April 30: 11 a.m. – David Campbell, Catharine Draper, Nancy Romines Walters, Barbara Sullivan

1 p.m. – Lauren Fensterstock, Diana Cherbuliez, Jessica Gandolf, Wally Mason

May 7: 11 a.m. – Carol Sloane and Sam Cady

1 p.m. – Rob Shillady, Scott Peterman, Tim Lawton

Talent times three
Three area artists are selected to showcase their works in the Portland Museum of Art’s “2005 Biennial.”

Elke Morris of Lewiston was awarded a prize for her photograph of a downtown tenement.

Every two years, the Portland Museum of Art recognizes emerging artists, as well as established artists who create in the state of Maine.

The “2005 Portland Museum of Art Biennial” is bright, cheerful and uplifting.

All told, 948 artists submitted applications in hopes of showcasing their work. A total of 94 pieces by 62 artists were selected by three jurors: John Cheim, owner of Cheim and Read Gallery in New York; Yvonne Jacquette, a nationally known artist; and Judith Tannenbaum, curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design.

Among the chosen artists are Elke Morris of Lewiston, Mary Alice Treworgy of Brunswick and Nancy Romines Walters of Wilton – who have individual styles but share a fresh, vibrant quality.

Four out of five artists who won awards are photographers, underscoring a shift of interest toward photography in the art world. The William E. and Helen E. Thon jurors’ prizes were awarded to painter Anda Dubinskis (for “Stride,” an oil on canvas depicting images of a man and a woman walking) and to video installation artist Tad Beck of Los Angeles, Calif. (for a video installation titled “Roll” of four nude men balancing on logs in the water in a granite quarry in Vinalhaven).

Purchase prizes were awarded to photographers Jeffery Becton of Deer Isle for “Newt’s,” Julee Holcombe of Oberlin, Ohio, for “Babel Revisited,” and Morris for “Domicile I,” an image of a tenement in downtown Lewiston.

Also new this year is a focus on installation art. A number of works have been installed by the artists themselves directly on museum walls. Examples include Chris Patch’s work titled “Grizzly,” depicting a powerful black bear coming out of the forest; Astrid Bowlby’s “Inmeye,” featuring thousands of ink and acrylic drawings cut from paper, layered, piled and taped directly to the museum wall in powerful patterns; and Walters’ “Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries,” made from plastic, cotton fiber and map pins.

“Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries” looks like a variety of fresh red cherries with stems still attached, placed on petite, crocheted doilies adhered to the museum wall with map pins – forming different patterns.

“When I am doing my artwork, I think of more than one thing,” Walters said. “For example, the artificial cherries in this work brought out my interest in elements of nature versus man-made objects. The crochet work within the piece came from a traditional women’s craft.”

“I am also interested in individual objects within a grouping,” she said. “I like it when people see different things in my work, including humor. I like to use natural and organic forms as metaphors for physical or emotional aspects of human experience.”

Born in Wilton, Walters went to New York City for 20 years and earned a master of fine arts degree from Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She returned to Wilton in 2001, where she has a studio.

Characterized by diversity, the pieces selected for the PMA’s “2005 Biennial” range in size, from very small self-portraits to room-size installations; in medium, from sculpture to video; and in style, from abstraction to realism. The show will be on view through June 5.

Elke Morris

“I was interested in the architecture in Lewiston,” said Morris, whose award-winning photograph of a three-story building standing alone in the downtown is now in the PMA’s collection, an important step for artists in terms of recognition and prestige.

“I wanted to look more closely at the images of homes in Lewiston. I was interested in the downtown section of Lewiston where there are wooden multi-stories and multi-family buildings,” Morris explained.

“They are not modern buildings. They are more often large apartments and occupy the whole floor,” she said. “I was struck by the precariousness of these structures. They were mostly intended for larger families rather than couples or single people residences.”

Morris, who has taught photography and digital media at Bates College since 1993 and has worked in the photography field for more than 20 years, likes the small-town atmosphere in Lewiston.

“I am fascinated by floor plans and the use of space and what it says about social values. Spacial organization – and how it changes over time from one culture to the other – is a concept I am interested in,” she said.

“I used a studio camera on a tripod in photographing ‘Domicile I.’ I had to drive by until the light was right and no cars were parked in front of it. I wanted to concentrate on the interesting structure of the building,” she noted.

Morris’ work will be included in an exhibit titled “Innovation and Opportunity: Bates College Faculty Show,” June 12 through Oct. 2 at the Olin Arts Center at Bates College in Lewiston.

Mary Alice Treworgy

Treworgy’s work, “Running Start,” was commissioned by an individual in Brunswick’s Midcoast Hospital’s exercise class in celebration of its 25th anniversary. Her representational style using flat images and sharp lines reminds one of the work of Alex Katz, an internationally known artist whose work reflects a stylized realism, stark clean lines and sophisticated technique. To be compared with Katz is a great compliment because his work is shown in museums across the United States, as well as in Europe. (Katz lives in Lincoln, Maine, in the summer and in New York during the winter; he will have a major exhibit June 26 through Sept. 18 at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville.)

“I usually don’t do commissions,” Treworgy said. “In this case, I was creating an image of an exercise class that I had been in for 15 years. My paintings usually are based on buildings. This was a departure. I wanted to capture body language and personalities of individuals.”

“It was a risk and a challenge. It was successful both from my point of view and the client’s. I was extremely grateful that it was accepted in the ‘Biennial,’ ” Treworgy said.

Other works of significance in PMA’s “2005 Biennial” include “Three Trees, 16 Blinks,” an oil on canvas exploring nature, by Carol Sloane of Washington; “Elegy,” a wonderful sumi ink on paper, using fine graphic lines, by Emily Brown of Philadelphia, Pa.; “Lottery Ticket Garland, Christmas Eve at Dave’s House ($750 in tickets),” a black-and-white photograph exploring chaos, by Melonie Bennett of Gorham; and “Why Buildings Fall Down,” a unique sculpture made in tiers created from New York Times crossword puzzles, glued on multiple arches that stand on different circular levels, by Diana Cherbuliez of Vinalhaven.

Works expressing thoughtful perceptions on antiwar themes include Natasha Mayers’ powerful “Potato War (State of War Series),” Joseph Mcvetty III’s sensitive work titled “And Use Hammers To Give Yourself A Little Breathing Room;” Deborah Randall’s strong work titled, “Boys Will Be Boys;” and Joshua Ferry’s bold, mysterious work titled “Casket.”

This year’s “Biennial” showcases the works of 29 year-round residents and three who work in Maine during the summer; 15 who were educated in Maine; 13 who recently completed the summer residency program at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; and 42 who have an exhibition history in this state.

Some of their works depict recognizable Maine scenes and Maine people; others are influenced by Maine’s natural environment. But it’s interesting to note that although all artists in the show have a tie to Maine, their works are not what one would call regional. All the artwork is universal. While the exhibit does support Maine artists, it shows that Maine artists are exploring universal themes – and that they are sophisticated in the use of their chosen mediums.

It is definitely worth a trip to Portland to see “2005 Portland Museum of Art Biennial.”

The Portland Museum of Art is located at Seven Congress Square in downtown Portland. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students with I.D., $2 for youth ages 6 to 17; children under 6 admitted free. Admission is free Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, call (207) 775-6148; or go online to www.portlandmuseum.org.

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