Springing from our celebration of Surrealism, officially born a century ago, we called for contributors to reflect upon a concept central to the movement: the unconscious. We combined the notion with a few related ones: the unknown and the unsaid. This theme, we noted in our call for contributions, represents “a call for honesty and courage,” an invitation to share the ways in which one faces and explores the depths of one’s psyche and uncover what is repressed, unknown, and unsaid. How does one allow one’s unconscious to express itself and, more specifically for visual artists, how does one make visible what is repressed and buried inside oneself? Ultimately, why does one feel compelled to undertake such exploration facing hidden realities and what does such exploration reveal? And finally, why is that important?

Painter Eva Rose Goetz talks about her work from this past year, which “became informed by personal loss and collective grieving.” Her paintings, at first glance cheerfully colorful and brilliantly patterned, allowed her to explore what she calls “the land of grief”—a term that recurs in her art. Her works, “breadcrumbs and stones,” lead her through a journey—at times walking, at others floating—through the varied landscapes of grief. Affectingly, Goetz talks about the grieving process in Judaism and how through ritual a new relationship can be established between the living and the dead—it is indeed a journey.

The idea of a journey appears as well in Elizabeth Fox’s reflections on paintings that tackle the unknown. Not surprisingly we find figures in motion, “navigat[ing] the layers of existence,” engaged in travel of self-discovery and transformation. As her works contemplate impermanence and the passage of time, the different stages of life, one’s place in the world and in society, and “the eternal quest for meaning and connection in an ever-changing world,” they help her see “the unseeable.”

In a “practice [that] moves fluidly between film, music, drawing/collage, sewing, and sculptural forms,” Nancy Andrews considers “the unknown and the unknowable.” Reflecting upon the impact of medium choices and the presence or absence of control in engaging with mystery, Andrews discusses how she uses material drawn from dreams, assembling disparate elements into a narrative, and how ultimately art can help deal with “very dark places that are beyond total comprehension” in order “to survive and try to thrive.”

Edgar Allen Beem writes about Michael Waterman, whose art he characterizes as “Gentle Social Surrealism.” An intuitive painter, Waterman melds the observable and the imaginary, so we can witness “a person turning into a building, perhaps, or the sea into a city.” Waterman’s native city of Portland becomes a “fairytale city populated not only by angels, giants, mermaids, and mythical creatures but also family, friends, neighbors, and spectral beings.”

On the occasion of Emilie Stark-Menneg’s exhibition at the Farnsworth, Chris Crosman discusses her paintings and videos, which offer a glimpse into “a special world like no other, like nothing else encountered of and in this world” and in which “no secrets [are] withheld.” In Stark-Menneg’s “cropped, collaged and fabricated dreams,” references (both iconographic and material) to famous works of art abound. We are reminded of Sigmund Freud’s description of the “dream work” in which elements culled from the waking hours are rearranged into a mysterious and captivating narrative.

For Carey Cameron “outsider” artists are “’insiders’ in the sense that their inspiration comes from deep inside themselves, with filters or barriers that are friable or just plain non-existent.” Cameron shares works by Ken Bryant noting that “[h]is art is so guileless, so close to the unconscious, and so close to revealing the unknown and the unsaid, that it has the effect of causing my own consciousness to dissolve . . . in the act of looking at it.”

Reed McLean offers a meditation on creation and destruction, evoking an artist who, “on a cold fall night in rural Maine . . . is called to fulfill her unconscious need to be free of her work.”

Claire Millikin writes about Duane Slick whose works were recently on view at Bates College in an exhibition of contemporary Indigenous artists. Slick’s “coyote portraits” were inspired by shadows cast by a mask and in the resulting images “the coyotes speak to us in their hallucinatory three-dimensional multicolor layers” while also confronting the United States’ repressed memories of genocide.

Lucy Lippard writes about a 2022 exhibition in which eco-artist Stephanie Garon “incorporates a number of issues: art, of course, as well as land use, history, cultural colonialism, indigenous rights, and environmental justice.” Mining in the state of Maine is particularly relevant to this issue: as Lippard notes, this “factor in the state’s environmental history” has been kept remarkably concealed. Through this multimedia and “multilayered” show, Garon reminds us of how Freud compared the therapist’s work to that of the archeologist, bringing to light long-buried secrets (hence his term of “depth psychology”).

Gianne Conard reports on Kindred Futures: Through Our Eyes, an exhibition held at Waterfall Arts last February that presented the work of “four Maine artists from underrepresented or historically marginalized perspectives.” In works that draw “from several cultures’ stories, repressed histories, atavistic dreams, and extensive research,” the artists engage with the past, often revealing aspects that have been excluded, and in doing so, enable a projection into the future.

Carl Little as well dives into the past as he picks up his old copy of Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and is reminded of his younger self. Little, for whom dreams “are gifts from the unconscious,” reflects upon the role of dreams in cinema and in the writing of Marguerite Yourcenar. He also looks at works by contemporary Maine artists that possess an oneiric quality.

The Interpretation of Dreams is also the starting point for Véronique Plesch’s “Art Historical Musings” column, as the book was crucial to Freud’s formulation of the unconscious, a key notion for the Surrealists. Dreams were for Freud the “royal way” to the unconscious and for the surrealists they were “a linchpin of their revolutionary project.” Plesch discusses different publications that affirm the fundamental role of dreams for the Surrealist ethos and works by visual artists who had “the courage to dream,” and thus face the dark recesses of the unconscious mind.

Stuart Kestenbaum reflects about the process of formulating an answer to a daunting question: how to give shape to the unsaid? For the former director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, the elusive answer to what constitutes craft came under the pressure of a deadline and following a long drive. Read his essay to find out how he succinctly captured it.

MAJ Poetry editor Betsy Scholl presents poems by Claire Millikin, Ellen Goldsmith, and Linda Aldrich, which express what often remains unsaid: “deep knowing we can’t put into words,” emotions, trauma, mourning, or inner vision.

Al Crichton comments upon Sometimes times, a book that combines twenty color silk screens by Terry Winters that face twenty ekphrastic poems by Mark Melnicove. We learn about the creative process that started with the poet responding to drawings by Winters and continued with poems and images evolving, “going back and forth between Winters and Melnicove,” to produce a book of “mixed language,” perhaps even, to borrow Crichton’s phrase “a language into the unknown.”

Winters and Melnicove met through their respective admiration for Bern Porter and Carl Little reviews the recently published collection of Porter’s “founds,” Now It Can Be—Why Did It Fail Before? Little suggests that these texts “appropriated from a variety of sources . . . urge us to consider new ways of considering the world in a positive, if often tongue-in-cheek, manner—dos and don’ts for a fractured universe.”

Giving verbal or visual form to what is foreboding is a powerful tool indeed. Take Brita Holmquist, for whom nightmares are her “bailiwick”: as a child, she learned to “control [her] fear by owning it” and “put dream[s] to rest” by drawing, a practice that continues to this day.

In our Insight/Incite column, Manon Lewis notes that “creativity seems to arrive from the fusing of different ideas with a well-fed unconscious acting as its springboard.” Telling us about the associations prompted by a “jungle gym,” Lewis shows how one can “find wonder in the ordinary.”

This issue’s UMVA Showcase is the richest ever: a record number of artists—twenty-five!—responded to our “call for honesty and courage” and sent contributions on the theme of The Unconscious, the Unknown, the Unsaid. The works by these UMVA members, in a wide range of media, express the manifold ways in which art can explore the psyche, listen to the unconscious, discover the unknown, and express the unsaid. (Showcase 1: Craig Becker, Robert Katz, Lisa Dombek, Gary Astrachan; showcase 2: Martha Miller, Stephen Burt, Rachel Robbins,  Lesley MacVane; showcase 3: Mj Viano Crowe, Judith Greene-Janse, Ruth Sylmor, Deena Ball; showcase 4: Sandy Olson, Kelly Desrosiers, Maggie Fehr, Clara Cohan, Andre Benoit; showcase 5: Susan Hellewell, Arthur Nichols, Wendy Newbold-Patterson, Hadriane Hatfield; showcase 6: Nancy Coyne, Winslow Myers, Rhea Côté-Robbins, Martha Maloney.)

As usual, we have our regular features. We have several updates from the Union of Maine Visual Artists: President David Estey shares the union’s Annual Report; announces Robert Shetterly’s presentation of the UMVA at a Pecha Kucha in Rockland; Estey continues his series of advice to artists, with “How to Prepare Your Work for Exhibit.” We also have news from the UMVA Midcoast Chapter (with a forthcoming show in June at the Camden Public Library); ARRT!(the Artists’ Rapid Response Team!; LumenARRT!; and the Maine Masters series, with news of a screening and discussion about the film on Lois Dodd. Finally, Pat and Tony Owen file their Irish dispatch, in which they reflect on symbols and symbolism and on “What Goes Unsaid.”

As noted, we never received so many contributions by UMVA members. Clearly our theme struck a chord. As this issue shows, art is a potent tool for exploration and to confront difficult topics. Giving shape and voice to the unconscious, the unknown, and the unsaid, the artist is at once explorer, excavator, archaeologist, historian, midwife, shaman, medium, magician, therapist . . . but, more simply put, curious and courageous.


Image at top: Maine Arts Journal Spring 2024 cover (Eva Rose Goetz, Carrying Her Home, acrylic gouache on board, 24 x 30 in., 2023 [photo: Ben Clay]).