‘Portraits of the Artists’
so good it demands 
more than one visit

PORTLAND –A photographic portrait isn’t just a pretty picture. It is a window of the soul. The 127 works in the portrait exhibit at the UNE gallery in Portland are all considered art photographs because they capture the essence of their subject matter without frills. Each work starkly defines visually the character of the artist or writer who is photographed.

We are all familiar with well-known writers and artists because we have seen their works or read their books, but we are not familiar with what they look like. This exhibit reveals what individual artists, writers, poets and composers look like, whose works we have enjoyed over the years.

On the first floor gallery walls there are a series of black and white photographs taken by David Etnier which are powerful and spellbinding. Each work has its own visual vocabulary. Each work looks out at you like a magnet drawing you into the work as you look at the work. Outstanding works by David Etnier include portraits of his father, the late Stephen Etnier, a well known landscape artist, George Delyra, a famous portrait artist, and Tom Crotty, a gifted landscape artist, portrait artist, and art dealer who recently passed away. In this exhibit, David Etnier, has established that he is an important artist with a camera. His powerful, intimate photographs bring back to life each artist he has captured.

Two major works in the exhibit are Berenice Abbott’s classic photographs of James Joyce taken in 1926 and Edna St. Vincent Millay taken in 1929. Five other outstanding works by masters in the photography field include: Sean Alonzo Harris’s portrait of poet and artist Ashley Bryan, Lotte Jacobi’s portrait of the singer Lotte Lanya, Arnold Newman’s portrait of painter and printmaker Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Todd Webb’s portrait of Alfred Stieglitz, photographer and important gallery owner, who championed modern art in his 1908 gallery called “291” in New York, are thoughtful masterpieces.

However, there are a wide variety of portraits done by contemporary art photographers that reveal many wonderful modern discoveries in the exhibit.

Diane Hudson of Portland,  has a series of photographs in color on the walls of the first floor that are significant. They establish her as more than a society photographer. Her photographs emerge into the realm of art through their composition and clarity. One outstanding work is a photograph of the well- known artist David Driskell. Driskell is captured in her photograph in front of a green spruce tree, standing on a wooden bridge that extends over a brook near his home in Maine. The photograph is important because it unites Driskell’s love of nature, trees, and the Maine countryside. It’s use of important symbols make it a masterpiece.

An unusual photograph by Todd Watts, taken of the legendary Berenice Abbott in 1981 greets the visitor in the center panel of the entrance to the exhibit. It is uplifting to see this powerful work that reveals the sad and penetrating eyes of one of the most famous female photographers in the world. Her penetrating eyes are caught in many photographs that are now in museums across the nation. Watts has captured Abbot, a visionary in the field of photography, as a work of art herself. Abbott died in 1991 but her legacy remains in her works on the walls of this exhibit. Other significant Abbott works in the exhibit include photographs of: Marcel Duchamp (1948),Max Ernst (1927) and Huddie Leadbetter (Lead Belly) (1929).

There are so many wonderful photographs in this exhibit that it merits more than one visit. A beautiful photograph of Robert Frost by Verner Reed is poignant. Isabel Lewando’s spontaneous photograph of Marshall Dodge talking, is remarkable. A photograph by Tom Jones of Bette Davis in 1955 is a hidden treasure. A wonderful photograph of Will Barnett taken by Jack Montgomery in 2010 is outstanding.

On the second floor, a series of poignant and thought-provoking photos by Doug Bruns, a gifted photographer of Portland, includes portraits of: Richard Blanco, and Stuart Kestenbaum poets, and writers Lily King, Lois Lowry, Anita Schreve, Richard Russo, to name only a few of Bruns’s compositions. Bruns uses no artificial lighting, just a tripod and camera. His penetrating photographs include backgrounds of important symbols of his subject matter. His work is straight forward and strong, and speaks more than words.

Four large archival prints by Judy Ellis Glickman in color that lift the whole second floor are self portraits in huge mystical scenes which include shadows of herself imbedded in each scene like a puzzle to discover. The four works hung together appear like a dream sequence but were taken at different times and in different geographic locations during 2010 to 2013 from Finland, to Morocco, to Los Angles. Glickman is a world traveler and her works are universal and timeless.

This wonderful exhibit was curated by Stephen Halpert who taught English and films for four decades at different Maine institutions, Westbrook College, University of Southern Maine and the Maine College of Art. He founded the photography collection at Westbrook College, which is now owned by the University of New England. This selection of photographs is outstanding because Halpert has united well-known art photographers and important contemporary art photographers who are working in the field today.

The UNE art gallery is located in Portland on the old Westbrook College campus. It is free of charge and open from 1-4 Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It is open Thursday evenings until 7 p.m. or by appointment. Please call 207-221-4499.

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