Contemporary art alive and fascinating in Maine

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Rockland museum 
holds first biennial

ROCKLAND — An exciting new center for creativity to keep your eye on is located at 21 Winter St. in Rockland. It is called the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and opened last summer. I define the art center clearly in the beginning of this article because there are so many organizations these days that only use initials, it is hard to keep track of their meaning and CMCA is a gallery and art center that is worth remembering.

        The purpose of this gallery, begun  as an art cooperative in 1952, was to give exposure to promising artists working in the state.
        Now, more than 60 years later in its new location in Rockland led by the director Suzette McAvoy, the gallery’s purpose is to be a catalyst in the art world showing the most exciting contemporary art in Maine.The gallery’s structure designed by Toshiko Mori of New York and North Haven, Maine is a work of art in itself.
         Its first biennial exhibit shows a wide variety of works from selected from 750 submissions. The jurors for the 2016 Biennial were, Christine Berry, director of Berry Campbell Gallery New York, and John Yau, noted writer, poet, and art critic.
        The 25 works selected for this exhibit come from across the state, including pieces from Lewiston, Rangeley, Peaks Island, Boothbay Harbor, Kittery Point, Skowhegan, Portland, South Portland, Yarmouth, Union, Freedom, Perry, and  Morrill, to name a few.
        Outstanding and unique among the 25 are the works by Gail Skudera of Lewiston. Skudera’s works are created in a series in the same style, and are composed of woven strips of photography snapshots, combined with collages.Her intricate woven portraits are amazing and go beyond the style of Chuck Close because they are actual weavings in three dimensions.
        “Still” an oil on board, by MJ Blanchette of Kittery Point,  is a somber traditional landscape overlooking water, wildlife and the beauty of nature in Maine. It is a refreshing site and absorbs the chaos of the political scene in America today, inviting us to go back to nature and reminding us of its importance.
        Marcia Annenberg’s abstract oil paintings are strong and powerful. Annenberg is from Boothbay Harbor and New York. Her work captures her perception of oil slicks seen on the earth and reminds us how important it is to preserve the earth and our natural surroundings.
        Sarah Bouchard, Kennebunkport, created an incredible work titled, “Somebody Put Baby in a Corner,” composed of balloon shaped images made from architectural vellum and water and glue. Her use of minimalist forms in three dimensions grouped together brings a sense of awe as well as revealed a subtle sense of humor in the sculpture.
        Color in the geometric weavings of Morris David Dorenfeld of Spruce Head, which were  created on an antique vertical tapestry loom, is magnificent. These are better than Mondrian because they have the added warmth of wool, and reveal the infinite patience and intricate artistic skill required of an expert fabric designer.
        Emily Brown of Montville has created a magnificent series of subtle glimpses of nature in white and grays using ink on paper. She captures a sense of the  beauty in nature even in its imperfections, as seen in a branch falling.
        Philip Brou of South Portland created a series of portraits that are compelling. Each of the works is created in oil on a panel and is contemporary in style but has an old-world appearance, similar to the paintings of Hans Holbein. Perhaps it is the varnish over the works, intensity of the faces, and the black backgrounds which give each work a starkly classical appearance. “Cold Was the Ground 1” was a powerful image in Brou’s series of portraits.
        Kate Russo of Portland has created a series of amazing works. Each work is 7” X 5” and has an oval in side it.
Each oval has small squares in different colors inside that. The colors create a form of atmosphere in works, which are titled with the names of different artists historically. I liked the oval created with squares that was titled “Raphael.” Colors inside works are associated with different artists. All Russo’s works have a fine fabric-design quality because of their intricate patterns.
        A work by Paul Oberst of Freedom, includes a series of video tapes on four screens dealing with an imaginary, ancient Pueblo figure leading the viewer on a spiritual journey.
        Andrew White of Union has a wooden tripod sculpture in the center of the first gallery that is distinctive. In an interview with the Associate Curator Bethany Engstrom, she noted that”White was interested in exploring balance in space and its tensions in this work.”
        A series of acrylics-on-wood panels that look like tiles, a work by Kathy Weinberg of Morrill, are lovely. The pieces look like artifacts from the ancient world but have modern motifs. My favorite work in this series is “Antares.” A figure holds a telescope looking up at the sky in this work. Antares is the 15th brightest star in the constellations. The acrylic work on wood at first looks like an artifact from the Renaissance. But when you get up close you realize this is a modern work designed to look like a hand-painted tile. Weinberg ‘s style is distinctive, uniting modern and old-world aesthetics.
        There were so many wonderful works in this exhibit, it was very hard to select which to discuss because they all are prize-winning selections and it is a major accomplishment to be selected for this exhibit. It is an exhibit definitely worth a trip to Rockland to see. I could not include all of the works in this article, but I recommend that you set aside a special day to catch this wonderful exhibit which is  basically an overview of the best  art work being created in Maine today. The exhibit comes down Feb.5. 
        There is a great creative brochure on the exhibit with a photograph of each work in it, including a paragraph on the background of each artist.The whole exhibit is hung beautifully and the brochure is an added educational aspect adults and children. Though not a catalogue, the brochure but is creatively designed and makes a  nice keepsake from your visit. 
        CMCA hours are: Wednesday -Saturday 10 a.m. to 6p.m. Sunday 1 – 5 p.m. Closed Federal holidays. Admission $6  for adults. Children under 12 are free.

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