Home Historical art Three Maine museums turn their attention inward

Three Maine museums turn their attention inward

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By Catie Joyce Bulay
Excerpt from our August 2022 issue

Farnsworth Art Museum

Farnsworth Forward: The Collection

The Farnsworth is well known for its Wyeths, and rightly so – the museum holds a remarkable cache of the first family of American art. Farnsworth Forward: The Collection, however, highlights how its collections—some 15,000 works—can convey more broadly and deeply Maine’s place in American art. The exhibition is curated by Suzette McAvoy, who was the museum’s chief curator in the early 1990s before leading the CMCA for many years. The concept began with a discussion between McAvoy and Farnsworth brass about how to look at the permanent collection again. A key result: what McAvoy calls “contemporary interventions” – combinations of historical and contemporary paintings intended to “ignite a visual conversation”.

At Farnsworth, the work of George Bellows from 1916 rubs shoulders with a more contemporary vision of shipbuilding.

So a 2003 work by Boothbay-born artist Sam Cady, for example, appears next to a 1916 painting by George Bellows. Both depict the construction of a wooden ship, showing the continuity of a traditional Maine industry but also an evolution of the way of seeing it: Bellows brings a realistic eye, Cady zooms in on intersecting beams, blurring the line between realism and abstraction. The pairs of works seem to challenge and reinforce each other – and cast the collection in a new, meaningful light. Until December 31. 16 Museum Street, Rockland. 207-596-6457.

Ogunquit Museum of American Art

The view from the narrow cove

Painter Charles Woodbury first ventured from Boston to Narrow Cove, Ogunquit, in the late 1800s after marrying a Mainer native. The couple purchased five acres, and Woodbury, a painter and instructor established in the town, began holding multi-week art classes on the shore. His influence sparked a seasonal migration along the coast, transforming Ogunquit into a renowned artistic colony. The view from the narrow cove is now in its fifth iteration, following its debut in 2018, bringing a new dive into the museum’s collection each summer, which opened on the former Woodbury property in 1953.

RUDOLPH DIRKS (1877-1968), HILL TO THE SEA (OGUNQUIT, MAINE), 1930, OIL ON CANVAS, 21 X 24 INCHES, GIFT OF JOHN AND MARY DIRKS, 1997.10.2
Rudolph Dirks was a famous early 20th century caricaturist, but he also painted the shoreline at Ogunquit.

The exhibit draws lines between the Ogunquit settlement and broader art movements. Interesting, for example, is a landscape by German Rudolph Dirks, a famous early 20th-century caricaturist who honed his fine art skills in Ogunquit. The general impression is one of the diversity of influences that have entered and left the small town. Associate Curator Devon Zimmerman describes the exhibit as “a wonderful opportunity to see Ogunquit’s rich history but also to look at it through the lens of the broader artist communities.” Until October 31. 543 Shore Rd., Ogunquit. 207-646-4909.

Maine Center for Contemporary Art

The view from here

The CMCA has always focused on the here and now – a non-collecting institution always on the lookout for what’s new, never saving anything for later. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the museum, however, the curators allow themselves a look back, at least in a way. The view from here contains the works of 20 artists, aged between 20 and 90, who have played a role in the history of the CMCA, from exhibiting works to donating works at auction. It’s still very current – most of the pieces are recent, although 95-year-old Lois Dodd, who had a major solo show at the CMCA in 2008, lent her 1974 painting Sunlight on spruce at noon, which previously hung in her Cushing home. Midcoast-based nonagenarian painter Alex Katz, one of the institution’s earliest exhibitors, contributed his 2017 abstract landscape Grass 7a large canvas of bright green and yellow brush strokes.

KATHERINE BRADFORD, SUMMER NIGHT, 2021, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID CLOUGH
Summer nightat the CMCA, by Katherine Bradford (who also has a solo exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art this summer). Photographed by David Clough.

“We wanted to celebrate our history,” says CMCA Executive Director Tim Peterson, “but from a contemporary perspective.” It is a retrospective which is light on the retrospective but which always touches on the identity of the museum. Over the decades, the CMCA has been a home for artists of all media, as long as they are connected to Maine. If you lived here (you’d be home now) is a fiberglass replica of a camping trailer with a neon sign on the side that says “It’s the little things” and a built-in screen showing a looping video of the coast. Tectonic Industries, the collaborative duo behind it, was looking for a creative community by the sea where they could live and work, which brought them here. Until September 11. 21 Winter Street, Rockland. 207-701-5005.

GEORGE SOUFFLET, THE CREW, 1916, OIL ON CANVAS, LEGACY OF MRS. ELIZABETH B. NOYCE, 1997; RUDOLPH DIRKS (1877-1968), HILL TO THE SEA (OGUNQUIT, MAINE), 1930, OIL ON CANVAS, 21 X 24 INCHES, GIFT OF JOHN AND MARY DIRKS, 1997.10.2. Katherine Bradford, SUMMER NIGHT2021, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID CLOUGH


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