Bernard Langlais Retrospective, through Jan. 4, 2015
Lois Dodd Retrospective, June 7 – Aug. 31,2014
Highlights Permanent Collection, through July15, 2015

        Walking into the Jette Galleries at the Colby College Museum of Art to see the Bernard Langlais Retrospective takes your breath away.The first work you see is an oil on canvas titled “The Town (French Island- Old Town) (The white City),”created in 1956-7. It hangs on a portable green wall placed at the center of the entrance and sets the atmosphere of his early paintings hanging on white walls surrounding it. The impact of the installation is startling. It stops you in your tracks. The stark geometric shapes in this Langlais painting of roof tops of homes give a clue to his later sculpture in small abstract geometric forms. We can see these same forms created in wood, in later works like,“Behind the Barn Door,” (1960), “Pigeon Holing”(1961-2) and “Certain Circles,” (1961) in nearby galleries.
        The Langlais exhibit includes 120 works of early paintings,  small and huge sculptures, drawings, watercolors and models for larger works. It is a special treat to see all in one place. The  range of creativity in which Langlais explored is amazing. My immediate thought was I have to come back to see this exhibit again and again to absorb it all.
        One work titled “Around Four,” is a painted figure of wood chips in a collage on the number 4 in red. The irony is on a scale from 1 to 10 this exhibit merits 11 because it is so outstanding. Do not hesitate to put this exhibit on your calendar to see. It is a home run, all bases covered from the unique and creative installation, to the quality of art selected by the Langlais Curator of Special Projects, Hannah W. Blunt.
        Blunt has been working on the Langlais project for 4 years cataloguing Langlais’s works and living in his home in Cushing, Maine. She has been working with Colby, the major beneficiary of Langlais works, and the Kohler Foundation of Wisconsin, whose mission is to preserve and distribute environmental art works. Together the organizations have created the Langlais Art Trail which can be found on the internet and locates  geographically gifts of Langlais works given to different institutions across the state and nation.
        Langlais was born in Old Town Maine in 1921 and died in 1977. In the 1940s and 50s  Langlais worked in New York, the heart of the art world in America, where he met his wife Helen.  At that time, Langlais did both representational and abstract paintings. Then he experimented with abstract wood assemblages and exhibited in the well known Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. However, he eventually became uncomfortable in New York and its high pressured atmosphere, and decided to move back to Maine in 1966.
        Langlais called the back area of his home with large wooden sculptures an “environmental complex.” Actually inside his home, he united nature with hanging plants inside and placed carved wooden animals coming off the walls and in corners of his home near a huge fireplace in the living room.
        An interest in animals and wild life can be seen as well as humor in his wood reliefs in the exhibit at Colby like the magnificent, ”Eagle” (1964) in the lobby, and many sculptures of cows, horses,  lions, sheep, and tigers throughout the galleries. Langlais populated his Cushing property with over 100 wood  reliefs and more than 65 monumental sculptures. More than 3000 drawings were also catalogued at his home.
        Langlais’s home is going to be made into a public sculpture park through the partnership of the Colby Museum, the Kohler Foundation and the Georges River Land Trust.
        A familiar landmark being restored now is the Langlais Abenaki Indian sculpture in the center of Skowhegan.Two organizations are restoring it, Skowhegan Maine and the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce.
        The beauty of the exhibit at Colby is that it shows both Langlais’s early work and later work. A familiar motif is a figure of a lion, perhaps a favorite animal. Helen Langlais, his wife, once said, “My husband, Bernard, loved doing lions. In fact he looked something like a lion, that mane of hair always flying.”
        There are many lions in the exhibit at Colby including one powerful lion face in a lower gallery near the elevator that you should not  miss. Near this area is a small shelf for children interested in trying their hand at piecing together wood in different shapes and designs. It is a small element in the exhibit for the young but educational.The exhibit itself is a sophisticated show for adults but children from all ages would love it.
        A beautiful hard cover catalogue/book with 200 colored plates on the Langlais exhibit with photographs of his home and works in progress is available at the museum edited by Hannah W. Blunt, curator of the exhibit with contributions  from Diana Tuite, Vincent Katz, Leslie Umberger, Nina Roth-Wells and Ronald Harvey.
        In the Davis Gallery a companion exhibit titled “Lois Dodd:Cultivating Vision” curated by Ramey Mize, complements the Langlais exhibit. It is a small subtle exhibit compared to the Langlais show but like a visual tone poem, the Dodd exhibit is significant because it explores  semi abstract drawings and paintings which have not been seen before. Dodd and Langlais knew each other and worked in New York and Maine during the same period. The Colby exhibit of Dodd’s work is unique because she usually paints more representational work. In more than 50 works on view in this small gem of an exhibit at Colby, Dodd explores abstraction in drawings, prints, watercolors and oils. In a large painting titled “Clam Digger” oil on linen (1958-59 ) one can see loose geometric patterns emerging in a semi abstract work which looks surreal and dreamlike in sections.  In her smaller works, her drawings suggest images and allow the viewer to complete the image. Dodd has always felt that a drawing is a completed work of art, not a preliminary study for a painting. Many of her drawings are visual poems. William Zorach, the famous sculptor once said,”Drawing is a way of seeing.” Dodd teaches us how to see in the subtle nuances found in the human form in her work. Some of the works in this exhibit by Dodd are shown for the first time in 50 years.
        Dodd said in a film interview in the Maine Masters Project  Series produced by the Union of Maine Visual Artists, ”I’m painting my life as I live it day by day.” She sees beauty in every day life and helps us all appreciate it in her work. Dodd will be receiving the first Cummings Award for Artistic Excellence at Colby on July 19, 2014 at the prestigious annual Colby College Museum of Art luncheon.
        The third exhibit of the summer at the Colby College Art Museum deals with the Permanent Collection galleries integrating  magnificent works of the Lunder Collection including selections of Winslow Homer and Western art, as well as other works in the permanent collection by: John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Mary Cassatt, and William Merritt Chase. Colby’s vast permanent modern art collection will also be on view, like works by: John Marin, Alex Katz, Richard Serra, Elizabeth Murray, Louise Nevelson, Sol LeWitt, and Chuck Close to name only a few.
Two significant works from the permanent collection hang in the art museum library: a painting titled “Carousel,”oil on canvas, by Dahlov Ipcar and a small modern steel sculpture of a Greek temple by Harriet Matthews.
        Sharon Corwin, Director of the Colby College Museum of Art  in a recent tour of the Alfond and Lunder Pavilon pointed out the exciting new contemporary art collection in the museum including the David Smith sculpture, an Al Held painting titled “D” and a series of drawings by Tim Rollins. The Alfond and Lunder Pavilion with its many storied glass windows and the multi colored Sol LeWitt designed wall have placed the museum as a national landmark in the art world in the nation.
     Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Open on thursday until 9 p.m.during the academic year. Admission is free. For additional information visit www.colby.edu/museum.

 The Colby Museum of Art was founded in 1959 by a group of dedicated people in the arts. Willard W. Cummings, one of the founder’s of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture  painted a portrait of President Bixler of Colby College whose tenure included the years 1942-1960.The Cummings portrait of President Bixler still hangs at the entrance of the Given auditorium, part of the art museum complex. It was President Bixler’s wish that Colby have an art and music department and develop an art museum.
        Willard W. Cummings,(Bill), made that wish come true in two small galleries where the art library in the museum is today. James Carpenter, Head of the Art Department became the first director and Hugh Gourley III became Director in 1966 guiding the museum for 36 years. Many notable patrons were brought in by Bill Cummings and Hugh Gourley over the years including the Jette family, the Davis family, the Paul Schupf Collection of Alex Katz works, as well as  the Alex Katz Foundation and the Alfond and Lunder family whose recent gifts to the museum are the largest gifts in its development and have made the museum into a national figure in the art world.
        The Colby College Museum of Art has grown into the largest museum in the state with more than 8,000 works of art and more than 38,000 square feet, including elevators and a huge lobby.
Known for its contemporary art collection, the modern glass Alfond and Lunder addition to the museum built in 2013 designed by architect Frederick Fisher of California, is a beacon of light on the campus.
        In conclusion, put the Colby College Museum of Art on your calendar to visit this summer. It is a must see museum!!!In fact it is Maine’s Metropolitan Museum and a hidden treasure for art lovers and the general public alike. It is well worth a trip to Waterville.


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