on original drawings of wildflowers.


Maggie Libby


Maggie Libby, Into the Red, monotype, 32 x 26 in., 2021–22.

Into the Red began as just doing something in the studio, probably after a hike to a beloved place. It is about my physical engagement with the process of adding and taking away. I primed the 300-lb cold-press watercolor paper with gesso, added a warm underpainting, forced soft charcoal pigment into the fibers of the paper while it was wet, then washed and wiped it away. I added more dark masses, continuing to wipe out and dissolve the boundaries between light and dark, and waited. It sat in a pile of unresolved work. After our warmest spring, summer, and fall yet, I made the additions of red and white to heighten its warm tonalities and movement. Temperatures ominously rising, warming, things disappearing, into the red.


Amanda Lilleston


Amanda Lilleston, Anatomica Liminalis, woodcut print collage, 37 x 38 in., 2018–21.

Bodies are living transcripts of an organism’s encounters with the world. We can read form and function—clues about how that organism maintains balance to thrive within its environment. In this biological narrative, carved wood and etched copper transform to become functioning organs and organelles. We see how this body functions: woodcut and hard-ground organisms and organ systems pulse, sway, and survive in a shared current.


John Meader


John Meader, Weeping Ice, a Warm Winter Day, monotype on paper, 37 x 30 in., 2019.

This photograph was taken on a very warm winter’s day, 30 December 2022. It didn’t feel like winter, yet it was a beautiful day. I saw this shard of ice and as soon as I picked it up it started to rapidly melt, the water dripping off like tears. The whole situation felt wrong, it felt like the very ice knew it was wrong. It all felt out of balance. It was beautifully sad.


Rachael O’Shaughnessy


Rachael O’Shaughnessy, Awaken Autumn, oil on canvas over box panel, 12 in. x 36 in., 2021.

Our world seems to shatter and melt at once in recent years, and those years feel like fleeting minutes. We struggle to stand firm and to balance. We identify strongly each time we watch the news, mask our faces, or watch temperatures and wars rising. The artist must feel one foot plunge into these rising waters and one firmly hold the solid ground of the shore. Art is generated on the peripheral edge of each experience, standing back enough to record the experience itself in accessing a view of the whole, and leaning forward into it enough to feel it in full empathic force. I digest the sorrow and beauty in this current world by witnessing the sunrise over Maine’s ocean every morning, I seek a peace that I do not yet hold. I stand every day to the present in sunlight, atmosphere, and living color. (This is a present that can be held in a brushstroke.) B.K.S. Iyengar wrote: “Balance is the state of the present—the here and now. If you balance in the present, you are living in Eternity.”


Ellen Roberts


Ellen Roberts, Butterfly Love/Endangered, monotype on paper, 15.5 x 35.75 in., 2022.

 Butterfly Love/Endangered 

It was late August. I stood a few inches away while I took a short video capturing monarch butterflies in the shrubbery. I focused on two monarch butterflies. As of summer 2022, monarchs are on the endangered list. The butterflies looked like they were enjoying themselves in the milkweed plants and flying around chasing one another. I had a chance to see them up close and I was inspired by examining different clips from the video. By drawing with an Exacto blade and ink, I got to create stencils and study various wing patterns and positions.

Monarchs are a symbol of our fragile, balanced/out-of-balance environment. This work was made on thin Asian paper and printed on an etching press with hand-cut stencils placed on an inked plexiglass plate. Later, I drew and painted onto paper that was cut, applied, and integrated into the composition. This piece was experimental and exciting as it evolved to a finish.


Elin O’Hara Slavick


Elin O’Hara Slavick, One Person’s Pleasure Is Another Person’s Crash, collage on silver gelatin print, 16 x 20 in., 2020.


Elin O’Hara Slavick, Claude Cahun Watches Over Us, collage on silver gelatin print, 16 x 20 in., 2020.

Collage is a dynamic form in which I find balance in my life as an artist—both as a constant practice and as a visual representation. Collages are hysterical surprises, fragmented landscapes, delirious layers of appropriation and ambiguity, shocks of juxtaposition, subconscious reactions, and automatic narratives in the surrealist spirit. Collage is a means to collide times, to simultaneously forget and remember, to process and refuse, resist and celebrate, to whimsically collect and discard scarps of everything, to combine the unconscious space of dreams and fantasy with the foreigner’s zone and a stranger’s perspective, to spin a magical narrative out of printed materials that have been circulated in various circles of use, organic elements, tape, childhood drawings, playing cards, discarded books, postcards, art historical reproductions, magazines, xerox transfers, anatomical illustrations, vintage and new photographs, archives, maps, an old bible, and book covers. In the spirit of German artist Hannah Höch, who made collages at the dawn of the era of mechanical reproduction, I am working against the virtual tide of exclusive and temporary digital experience. I utilize and undo tangible representations of the past and present to offer images of a dystopian (disruptive)/utopian (fragile) imaginary. Still engaged with ethical seeing, the collages subvert dominant ideologies and mainstream representations of desire, struggle, and being. Collages are critiques of representation itself. Recent collages have addressed child detentions along the Mexico border, transgender rights, feminist liberation, climate change, and terrorism—all through the use, juxtaposition, and transformation of images of the human body. A terrorist becomes a nursing mother. Trees suddenly have eyes and mouths. An image of important modernist artists—all men—is turned into a meeting of diverse women. I am making my own summary of the world, trying to find a balance amidst the total imbalance.

One Person’s Pleasure Is Another’s Crash is a hyper-dynamic composition on a found silver gelatin print of a playground amidst palm trees. Performance artists, circus acrobats, gymnasts, a cyclist balancing, people exercising and relaxing—all meet on the horizon, where cement meets sky. There is potential and real energy here, humans upside down and soaring, suspended and reaching.

Claude Cahun Watches over Us is a collage on a found silver gelatin print of a magical misty landscape of the sea and breathtaking rocks. Through collage, the rocks are now given sight, able to see us, while Claude Cahun (a French artist-photographer who was an active member of the French resistance against the Nazis) balances on one of those rocks, her cape open and full of masks. This is a surreal ecosystem.


Susanne Slavick


Susanne Slavick, Reveal: Pastoral, gouache on archival inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, 14.25 x 17.25 in., 24 3/8 x 27 in., 2007.

Plumes from bombs rise from a seemingly empty landscape where their damage is hidden but no less real. They are framed by flora and fauna to recall a more idyllic, peacetime nature. Reveal juxtaposes the human impulse to destroy with our impulse to create. Weapons of war spread toxins and leave actual scars on the landscape, decimating species of all kinds. Our cultural expressions are representations of our aspirations but cannot alone repair nature or restore peace.


Barbara Sullivan


Barbara Sullivan, Crow and KFC, shaped fresco, 18 x 11 x 3 in., 2009. 

I made this piece considering that many wild animals and birds are now part of our “food chain.” We discard fast food bags along highways and other places. Animals and birds are attracted to this food waste. In a sense, it is the new “road kill.” They are now eating high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fat, and salt. This cannot be a good addition to their diets, can it?

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Opening reception at the L.C. Bates Museum’s summer exhibition In Balance/Imbalance, 6 May 2023


Image at top: Opening reception at the L.C. Bates Museum’s summer exhibition In Balance/Imbalance, 6 May 2023. From left to right: L.C. Bates director Deborah Staber, Véronique Plesch, and Zehra Gundogdu (photo: John Meader).