PORTLAND – The art gallery at the University of New England presents “Alice Spencer – Fabricating Time: Paintings and Collected Textiles,” featuring paintings inspired by Spencer’s extensive collection of woven materials from around the globe, as well as some of the textiles themselves.

Spencer has taken extended trips to Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Guatemala, Indonesia, China, and other countries with strong textile traditions, acquiring pieces from the societies where they were made and used, often from the actual maker or owner.

Studying and collecting textiles has been a rewarding way to understand the cultures of the countries she has visited. Spencer’s eclectic collection built over the past 30 years numbers more than 70 pieces, and for the past 6 years this textile collection has been the visual reference that inspires and informs her work.

Using textile imagery from other societies as artist inspiration has been documented in the work of other artists as well, including that of Henri Matisse, who referred to his textile collection as his “working library.” The paintings in “Fabricating Time” are improvisational compositions, incorporating patterns chosen for their strong graphic nature, including changing scale and intricacy. These patterns serve as a metaphor for the evolution of the human spirit through time

The exhibition was conceived of as a dialogue between the paintings and the source of their inspiration – the hand-woven, embroidered, resist dyed and pieced textiles. Conversely, the textiles were chosen for their visual appeal and dynamic presence, rather than for their literal connections to specific paintings. They are the wellspring for most of Spencer’s work, yet they are themselves unique works of art.

After appearing at the University of New England Art Gallery, the exhibition will travel to the Atrium Gallery at University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College and be on display from April 17 to June 30.

Spencer has lived and worked in Maine for almost 40 years and has worked in a variety of mediums including watercolor, acrylics and oils, as well as monotype printmaking and low-relief sculpture.

For the past 25 years, her work has been shown extensively throughout Maine, New England and New York and has been featured in exhibits in U.S. embassies in Chile and Bosnia Herzegovina. She was one of 10 women painters featured at the United Nations “Ingredients for Peace” celebration held in New York in March 2001. Her paintings and prints are included in numerous museum and corporate collections including the Portland Museum of Art, Colby College Museum of Art, Simmons College, United Technologies and UNUM Corporation.

Spencer is a co-founder of Peregrine Press, a printmaking cooperative in Portland and she teaches printmaking at the Maine College of Art continuing studies program and the Haystack School of Crafts in Deer Isle. She serves on the Board of the Maine College of Art and is chairman of the City of Portland Public Art Committee.

The exhibition will run Nov. 13, to Jan. 11, with the opening reception from 5-7 p.m. on Nov. 13, at the art gallery on the University of New England’s Westbrook College Campus, 716 Stevens Avenue in Portland. The exhibition and most events are free, and open to the public. For more information, view www.une.edu/artgallery or call 221-4499.

Upcoming events

• Gallery Talk/Slide Show by the Artist: “Textiles and Translations,” Wednesday, Nov. 19, 5-6:30 p.m.

• Global Textile Expo, Sunday, Nov. 23, 1-4 p.m. The expo includes displays and discussions about textiles and traditional clothing from Maine creators, collectors and immigrant communities with long-standing textile traditions. In the tradition of “Antiques Road Show,” textile expert Yosi Barzilai, owner of SARAJO Antique Textiles and Artifacts, will be on hand to help identify and explain pieces brought in by the public.


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