UMVA Quarterly Journal Spring, 2015
In Defense of Painting
Brita Holmquist, “The Smell of Rain,” 24 x30, oil on linen
Brita Holmquist 2
Brita Holmquist, “The Smell of Thunder,” 24 x30, oil on linen
Union of Maine Visual Artists Quarterly Journal “In Defense of Painting” contributors:
Richard Brown Lethem
“Broken Axe,” 2014, oil on canvas 40” x 50” additional paintings:
Front Cover/ 34 - 35
Brita Holmquist In Defense of Painting statement Alan Bray Joel Babb
Tim Clorius 56 - 57 Scott Small 58 - 59 Peter Precourt 60 - 61
10 - 11
Ken Bryant 62 - 63
12 - 13
Gail Spaien 64 - 65
14 - 15
Diane Dahlke 66 - 67
18 - 19
Lesia Sochor 68 - 69
20 - 21
70 - 71
Stephen Petroff Death Panels for Painters
22 - 24
72 - 73
Sherry Streeter Katherine Porter Abby Shahn
28 - 29
36 - 37
30 - 31 32 - 33
Harold Garde 38 - 39 Jessica Townes George
40 - 41
Maury Colton 42 - 44 In Defense Elizabeth Cashin McMillen
46 - 47
Peggy Cope Mascher
48 - 49
50 - 51
52 - 53
54 - 55
UMVA Quarter Journal is edited by: Anita Clearfield, Daniel Kany, Natasha Mayers and Nora Tryon The UMVA Journal is supported in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission
Copyright 2015 Union of Maine Visual Artists, All Rights Reserved 4
Regular Features and Writing: From the Board: Right to Make Art by Robert Shetterly
Painting is Dead Long Live Painting by Carl Little 9 Blanchard Weather Report by Todd Watts with Michael Alpert Back Cover The Importance of Painting by Skye Priestly 16 Video Essay by Geoffrey Leighton
In Defense of Painting or The Death of Chess by Jeffrey Ackerman
Artist Manifesto by Sarah Bouchard Poetry, Betsy Sholl, editor In the Well of a Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai, 1830 by Linda Aldrich Blue-Grey Fence—Imagined Museum of Imagined Art by Jim Glenn Thatcher In the Room at Arles by Melissa Crowe
87 25 25 26 - 27 27
Insight/Incite Narratives by Educators about Creative Expression Painting as a Pathway to Learning by Debra A. Bickford 74 - 75 Critics’ Corner Forward 7 Painting to Light the Way 45 by Daniel Kany In Response PMA Biennial Letter and e-mail reprints 88 - 89 ARRT! Report by Artists’ Rapid Response Team 90 - 92 Call for Submissions for Next Issue:
From the Editors:
e had hoped to not write an introduction here, but let our own paintings (see below and following page) stand-in for words and speak to this Journal’s theme: “In Defense of Painting.” We had suggested the work we’re showcasing in this magazine might address some of the institutional blindness to painting in recent state biennials. However, events have taken another turn. The Portland Museum of Art has changed their biennial from a juried open-call to a curated show and even the loss of that small, perceived window of opportunity for not just painters -- but all Maine artists -- requires us to revert to language! The UMVA reflects the disappointment that many Maine artists feel at this reversal in the William Thon bequest to the museum for a juried biennial. As much as anything, we hope that this can turn into an opportunity to discuss the place of the artist and the museum in the community, as well as a chance to open a dialogue between artists and museums as we all look for creative ways to navigate the line between marketplace and meaning in this beautiful place we share.
The Union is a diverse group. A board member has written a piece extolling the PMA on page 9, while at the same time the Union has sent the museum a letter requesting a face-to-face meeting to discuss the change (see page 88 for this letter -- and in “late breaking news,” the PMA curator has agreed to a meeting in May after the press release on the artists included in the biennial is announced). Meanwhile, other Union members are creating an exhibition that can showcase the breadth of art in Maine. In the interest of understanding these various points-of-view, this Journal features a selection of on-line comments and correspondence regarding the biennial on page 89. We look forward to the conversation continuing at Union of Maine Visual Artists on Facebook -- and wherever the common interests of artists and museums intersect. After all, there are many paths “In Defense of Painting.” On another front, we welcome the newly-formed UMVA Portland Chapter; an article follows by Robert Shetterly on one of the first meetings. We gently remind our readers to please forward this Journal to your friends and please encourage them to subscribe. We depend on you to spread the word to grow the Journal and keep it free. -- Anita Clearfield, Daniel Kany, Natasha Mayers and Nora Tryon
Nora Tryon, “In Motion,” acrylic on canvas, 24”x 30”
Anita Clearfield, “Bringing in the Sheaves,” (2015) oil and ink on canvas, 60”x 48” 6
By Daniel Kany
n some ways, I think it’s completely absurd to focus on the defense of painting in Maine. As a person who continually visits galleries and museums throughout the state, I can tell you that no art form is remotely as vibrant and alive in Maine as painting.
Painting fills the galleries throughout Maine. It covers the walls of our museums. And if it’s a question of commercial presence: Nothing comes even remotely close to painting in Maine. I’ve heard whining that Portland’s art scene is waning, but it’s just misplaced bitterness. A few galleries closed, but galleries always close and more have opened. Moreover, many museums, galleries and non-profit venues have either just expanded or are in the process of expanding. Besides, Rockland is the commercial gallery center of Maine and has been for quite some time. Anyone who walks into Dowling Walsh (the biggest of about 20 galleries) would be hardpressed to make the case that painting is anything but a tsunami force in Maine. And it’s not just Rockland. In the past year I have seen painting shows doing gangbusters at Icon in Brunswick, Corey Daniels in Wells, Littlefield in Winter Harbor, Frost Gully in Freeport, George Marshall Store Gallery in York and elsewhere throughout the state. Most impressive to me, however, was seeing 22 red dots on the wall of Bill Irvine’s show last summer at the Courthouse Gallery in Ellsworth before the show even opened. And painting isn’t only Maine’s greatest art presence in-state—it’s our greatest export. It’s not just the obvious painters like Richard Estes, Lois Dodd, Alex Katz and Robert Indiana, but an entire rising generation of Maine artists who are thriving in New York. One day when I was in Chelsea to see solo shows by Dan Mills and Ken Greenleaf—whose Berry Campbell show was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal—I saw works by Mainers Katherine Bradford and Don Voisine by chance. Chelsea’s big, but it’s not that big after all. I happen to love architecture, craft, photography, sculpture, prints, drawing, design, conceptual art and much more, but there is nothing more exciting happening in Maine than painting. In fact, I think it’s a testament to painting’s unquestionable presence that it has been so specifically ignored by recent biennial jurors and curators in their personal efforts to be seen as hip and cutting edge. If any of those jurors were making the case that painting was being left behind, however, it would be a pathetic joke. But I understand the conundrum: How do you avoid sounding reactionary and outdated when there are so many new and exciting formats? But that’s like pretending the novel is passé simply because the internet has given us so many new literary formats like blogs, personal reviews, Facebook posts, comic novels, article comments, etc. Maine has more artists than venues, and we have hundreds of art venues, from ever-expanding world class museums like the Colby Museum of Art to sizzling little galleries like the Maine Farmland Trust Gallery in Belfast. Painting in Maine doesn’t need to be defended. Anyone who looks around can see that for themselves.
Natasha Mayers, “Fog”(from “Men in Suits” series), acrylic, 12”x 18.5”
From the Board:
was fortunate to be able to attend the 3rd meeting of the new Portland area chapter of the UMVA on March 19. Photographer Jay York graciously invited the group to meet in his studio on Wilmot St. Nearly 30 artists sat in a large circle in Jay’s spacious 2nd floor living room surrounded by floor-to-ceiling art. It was inspiring that the age range was from the 70s to 20s -- including one member, the painter Maury Colton of Matinicus, who was part of the original founding team. The meeting was called to order by William Hessian, artist and UMVA board member who has organized this chapter. After several years when UMVA chapters had gone extinct, it’s been exciting for me to witness the new bloom of spirit -- a chapter in Winter Harbor a year ago, this one in Portland, and the possibility of another in the Lewiston/Auburn area. I gave a short history of the UMVA and talked about its current projects -- ARRT!, the incredible UMVA Journal, the exciting films of the Maine Masters Project, and the importance of chapters in general. Most, if not all, major UMVA initiatives are born in local chapters and come from individual members’ ideas and energy. The more chapters we have, the more likely we are to see imaginative work from the UMVA that ends up benefiting all Maine artists. Many artists had come that evening to discuss the Portland Museum of Art’s decision to make its biennial a fully curated exhibit this year with no opportunity for many of Maine’s artists to even have a possibility of being included. The UMVA is made up of thoughtful individuals with manifold points of view and the discussion of how to think about and react to this change in PMA policy was illustrative of that diversity. Elsewhere in this journal you can read many of the ideas expressed. Several people sympathetic to the PMA’s headaches with mounting such a major show defended the museum’s right to make the chore easier by inviting one curator to select the show. Others expressed their annoyance at the loss of democratic opportunity (an issue of prime UMVA historical importance) for artists of every corner of the state to have a chance to be considered. Although it had already been decided to send a letter to the PMA requesting a meeting to discuss this issue and how the PMA & the UMVA might work better together, another issue emerged. And that was the unpleasant feeling that many artists had of being subservients petitioning a dominant power for recognition. That feeling diminishes our autonomy and sense of dignity as artists. Better to organize our own shows (one of the exciting goals of this new Portland chapter) and not feel that our work is unworthy if the PMA chooses not to show it. We also began a very interesting discussion about the obligations of artists and museums in community. Are those obligations similar and mutually reinforcing, or are they often at cross purposes? It was brought up that museums are institutions and often need to be married to a status quo in order to secure funding and longevity. Whereas, independent artists are often freer to take more risks with behavior and content that challenges and offends that status quo. I quoted the great playwright Arthur Miller who said, “I think the job of the artist is to remind people of what they have chosen to forget.” However one interprets what it might be that we have chosen to forget -- aesthetics? morality? beauty? the sublime? emotional nuance? community? -- it seemed to me that both individual artists and museums might agree with the quote. The museum, though, may be more concerned with the history of human consciousness expressed through art, and the individual with changing it.
Robert Shetterly, “Arthur Miller,” 2005, acrylic on panel, 36” x 30” painted for the Americans Who Tell the Truth series 8
This meeting reminded me about what is so exciting about the UMVA --- a collection of diverse, serious artists taking the time to share work and ideas and then act for the welfare of the artistic community and the larger community of which we are a part. Long live the UMVA! -- Robert Shetterly, UMVA President
Painting is dead. Long live painting. by Carl Little
n a review of the painter Ann Gale in the February 1st issue of the online art journal Hyperallergic, the art critic John Yau starts out by noting that “there is a lot of very good painting going on these days,” but that one is not likely to see much of it at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, or the Met, “at least in recent memory.” These institutions, he goes on to say, “are too busy proving the ‘death of painting’ to recognize that narrative as just one among many.” A few weeks later Yau made a related argument in a review of the Welsh-born painter Merlin James. The recent “lamentations” of two fellow critics, Raphael Rubinstein and Peter Schjeldahl, about “painting’s fallen status, its descent from Olympian greatness,” reminded him of people “who preface everything with ‘back in the good old days’ or prattle on about how ‘you can’t paint like Rubens’ anymore, as if that is what the world needed most.” To paraphrase Twain, the reports of painting’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Case in point: Last week I received a mailing from the Alexandre Gallery in New York City. If one were contemplating the death of painting, I thought, here was its resurrection in a single envelope: announcements of shows of new work by Brett Bigbee and Lois Dodd.
Bigbee’s card offers one of his signature Renaissance-worthy portraits, Josie Over Time (2011-2015), a head-on bust of a handsome, unblemished young woman with a bit of Maine coast seen over her graceful shoulders. It is a haunting image—a kind of Mona Lisa meets Martin Johnson Heade near Casco Bay.
Brett Bigbee, “Josie Over Time” (2011 -2015) courtesy Alexandre Gallery
Lois Dodd, “Reflected Light on Brick Wall, December” (2014) courtesy Alexandre Gallery
By contrast, Dodd is represented by a city image, Reflected Light on Brick Wall, December (2014). In the painting, a four-paned window and a potted plant throw shadows on a brick wall. There is something of Magritte in the sense of not being sure what is interior and what is exterior—a formal and enticing illusion. Speaking of Dodd, unlike their big city counterparts, Maine museums recognize the ongoing relevance and power of painting. Dodd was the subject of one of the finest solo shows ever mounted at the Portland Museum of Art. The PMA’s Richard Estes retrospective last year testified to the blockbuster power of a realist. And that museum’s “Ahmed Alsoudani: Redacted” exhibition in 2013-2014 was stunning. Just one venue among many in this state that honors painting on a regular basis. At the end of his Merlin James review, Yau makes this statement: “Instead of being a professional mourner enumerating what painting can no longer do or hasn’t done, I think it is time to focus on what painting can do, and more importantly, has done.” As I prepare to write reviews of Alison Goodwin at Greenhut Galleries and Elizabeth Livingston at the University of Maine Museum of Art, I am happy to oblige. Carl Little’s most recent book is “William Irvine: A Painter’s Journey.” He is a member of the UMVA Board.
Alan Bray, “Waterlogged,” 2014, Casein on Panel, 20x24
Alan Bray,“Tending To The Season,” 2013, Casein on Panel, 15x20
IThe craft itself is a glorious part of the process. ’m not sure that a painter humbles his or herself to the level of craft.
As long as the pure joy of mixing a pigment with a binder in order to reflect on and express an idea about the world we all share exists, painting will survive.
The Study of Traditional Painting
Joel Babb, “Backbay Perspective,” 1987, watercolor, 30”x42”
t has often been said “There’s no need to learn traditional painting, because it has been done, and done to death.” This makes my blood boil, because it’s said by people who have not tried to come to terms with the great works of the past. When you begin to dive into art and learn perspective, color theory and technique, you realize the ideas of perception and representation are much more elusive, interesting, paradoxical and difficult to understand than imagined. These paintings come from a period when I flew around Boston in a helicopter taking photographs of the city; I used to make paintings of the city in experimental perspective projections. Backbay Perspectives is an early Renaissance projection, a la Alberti, but turned upside down, so that lines of sight seem to emanate from the viewer into the distance -- but this is a world in which things get larger as they go farther away! And yet, it seems to be able to map the neighborhood exactly as it is. It feels logical and correct, but as you go down the street, buildings get larger, but you would get larger too, staying in proportion to everything else. To me this was a great discovery about perception of reality and recession, which would not have been discovered unless having studied the perspective constructions of 1500. Copley Plunge is a traditional one point perspective construction, but the vanishing point is not at the horizon, but has been rotated straight down below the viewers’ feet. It’s logically correct, but seems bizarre because the streets which are receding into the distance and should go to a vanishing point go up and down parallel to the sides of the painting. When you lay this painting on the floor and stand looking with one eye above the bottom edge, then the streets on the sides do seem to converge, and the buildings seem to pop straight up from the canvas. The real view is reconstituted. Also, the perception of color is very different from simply looking at photographs. In translating the photograph into the perspective system I was using for Copley Plunge, I also rendered the action of the light on local colors, all grays and tans, into constantly changing mixtures of complementary colors mixed together on the canvas with the brush.
So through painting, gray is never just gray, but a state of one color turning into another through the action of light.
Joel Babb, “Copley Plunge,” 1990, oil, 82”x60”
In the great tradition of painting, artists have been philosophers of appearances, making great discoveries about the way the mind and the eye encounter the world -- the neurobiologists and students of perceptual psychology of today are just catching up with the artists. Painting what you see is not a trivial subject, but something rich, complex and enigmatic.
John Bozin, “The Bridge,” mural, acrylic on wall, 8.5’x24’
John Bozin, “Prayer Flags,” oil on canvas, 18”x24” 14
John Bozin, “December Beach,” oil on canvas, 32”x40”
The Importance of Painting
by Skye Priestley
wo hundred years ago, one might have been forgiven for thinking that the importance of painting came mostly from its capacity to convey visual information that writing cannot. Paintings of monarchs and important biblical or classical stories served a definite purpose that no other medium could. But in the twenty-first century, with the wide availability of smartphones and the rise of the movie as our paramount storytelling medium, painting’s purpose has become somewhat harder to espy. The one way in which painting is not superfluous is as a decorative element, a task which might itself be criticized as unnecessary. Yet even this hint of practicality becomes so antithetical to painting’s supposed raison d’être that it has produced a wide range of tension among painters. It seems that it is exactly painting’s purposelessness that lends it strength. The reasoning here quickly becomes contradictory, that in order to serve its social purpose painting must be totally purposeless. It seems like a trick of some sort, that the painters are pulling wool over our eyes to escape from the difficult task of accomplishing anything definite. Yet the distance that painting establishes between itself and the rest of the world, the ambiguity and the illusory values that surround painting, provide for the excavation and investigation of what is actually happening. With no definite task, the painter is free to respond to his or her surroundings, to process and reprocess the changing nature of society and document it in a manner that is seemingly incomprehensible and also entirely necessary. In the future, a millennium from now, when the children of our children look back on the early 21st century, they will not wonder why we painted. They will be too busy painting themselves. Skye Priestley is an artist and USM graduate living in Portland.
In Defense of Painting: the Video by Geoffrey Leighton
To view, hover cursor over frame, then click on blue “link” symbol that appears. 16
In Defense of Painting or The Death of Chess
by Jeffrey Ackerman
or a half century there has been a persistent rumor that painting is in crisis, challenged or dead. Marcel Duchamp, the artist mistakenly credited for inspiring that bit of nonsense, famously gave up painting to play chess. He was asked if, when he gave up painting, he thought painting was dead. His reply was; “No. First, you know, I haven’t given up painting; if I get an idea for a painting tomorrow, I’ll do it…I simply stopped because I didn’t have anything more to say at the time. I had run out of ideas; ideas don’t come as easily as all that.” In 1940 he gave up chess, yet I have never read any critic declare that “chess is dead” or there is “a crisis in chess.” Every decade the “crisis” or “dilemma” of painting seems to be laid to rest and a new crop of artists take up painting. That is why it is conspicuous when three recent Maine biennials, two at PMA and one at CMCA, included little or no painting. Also absent was sculpture carved or modeled from traditional materials. Representational imagery seems to only appear in photographs. These shows are not outliers but represent a familiar, stubborn and lingering bias among curators, educators and critics. If this was isolated to three local shows it could be dismissed as a fluke or coincidence but beyond Maine’s borders, MoMA, the flagship of American contemporary art, has just mounted its very first survey of painting since 1958. The premise of the show, “a-temporality,” posits that painting today does not represent anything new that might define the age, but is a “profligate mixing of past styles and genres”—the “past” in this context only goes back 50 years. One frequently finds painting completely absent from MoMA’s contemporary galleries and the same can be said for all of the MOCA’s and ICA’s around the globe. In Maine, those who look to these institutions, or to the art magazines they influence, for a sense of what is going on in the broader art culture, are getting an incomplete picture. In New York and London there are painters working in a variety of styles—figurative, expressionistic, surreal and various forms of abstraction—styles that are all infrequently seen in Maine galleries. In Los Angeles there is a school of figurative art called “low-brow” which is influenced by pop sources, comic books and cinema. There are European artists combining influences as diverse as American graffiti art and Hieronymus Bosch. And there is an international trend of adopting old master techniques to contemporary themes. Are painters in Maine paying attention to this and is it influencing their work? Real estate pressures in art capitals, the Internet and the ease of travel has created a world art culture that is increasingly decentralized and interconnected. As a result of this, Maine art culture is increasingly diverse and connected beyond our borders, yet this evolution is slow to make its appearance in museums and galleries. If such work as I just described is being done in Maine, and done well, there are few galleries here where that work might be seen. Commercial galleries depend on sales for their survival, and must show work that collectors are comfortable with. Variations of the traditional Maine landscape genre continue to dominate the state’s many galleries, but the most frequently seen alternative genres—abstract, formalist, depictions of spartan interiors and isolated buildings—are also often devoid of the human figure.
(continued page 86)
Jeffrey Ackerman, “Lighthouse,” 2014, oil on wood panel, 12” x 10”
Daniel Minter, “Water Road,” (2014) acrylic on panel, 48”x24” 18
Daniel Minter, “A Sea Leveled,” (2014) Acrylic on canvas, 12”x30”
feel uncomfortable with the very idea of having to defend painting. I use my painting to defend my right to exist by portraying a narrative that is relevant to me and my community. Painting is a basic tool of communication that does not need defending.
It is a very colonial idea to think of art in terms of one form being superior to another. I am not really a part of that art world and I cannot fully understand the argument.
Daniel Minter, “A Morning Pond,” (2014) acrylic on canvas, 40”x16”
Kenny Cole “Google Planet,” 2014, Gouache on paper, 7” x 8.5”
lthough I do not quite consider myself a painter, I see myself as trying to save painting! Painting has died many times before, but it has a very strange persistence. It has permanence and speaks a great deal to our condition as animals that build endless and varied structures, for habitation and shelter.
There are 10 gazillion walls in the world that we have created and each one begs to hold some kind of message or vision that can speak to us or transform the space it’s in.
This is just a phenomenon of our existence. The digital world exists near this, but functions away and outside of our physical structures. It’s incredibly seductive and addictive, but I feel that it also has an emptiness and limitation in terms of satisfying our need for feeling human. Painting can address our need to feel human nicely … Something like painting is a form that can capture things and hold them before us to see if we want to think about them for a longer while.
Left: Kenny Cole, “Eye to Eye”, 2013, Gouache on paper, 22” x 30” Next Page: Kenny Cole, “Red Tires”, 2013, Gouache on paper, 30” x 22” 20
Stephen Petroff, “Drunken Starlings and Mulberry Inkstone,” 2015, acrylic, 20” x 16”
Stephen Petroff, “Stone Meditation Cell,” 2014, acrylic on paper, 16” x 20”
Death Panels for Painters his is the most exciting time to be a painter. It’s as if no hope remains outside of our own illusions or imaginations. These days are comparable to my earliest childhood (perhaps, the age of two) for the sense of sheer freedom whenever I took a crayon in hand.
I remember those days clearly, especially as they concern “painting,” if I can dignify my activities with such a word. What I remember best was a promise of ongoing life that I felt was being held out before me if I could only keep my hands filled with colors (in fact, I will dignify my “work” at that age with the word “painting,” as I think of all my friends who have yearned to regain the freedom and facility of infancy.) It is peculiar that the return of those joys, the defeat of this world’s biliousness, should come to us disguised as the Death of Painting.
Painting is an activity that involves putting one’s hands into too many mysteries for announcements of its “death” to cause an educated person to head for the hills. (Continued next page)
Death Panels for Painters by Stephen Petroff (continued from page 23) Painting is a way of engaging the World that is available even to pre-school children. Are we to believe that after 40,000 years, painting has “died”? Because a peckerhead said so? Probably not – if only because painting of every sort is such a pleasure (roughly 99.9 percent of all children become marvelous and prolific artists until the desire is “learned” out of them). (Beyond childhood, too strong an adherence to theory can bring on any of a thousand diseases caused by rationalism.) If painting is dead and painters continue to paint, perhaps painters are also dead. If there were really a Death of Painting I feel certain that grief counsellors would have descended upon us. Yet there is something chilling in the thought that I may possibly have spent my entire adult life laboring “in a creed outworn.” I’m glad that our Maine Biennials have been reflecting new developments in the arts, but the last few that I’ve attended contained so few paintings that I’ve lost interest in begging rides to Portland. I certainly have not submitted my work there in a decade, since I can’t imagine being chosen to exhibit. There is so little wallspace in PMA and so many painters in Maine. Leave it to a provincial painter so say so, but paintings carry ideas and deliver messages in ways that nothing else can do – gorgeously, for an example. The dead continue to paint.
Brita Holmquist statement to accompany images on pages 2 and 3
asari, (1511-1574) wrote that painting was the premiere way to communicate. Any thoughtful person could see what the artist was thinking, was communicating, without translation. In the 600 years that have passed since then, there have been several innovations that make communication mindless and passive. Televisions spoon feed us what the networks, the talking heads want us to believe, and there we sit, nearly drooling, and not thinking. I have been conscious for years now that painting, always in the proud position over the mantelpiece, has been replaced by the huge screen of a TV. In the house-porn magazines and the fixer-upper television programs, no longer do paintings enrich the environments with their color and ideas. Electronics, mirrors, and found objects have taken their place or nothing. Our idea of luxury has become the “suite” in a five star hotel, colorless and impersonal. This is the loss of individualism, of freedom of expression. Is it any wonder that galleries are closing, that biennials are showing “new” forms of expressing ideas? Painting has squeezed itself into the same shelf as poetry and opera: the “I don’t understand it,” “And why should I bother? I’d rather watch TV” shelf. It seems, at least here in Maine, if people do purchase art, they want something non-confrontational, “Tourist” art, indeed, but thank goodness, they are buying that, at least. When Vasari was alive, art, painting and sculpture, was a craft. It wasn’t just a self-indulgence. I think that art, as music , must be taught right in there with writing. We must not shrink away from the joy of creation. The more anyone knows about painting, the more they will want to interact with it.
“In Defenseby of Painting” in poetry Edited Betsy Sholl Betsy Sholl, poetry editor
Aldrich, Melissa Crowe and Jim Thatcher are all poets who currently live in Maine or who, in Melissa’s case, Lindainda Aldrich, Melissa Crowe and Jim Thatcher are all poets who currently live in Maine or who, in Melissa’s case, grew up grew up and lived here until recently. For these poets the defense of art lies in the way they feel enlarged by their and lived hereenabled until recently. viewing, to consider difficult choices, and to experience the ordinary transformed into something vital, keeping the soul alive. What more could we ask?
For these poets “the defense of painting” lies in the way they feel enlarged by their viewing, enabled to consider difficult choices, and to experience the ordinary transformed into something vital, keeping the soul alive. What more could we ask? In the Well of a Wave off Kanagawa Hokusai, 1830 Linda Aldrich In the same boat with Hokusai, I watch other boats, slender arcs of yellow moon, struggle in the dark water, ride the back of a wet dragon that roils and rises mightily over them, all froth and disruption, a tower about to collapse. This is the day they will die. This the moment before it happens, before they jump through small windows of time. They are facing away, pulling hard on the oars, hoping to slide up one side, down the other, as though theirs is just any row of eyes going someplace, their oblivious heads lined up, thinking of those they left on shore? But look, they’re already dead and don’t know it. Hokusai has filled their sockets with black ink, their mouths fall open. He looks past them to Mt. Fuji, and the mountain looks back at him, cloaked in white, impassive, unmoved, like a line of rope thrown to us. Our boat steadies, holds taut. If Hokusai decides to jump, I will take his hand.
Linda Aldrich lives in Portland and has published two collections of poetry, “Foothold” and “March and Mad Women.”
Katsushika Hokusai, “In the Well of a Wave off Kanagawa,” 182930, color woodcut, 10.1” x 14.9”
Blue-Grey Fence—Imagined Museum of Imagined Art
Jim Glenn Thatcher
It’s a blue-grey day, the sky sulking undecidedly against itself and I’ve just been handed two gallon cans of blue-grey paint and a five-inch brush to slather a three-sided fence— more like a stockade, really—vertical boards over six feet high topped by a foot high lattice—to enclose gas tanks and other equipment behind a meeting house. A blue-grey day with blue-grey pay and I want something more than this— I want Art.—Art with a capital “A”— To turn this paint job into Art itself—To take the reality of this fence and outdo it— Create it anew into a concept beyond “realism”—I’ll call it “Meta-realism”–-a reality true to the dreaming artist in my own inner self…. I open the first can. Stir the contents. Ready myself. Dip the brush. No longer a fence I face, but an easel. I slap the color on—thick—smooth…. Saturate the wood beyond the wood that I’m saturating— recreating the fence itself into something other than itself. I go beyond painting into sculpture. Beyond sculpture into non-dimensional three-dimensional creation. My hand paints the fence; my mind takes it, reshapes it. The lattice turns to a geometric Chinese design then fades, disappears completely and I change the color of the wall beneath to bark brown at first— the upright planks become the log walls of a frontier fort— but that’s not what I want—it’s only a start—a rite of passage, and now the blue returns, bluer and bluer with every slurp until the grey is gone and the day more free and the boards blend into a singular surface flowing into an endless canvas upon which appear an endless succession of images changing and changing from the blue of Turner’s skies and oceans into the darkness of torchlit cave walls filled with the brilliantly primitive outlines of prehistoric bison, deer, the ebulliently-buttocked goddesses of the paleolithic and then the light grows again, rising and falling through the days and nights of eons and the art of each epoch-the forward-peering eyes and spread shoulders of Egyptian tombs; the abstract linear images—all cones and circles and squares of Gilgamesh and the peoples of his cities—Uruk, Ur, Nippur; the leaping bull-dancers of ancient Crete, the stone portraits of Athens, the porno-frescoes of Pompeian walls; Breughel’s partying peasants, cod-pieces askew, drunk and passed out in their fields; the all-consuming Hell of Hieronymus Bosch— and from there I pass into my own versions of the sophistications of El Greco, Rembrandt, Rubens, Durer, da Vinci. My hand wielding their brushes, my own visions of their subjects, and I am taken into a long ecstasy, my own mind flowing into theirs— until there is a sudden change, a surge of pending awareness and far down the hall I am struck to see my old friend Corozine 26
(continued next page -- no stanza break)
Jim Glenn Thatcher (continued from previous page) painting himself painting his dual portraits of himself and Monet, himself and Van Gogh, himself and Gaugin, himself and Gaugin’s Tahitian mistress. I stand behind him absorbed and taken—every move he makes I make, every move I make he makes—on and on until I find myself fallen into an elated exhaustion from which my hand wakes again into the slurp of the blue-grey present—the so-called “reality” of job and fence, and I realize the work-day is almost over— I close the can. Clean the brush. Section one of the fence is now its assigned color. I will return tomorrow to continue my studies.
Jim Glenn Thatcher has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, teaches at SMCC, has a chapbook “The Ur-Word” and has won many recognitions for his work.
In the Room at Arles Melissa Crowe I let you make love to me on wet canvas. When I rise
my back is starry, my calves two swirls of night, each palm a burst iris. You say my breasts are heavy and bright as sunflowers. We share a small loaf, bottle of wine. I kiss the pink ridge beyond your jaw. Melissa Crowe is an editor at Beloit Poetry Journal and the author of two chapbooks, “Cirque du Crève-Cœur” (dancing girl, 2008) and “Girl, Giant” (Finishing Line, 2013).
Sherry Streeter, “Possibilities IV,” 2013, oil, 14”x14"
Sherry Streeter, “Heat,” 2013, oil, 16”x16”
efending painting feels a little like defending air. Or trees. It may need defending in the sense of protecting, but not in explaining its value. Painting has been around a very long time --at last count 42,000 years --and I believe always will be as long as people have limbs (or mouths, or heads) to paint with. It may have lost its primacy in the current art world, but that doesn’t mean it should be completely edged out by the newer, the louder, the splashier. It doesn’t mean the world doesn’t need it.
It matters not whether it’s “in”or “out” to those who can’t NOT paint. And it matters not to those who are moved to tears by an image of great power. I fully embrace
the many other and newer forms of expression -- so diverse, so amazing -- but painting is ground zero for me.
Katherine Porter, “Untitled,” oil, 38” x 42”
Katherine Porter 30
Katherine Porter, “Untitled,” oil on board, 38” x 42”
Katherine Porter, “Vienna 2,” oil on board, 24” x 28”
am wondering why in 2015 anyone again questions the value of painting. There have always been painters and people who look at paintings... for pleasure, even joy, for enlightenment -intellectual or spiritual or sensual.
What painting gives is the quickness of a new perception or perspective carried as far as the painter can go. It, like nature, is about changing realities; one thing leads directly to another (you can use red or blue or yellow or any combination, even black and white).
Katherine Porter, “Montreal-Nova Scotia,” oil on canvas, 2005, 6’x 7’
Abby Shahn, “Cacophony Cacography the Last days of Bush,” 2008, oil on canvas
Abby Shahn, “Three Rings,” 2013, Egg tempera on paper 32
Abby Shahn, “Kiev,” 2013-2014, Egg tempera on paper
I saw a lecture at Skowhegan once. The guy said that painting was no longer dead. I had been off in the sticks and didn’t even realize that it was dead, or that it had come back from the dead. The whole idea seems kind of narrow and silly to me. I know people write about being tired of all those rectangles, Maybe they can start writing all about it on round paper.
Richard Brown Lethem, “Dog on Bridge,” 2015, Oil on Linen, 24” x 28”
Richard Brown Lethem
Richard Brown Lethem, “Mexican Dog,” 2014, Acrylic on Canvas, 36”x 40” 34
Richard Brown Lethem, “Red Belly,” 2015, Acrylic on Canvas, 11”x 10”
aine is fertile ground for painting, but like potatoes, it grows underground and matures late. And, as anyone who has tried it knows, ART is dammed elusive, and unpredictable. The real thing is rare at any time or place and has often flourished in moneyed and materialistic hotbeds like Tang Period China, Paris and New York at their cultural peaks.
I am astounded by the number of flat-out accomplished painters I see quietly working away despite little financial support and recognition. That they can continue to do this is in
That said, “Painting in Maine” doesn’t really need defense…
no small part due to informed and savvy gallery curators like Duane Paluska, Andy Verzosa, June Fitzpatrick, Anne Zill and most recently, Corey Daniels. They keep the flame alive despite the depressed economy and changing fads.
In the museum area, Ron Crusan of OMAA has shown courage in showing some of my difficult work recently and I hear he is going to mount a DeWitt Hardy show this season. But by far the most prestigious, spacious and affluent venue in the state is the PMA whose curators have shown little support for serious painting in recent biennials. The tendency to look to New York reputations for major, first floor exposure ignores exceptional homegrown careers like Alice Spencer, Fred Lynch, Natasha Mayers and DeWitt Hardy. For those reasons, I feel the artists’ discontent with PMA to be justified. Why not organize a UMVA task group to approach them with a MAINE PAINTING show proposal. If they continue to ignore, then some kind of protest could be organized. To mount a counter Biennial would be an exciting, but daunting task. What space in Portland UMVA could afford would suffice and who would jury it?
Kayla Mohammadi, “Yellow Landscape,” 5’ x 6’, Acrylic and Oil on
never take it seriously when I hear that painting is dead. Isn’t that an oxymoron? How could something that has survived thousands of years, lifted people up, educated, and excited the eyes and the mind be dead or dying?
In 1997 as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, my friend Alison told me painting was dead. I just laughed because she was a Fibers major and I’m sure that’s what she wanted to be true. There’s a story of a painter going to a collector’s house where his painting hung by the dining table. It was morning, the collector was sitting at the table with his wife and 3 teenage
The painter asked the collector why he wanted his big, ugly painting to be seen while eating. To which the collector replied, “it makes the corn flakes taste better.” daughters having breakfast.
Kayla Mohammadi,, “Sunrise III,” 6’ x 5’, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2015
Kayla Mohammad, “Helsinki Curve (image 1180),” 8’ x 6’ (in 4 panels), Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2014
Kayla Mohammadi, “The Door (image 1118),” 5’ x 6’, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2014
Harold Garde, “Flowers,” acrylic on canvas, 2015, 61”x 78”
hings happen to me as I grow older. I paint for the personal chalIenge, to face and define design problems. I have a great love of painting, each is a truth that no other form captures. It is all there, precisely itself, the two dimensional image. A painting is an image that doesn’t change, albeit the response, including my own, may change with study and time.
It is all illusion and it is all precisely and concretely there, in a rectangle, on the canvas.
Harold Garde, “Big Band Jazz,” acrylic on canvas, 2015, 55”x 60”
Jessica Townes George, “Wayward Sons and Lovers,” oil and spray paint on canvas, approx. 4’x4’
ainting is a technology that facilitates belief. It functions as a processing device to propagate visions. It uses visual language to validate an occurrence.
Jessica Townes George, “Still Before Up and Down,” 2012, oil, 24”x24”
When the occurrence is translated into such a format, it offers the viewer and painter — through the making and the viewing — an opportunity to leave such visions, such recorded occurrences, where they lie.The act of painting keeps [past, impermanent, mortal] things — alive. This method of organizing thoughts through an unpacking of fluctuating everyday visuals lightens an internal storage space. It lets us return and move on from the tiresome replaying of what we once saw in order to let ourselves leave things behind and move onward with less weight.
Jessica Townes George
Maury Colton, “5 Selections,” 2014, acrylic on canvas, 42” x 54”
s a painter I am refreshed by this topic. If this were the 1970’s, I would have to address “Is Painting Dead?” The implication of a defensive position is, at least, that the painter is alive. Dead deletes a lot of options.
I’ve often wondered why anyone would want painting to be irrelevant. Painting is a rather humble endeavor, requiring few materials and even fewer tools. George Luks quipped that all he needed to make a painting was “a surface, a candle, and some matches to make charcoal.” It doesn’t seem like it would take much to overrun that fort, but alas, here we painters are today, still seemingly in a defensive position at least when it comes to words. Paintings don’t need translations as they are a form of magic language understood universally. So, who are we addressing our defensive posture towards? From here it would seem that people who are not painters, be they critics, conceptual, performance, installation, sound, film, or video artists, appear to be in the legions that proffer the idea that their art form is displacing the hegemony of painting. Just based on history, painting has the upper hand over any other art form. Cave painting informs our genetic incubation period. History will not collapse in our time. Painting has always held a magic sensibility to transport the viewer through space and time.
What makes painting an irreducible absolute? It is by definition – color. The dictionary has the formal definition of “paint: verb, to apply color, pigment.” Pretty straight forward.
Let us go back in history to the advent of photography and try to retrace the steps that led to the current defensive position. (continued page 44) 42
Maury Colton, “Sleepwalking,” 2014, acrylic on canvas, 42” x 54”
Maury Colton, “See and Say,” 2014, acrylic on canvas, 42” x 54”
(Maury Colton continued from page 42) Photography and the magic it produced, light drawing, did in fact loosen the art of painting from the armature on which to hang colors, the likeness of a portrait or still life. The camera rendered empty or beside the point this armature…color was freed. With photography contours could be exactly captured. Color was now free to find a new rhythm to accept its existence. Color with no boundary-- having no space between one color and another, it becomes an absolute. A new itinerary had to be found, to display the intrinsic structure of color. This journey is coincidentally parallel with the substructures of discovery that related to the exploration of the atom through the Einsteinian observations of how we perceive and measure. Shedding the cloak of armature, the world was presented with paintings of the Impressionists. The atomization of paint. The advent of relativity brought Cubism and the realization of a boundless universe. The populace asked how this could happen, this disintegration of pictorial form? Painters had traditionally been the mechanics who could magically transpose and render space and time as an illusion. Painters were acknowledged and invested with a power to see and teach through this illusion. What others could see in actual passing time, only painters could stop and present. Painters were always acknowledged to be capable of seeing over the horizon. The advent of Cubism, particularly, called for a term to explain the disconnect that the traditional observer felt between the history of the previous viewings and the Now. Words are frequently approximations, but, “Avant-garde” seemed to be the settled-upon description by those who needed to explain what now was being created and shown in public galleries and private studios. The “out-front” excitement became associated with the galleries and public spaces which were exhibiting the Avant-garde. Galleries had been places of reflection, respite, and study and they now became the venues for excitement offered up by the Cubists and their followers. Galleries became the places to visit and see the NEW. These show spaces became the venue of the Avant-garde. Cubism morphed into Dadaism and its attendant disrespect, rightfully earned through the horrors of WWI, to include poetry, film, and performance. Incubated originally in the cafes, cabarets, and theaters of Zurich and Paris, these artists found welcoming arms in the private galleries that dared to show the Avant-garde. Galleries had become the places where the Avant-garde was seen, and the galleries became the place where it happened. Galleries not wanting to lose the franchise where the future could be seen, welcomed all comers. An appetite to present the Avant-garde was insatiable. Unknown is new. New is the Avant-garde. We show new, therefore we are the Avant-garde. Many galleries and public spaces still hold to this century-old idea. Politics in the 20’s and 30’s supplanted the now old guard, just as the 50’s and 60’s and youth culture rearranged the politics of that day. Today? Whoever is writing code, or key-stroking algorithms would seem to be out in front, the Avant-garde, of where the world is going. The simpler time of private space seems to be disappearing. While I have nothing against the kaleidoscope of other arts, that wish to inhabit the rooms originally incubated by the Avant-garde, the razzamatazz of post Dadaism has co-opted that silent time of gallery viewing (been to MOMA lately?) The history of painting will not end in our time. Painting will, as it always has, reflect the desires of individuals. Still using charcoal, grinding up dirt for pigment, and spreading color for a hint of what can be. Individual painters pushing colored pigment across a surface are still exploring the last visual hurdles to escaping gravity and time, the aspirations of all humankind. As mentioned earlier, words are approximations. I usually find others more adept at encapsulating a viewpoint I maintain. So I shall end with a Brice Marden quote, “I’d much rather be considered a painter than an artist, a maker of art. A painter of paintings. There’s a certain kind of thing implicit in the idea that it’s a painting, instead of just art. You can call practically anything art.” * * Interview from Art-Rite, Painting Issue#9 –Spring 1975
Painting to Light the Way
By Daniel Kany
e have essays, poems, songs, short stories, speeches, biographies, plays and much more, but I have no doubt a plurality of folks would agree that our society now values the novel as the cultural standard for literature. Similarly, painting is the standard for visual art. Paintings set the stage for photography, sculpture, installation, illustration, drawing and—at least indirectly—every form recognizable as visual art. Painting’s ascendance to top shelf status is a surprisingly complex subject dating back to just before polyphony in music was invented which, in Western culture, happened in the late Middle Ages. In fact, these two points might be directly related.
The development of both of these forms relates to the role of the Bible in Western culture. For centuries, the cultural form of Church-dominated culture was the story—the transformative narrative of the life of Jesus. As Christianity superseded classical culture, painting— because of its narrative potential – took over the lead spot long held by sculpture. And with the early 15th century invention of single point perspective, Renaissance society saw what they believed was the organizing principle of God. As seeing an image with the human body placed within that sacred system became ever more pictorially compelling, painting took on a mystical power based in a real-time here-and-now phenomenological experience. Generally, we see this shift from story (there-and-then) to sensation (here-and-now) as the move from Renaissance to Baroque—when the rational realm of laws and language gives into the sensory-swirled world of unmediated emotional experience. But we can also see this as a model for painting as it left its transportive, pre-photography job of storytelling behind for the literalist here-and-now experience of Modernism: art self-critically dedicated to revealing how art functions and how we experience it. I like to illustrate the keys to this castle with Edouard Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe, which crammed so many painting genres together, it became impossible to confuse them with reality, and Cubism, which dedicated itself to investigating and revealing painting’s tools for legibility. But along with legibility, cultural practices and human perception, what matters most is that Modernism followed painting into the visual arts. Assemblage, collage, abstraction and many other forms came out of late Cubism’s encyclopedic possibilities; and then installation, conceptualism and other forms only bounded by our ability to see them as art. But despite the insistent counterpoint of movements like surrealism, minimalism, conceptualism and others, none has remotely come close to replacing painting in the marketplace or the hearts of the public. And there is good reason for that. History matters for culture. As much as Savanarola, the Inquisitions, Hitler, Stalin and others have tried, erasing culture is like trying to extinguish the sun. Sure, paintings can be burned and photos can be lost. But we cannot un-see images and artists certainly cannot erase them from their sensibilities. From the Modernist moment to the present day, painting has been the standard against which anything needs to be considered in order to be seen as visual art. In our culture, meaning in art follows the conveyance of painterly content (i.e., the semiotics of painting)—from the establishment of the viewer’s body as source of sensation and experience to the legibility of language and iconic forms. At some point we could leave painting behind for another dominant visual art form that best models our semiotic and epistemological experiences of the world, but such a paradigm shift would require a sea change of public culture that could only happen over generations. Until that time, if it ever comes, we will have that indefatigable beacon—painting—to light the way.
Elizabeth Cashin McMillen, “Start,” 2013, Oil on Canvas, 16” x 12.5”
odest or massive, it is the paintings licked by your eyes and swallowed by your heart that become indelible in inexhaustible intimacies. You will have a privacy of desire no pundit or trend can order for you. Do I think paintings absorb attention? Yes.
Time passes, viewer by viewer, in an alchemy of absorptions.
Elizabeth Cashin McMillen, “Close,” 2013, Oil on Canvas, 18” x 15.5”
Elizabeth Cashin McMillen
Jung Hur, “Untitled,” detail, acrylic, 96” x 65”, 2014 photo by Corey Fenders 48
Hur in his Portland studio
t art school in Seoul, Korea, I learned traditional Eastern brush painting techniques. When I finished graduate school, I had incorporated a wide vocabulary of contemporary techniques.
When I moved to New York, the single strand that wove together the cultural divide was painting. Painting is the deepest current of visual culture because it relies on perception instead of language. When I moved to Maine, I was surprised to find such a rich painting scene. And now after several years I see its deep roots and I understand why Maine is so important to the world of painting.
David Estey, “Mall,” 2014, oil, 24” x 36”
David Estey, “Guts and Glory,” 2015 acrylic and pencil, 18” x 24”
David Estey, “Red Dee,” 2015 acrylic and pencil, 18” x 24”
David Estey, “Third Man,” 2015 acrylic and pencil, 18” x 24”
Josh Ferry, “Aug. 2 (Beach Rose),” 2014. Oil on Canvas, 30” x 30”
am a painter and that is what I do regardless of what’s trending in the art world. I am interested in making paintings and looking at them. I think about painting all the time. What curators are showing or not showing doesn’t affect my studio practice. Some painting in Maine is cutting edge and some is not. Good painting can hold its own anywhere. People have the right to buy and sell “tourist-centric” painting – it’s everywhere, not just in Maine. I like the influence that craft has on painting and don’t think craft is humbling.
I defend painting by painting everyday.
Josh Ferry, “Delegates,” 2005, Oil, Acrylic, Alkyd Resin and Wax on Canvas, 60” x 36” 52
Josh Ferry, “I Will Follow,” 2007, Burnished Acrylic on Canvas, 44” x 26”
David Allen, “Canary In the Coal Mine,” 2014, Acrylics and photo, transparency film in gel medium, 3x5
David Allen, “Fossil Fuel,” 2014, Acrylics and photo transparency film in gel medium, 3x5
think there is a misconception that painting in Maine is summed up by sweeping landscapes and endless renditions of boats and harbors. There is certainly a tradition of this, and there are many painters that are quite good at it, but I sense that there is a surfeit of work out there doing otherwise. This work often goes unnoticed simply because it is invisible and unseen by broader audiences in a market that is oversaturated with content that caters to tourists who want to take a piece of the state home with them.
What people really need to be reminded is that there is so much more to Maine and painters here can really do whatever the hell they want...they need only follow their passion.
David Allen, “Noah’s Ark,” 2014, Acrylics and photo transparency film in gel medium, 8”
David Allen, “Nuclear Energy,” 2014, Acrylics and photo transparency film in gel medium, 3x5
David Allen, “Solar Array,” 2014, Acrylics and photo transparency film in gel medium, 3x5
Tim Clorius, “Listen to Your Mother,” aerosol, 2011, 3’ x 5’
n my paintings I pursue two different modes of expression, oil painting and aerosol art.
The sprayed pieces are often times engaged in a certain contemporary and global dialogue con-
cerning the varying approaches to spray painting. Because of my long time involvement with this art form, I have a personal interest in its progression, its history and its future. In this sense, I want to influence its path, in even a small way, as an active participant. The boundaries and parameters of this art form, as well as its visual progression, serve as an inspirational foundation to my creative process. In a certain way “l’art pour l’art” is a fitting description for my motivation while spraying. The oil paintings, on the other hand, are visually comfortable rooted in tradition, with less of a desire for progressive visual change. Rather, I hope to draw the viewer in through familiarity and long-proven aesthetic principals, only to then disrupt the lulling experience with a subversive and oftentimes disturbing content.
In these [oil] paintings I want to communicate a specific message, rather than invent an entirely new visual path for artistic expression.
Tim Clorius, “Seduction,” aerosol, 2011, 3’ x 5’ 56
Tim Clorius, Fukushima’s Curse,” oil on linen, 2013, 16” x 20”
Tim Clorius, “Banking on the Edge,” oil on canvas, 2013, 36” x 36”
Scott Small, “Parrallel Times,” oil on Panel, 2015, 19”x19”
Scott Small, “Maine Economy,” oil on canvas, 24” x 30”
or four decades I have been struggling to make a living as an artist. People commissioned me to paint portraits and landscapes for them. I do not understand why people in Maine will not buy the paintings I love to make best. (editor’s note: like the ones presented here) I wonder if people know what it is like to be an artist in Maine. Two years ago my commissions dried up and I made no sales and $400.00 for the entire year.
Scott Small, “The Dream,” oil on panel, 1992, 15” x 22”
My statement is that people in Maine do not care about important works from artists and do not care if they live or die.
Scott Small, “Love of Life,” oil on panel, 2015 , 19”x19”
Peter Precourt, “Katrina Chronicles: Volume IV, pg 2,” Acrylic, Oil Bar, Sumi-e, Copic Marker on Rag Paper, 22” x 30”, 2014
Peter Precourt, “Katrina Chronicles: Volume I, pg 3,” Acrylic, Acetate, Sumi-e, Copic Marker on Rag Paper, 22” x 30”, 2010
any contemporary curators -- who help define art world taste (which is radically different from popular culture artistic taste) -- are significantly more interested in what something means than how it looks. Good politics are easier to write about than good aesthetics. Although many curators would cringe at the idea of being considered Modernist, a great deal of them are still driven by the notion of the “avant garde.” In the quest to create new cutting edge exhibitions, they often select site-based installations, performance and video work while painting and drawing continue to primarily reside in commercial galleries.
There are those that may consider painting, as a medium, archaic and outdated in the 21st century. I think that this view is skewed because many have the mistaken view that the contemporary moment is particularly powerful. It is human nature to create a narrative, that all of our past has led us to this moment where we will make a pivotal choice. We find exquisite cave paintings in Europe and Asia that are carbon dated 30,000 years ago. Despite living in incredibly difficult conditions, these people scoured the ground for pigment and binders, made tools with grass and reeds, visually studied people and animals, and both out of impulse and the desire to memorialize or make special, made beautiful and powerful visual images. It was in us then and it is in us now.
Previous page: Peter Precourt, “Katrina Chronicles: Volume I, pg 6,” Sumi-e on Rag Paper, 22” x 30”, 2011
Ken Bryant, “Men on Birds,” 2011, Acrylic, 18” x 24”
n defense of painting: “When I paint, my mind seems to go blank. My troubles leave me for awhile.” -- Ken Bryant (posthumous)
Next Page: Ken Bryant, “Odd Couple,” 2011, Acrylic, 16” x 20” 62
Gail Spaien, “Still Life #4,“ Acrylic on Linen, 2014, 38”
Gail Spaien, “Open Window # 3 Venice,” Acrylic on Linen, 2013, 60” x 66”
lobally, painting is alive, well and very vital so I personally do not feel that I need to defend it. Many of the painters I know and respect who live and work in Maine are a part of this heroic, sentimental and traditional history and contribute solidly to the lineage of painting as contemporary practitioners.
I think the question that you raise is more about who decides what art deserves critical success and how that plays out in the marketplace.
Gail Spaien, “Still Life #3,” Acrylic on Linen, 2014, 38” x 40”
Diane Dahlke, “Lobster Tank, Maine Turnpike,” 2015, oil on canvas, 42” x 30”
Diane Dahlke, “Ten Dried Fish,” 2011, oil on canvas, 40” x by 30”
ick up a brush. Dip it into the pool of color. Make a mark, react and make another mark. You can create anything.
A painting is of the moment, but it may last for a very long time. Time will determine what engages and resonates and what doesn’t. Terms like “cutting edge” are too limiting for something that is in it for the long term.
Art expresses love. An artist can love light, color, an idea, the sea, their own pain -- many, many things. But painters always love paint. I don’t see that or the appreciation of it ending anytime soon.
Lesia Socher, “Layouts,” 2014, oil on sewing pattern paper 19” x 25”
Installations come and go, but painting is forever. 68
Lesia Socher, “Paris Original,” 2014, oil on sewing pattern paper 19” x 25”
Susan Drucker, “Elephant and Bird Carrier,” Watercolor, 9” x 20” 2012 70
Susan Drucker, “Bryce’s Bay,” watercolor, 2012. 16”x 8”
Lynne Harwood, “Snow Person Faces Global Warming,” oil on oak ply, 2012, 25”x 35”
Lynne Harwood, “Garden Butterfly,” oil on oak ply, 2007, 15”x32”
Lynne Harwood, “In the Arms of Mother Earth-Porter Lake”, 1992, oil on canvas. Oil painted frame, 27”x27”
paint from life and am perhaps jealous of the camera. So why don’t I use a camera that could take the scene so much more quickly? I could take so many more!
Painting is a deeper medium, rooted in my body.
From the beginning of my painting life I was impressed by how my painting revealed how I felt, the feeling of being there. I wouldn’t throw any of my efforts away.
Narratives from Educators about Creative Expression
INSIGHT/INCITE By Debra A. Bickford
Westbrook High School Art Department President-elect Maine Art Education Association
Painting as a Pathway to Learning Art Advocacy is a constant in my chosen profession and a filter in almost every level of my practice. On the Academic Ladder, the Arts are often considered to be on the lower rungs, superseded by what are labeled as “Core Content” areas. Contemplating the value of painting in the classroom is like formulating a sound defense of art education in general. “What is Art” is to “Defending Painting” as “What is Education” is to “Defending Learning” and, opinions based on experience seem rare.
Advocating for any arts education depends on your definition of education, just as standing in defense of painting depends on your definition of Art. At its core, moving past specific subjects, education is about learning.
A strong Visual Arts education includes creating, presenting, responding and, connecting. Painting is a natural bridge between linear communications and more internalized and emotive forms of expression. The process of painting continues to evolve and helps people gather, synthesize, construct, and deconstruct information. Students are naturally drawn to this complex process as it encourages exploration on every cognitive level. In a highly visual world, the ability to express with pictures or, understand visual communication is increasingly important. The process of constructing a painting assists the maker in working out complex meanings and subtle organizational methods of communication. In our program, students are required to complete what we call “practice that looks like a final” That is what these “macro eyes” are. Students learned about the qualities of varieties of acrylic paints, gels and mediums. For the “practice” the subject matter was chosen for them to encourage playful trials with surface, sheen, texture, transparency and opacity. Students learn how to push the medium and then are expected to transfer that knowledge into the creation of imagery that is authentic in voice. When creating a final work, students apply specific qualities learned during the trials into the their own paintings. Every step of the final works are planned and executed by the student with the teacher there as support. Our students are encouraged to value the entire creative process and not just the final outcome. This learning process stays with them no matter what direction they go in. Debra Bickford, Spontaneous Order, Acrylic Paints and Mixed Media on Birch Panel, 11” x 14” 74
All Student â€œEyeâ€? Paintings from Westbrook High School Grade 12 Acrylic Paints and Mediums on Panel
Janice Anthony, “Dawn Islands, Ganonoque,” 2014, 8x10, acrylic
ainting is such a primeval intersection between hand and eye, it probably arose at the same time as the making of tools and signs for communication.
Despite being recently eclipsed by expression in the category of “art,” it will remain a primary means of giving the meaning found in the mind a place in the outer world.
Janice Anthony, “Entrance,” 2013, 28” x 30,” acrylic on linen 76
Berri Kramer, “Keeper’s House VIII,” acrylic, 18” x 24”
Berri Kramer, “Bone Strokes,” acrylic, 24” x 24”
Elizabeth Woodworth, ”Rock Gardens,” 2011, oil on masonite, 8” x 8”
Elizabeth Woodworth, “Androscoggin,” 2013, oil on canvas, 10” x 12” 78
Barbara Brady, “Perseverence,” 2015, oil on paper, 15” x 15”
Barbara Brady, “Seeking Rain and Sunshine,” 2015, oil on paper, 15” x 15”
e have all heard the old rumor that “painting is dead,” however, what may be dead is the vision--or lack there of--of curators.
Do curators, museum directors and gallerists in Maine venture out and visit the studios of artists to see first hand what is taking shape? Is there time to investigate and explore, rather than rely on the wisdom of the familiar, current trends or safe bet? What we are in sore need of are visionaries. Visionaries like Dr. Albert Barnes, who thought less about going along with those calling the shots or trends, and more about the importance of an open mind, a curious heart and support of the creative spirit. As a painter, I paint without concern for what is trending, without the need for fitting in.
I paint from my own inner vision and perhaps someday, somewhere, that vision will be embraced by others. Until then, I will be true to my art and painting will always be in vogue.
Evelyn Dunphy, “Ready To Fly,” 2014, acrylic on hot press paper, 27” x 28.5”
Evelyn Dunphy, “Flower Power,” 2014, watercolor on paper, 28” x 35”
Helene Farrar, “As the Leaves Fell, Pond Series,” oil on canvas, 90” x 45”
ainting is alive indeed. It is alive here in my studio and in my heart - and it stretches out across the horizons near and far...
Pamela Grumbach, “Evan,” 2013, Oil, 20” x 30”
hese paintings, along with 40 other portraits, were my farewell to a community after I left and moved to Maine. I found that the process of painting these portraits took me on a personal journey with each subject. The pull and push of the brush on the canvas enabled me to slowly bring to life the likeness and personality of a friend or colleague, and in the process, I experienced quiet musings and vivid memories of the many years I had known them.
The act of painting each detail deepened my connection to the individual. 82
Lindy Lyman, “Worlds of Inspiration II / Fauna Kingdom,” 2013, Acrylic, inks, found papers, metallic leaf, on unprimed canvas, 36” x 24”
Artists are the seers, the shakers, the shamans and the shapers.
Peggy Cope Mascher, “Good and Plenty,” 2012 Acrylic 30” x 36”
Peggy Cope Mascher
he last PMA Biennial featured chilly and kitschy art with few paintings. Mainers are surrounded by representational painting, but sadly the curators give painting short shrift. Artists and new paintings need continuing recognition in important shows.
Painting, by its very nature, reveals to creator and viewer the process by which it is achieved. Painters use all but one of the senses to create art; with successful paintings both creator and viewers experience a powerful emotional and spiritual charge that has lasting effects, contributing to our experiential and existential well-being.
June Kellogg, “Women Walking Tall #13,” 2013, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 20”
t is a cold and snowy winter this year in Maine. Most of my days are spent painting. During my lunch hour I watch sections of the PBS series, ART:21. The artists in the series are brilliant and express ideas that amaze and inspire me. Expressing ideas, no matter how great or small, is what art is all about. It doesn’t matter which medium you use – drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography, video, computer, installation, dance, music, and yes, even painting -- all are valid.
Paint on, you Maine painters. Even in our winter isolation we are connected.
In Defense of Painting or the Death of Chess by Jeffrey Ackerman (continued from page 17) Do Maine collectors want paintings that reflect their yearnings for nature, simplicity and a respite from the tensions inherent in human culture? I am not suggesting that good work is not being done in those popular genres but it is even more important in places like Maine that alternative venues provide ample opportunities for painting that might not easily fit into the state’s commercial galleries. The biennials are a missed opportunity to dig deeper into Maine’s painting culture to find work that connects with the less publicized currents of the cosmopolitan art culture, work that Maine audiences will not otherwise be exposed to. Artists in Maine, as well as the art audience, thirst for that more cosmopolitan art scene. The curators of the museums and alternative spaces feed this desire but overcompensate when they exclude painting. Perhaps they associate painting, especially representational painting, with the most conventional examples of the Maine landscape genre, the much derided, “paintings of lighthouses,” and want to distance their shows from such work. What may be motivated by a desire to escape provincialism has the effect of appearing provincial. Meanwhile, in the cities, the coolness toward painting has been thawing for some time. The alternatives to painting and traditional sculpture, pioneered by the Dadaists, are nearly 100 years old. The New York Times critic Roberta Smith recently reviewed a show at the Guggenheim by the Zero group, an international group that produced works in the 50’s and 60’ using many of the non-traditional materials and approaches that are now common. She called the show “a timely comment on the limits of newness as an artistic goal, especially when primarily achieved by new materials and processes.” Well said. But I disagree on two points; the comment is not timely but long overdue and newness is an appropriate artistic goal but can be achieved with the simplest or most archaic mediums, pencil and paper or a lump of clay. All new mediums lose their novelty and sometimes quickly but a unique artist is original forever. Many artists copied Picasso and Braque’s cubist innovations but none of the imitators invented them. Artists like Goya, El Greco and Vermeer still stand out among their peers because they still look original. In a 1964 interview Duchamp compared the shows that he and his surrealist compatriots put on in the 1930’s “with a spirit of real playfulness” to contemporary art works; “Today the young generation takes it so damn seriously…They are not inventive or imaginative; they use all the ideas they have seen or heard about, use them again in dogmatic form, and probably write books about it.” What Duchamp is describing here is the birth of the modern academy, where a would-be artist or curator can go to school and learn how to make or appreciate “radical,” “cutting edge” art from a professor that learned about it in school. Art has evolved into an academic pursuit and the rational, analytic, teachable aspects often take precedence over the intuitive and mysterious—theory trumps practice. A bias has emerged relegating painting to craft and craft to a non-intellectual pursuit. In this attitude I detect a whiff of white-collar condescension of blue-collar manual activity. This hierarchy appeals to a managerial class that makes up most of the art audience and spawns artists who are raised increasingly detached from how things are made. In the art culture as in the marketplace, originality is confused with the novel idea, trademark protected. Artists are reduced to one or two features that they are known for, their brand. There is also a confusion between convention, which can stifle new forms, and tradition, which creates necessary structures, a platform to launch new ideas from. And finally a confusion between art history, a man-made, often dogmatic, construct, and the history of art, the collection of human artifacts that are forever open to new interpretations and connections. Artists can, and must, create their own personal canon. Curators, at their best, discover and present the process of arts evolution that is going on in artists’ studios. If they try too hard to impose their interpretation on this process, they become a barrier between significant work and a curious public. To avoid this may mean displaying work that they are uncertain about, that is unfashionable, because new art may take forms that none of us recognize. It’s extremely difficult to police ones biases, but it’s a goal worth pursuing. We have two words in our language describing how we comprehend the world, cognition and recognition. To recognize something means you have seen it before, and it is comforting to recognize something. Cognition is the natural state of the child, but adults overwhelm their cognitions with the comforts of the known. It is the artist’s duty to awaken a state of first encounters, as if a message from the future. Such art can never be contemporary because it barely exists in time.
Submitted by Sarah Bouchard
he following are responses culled from an online discussion about the Portland Museum of Art’s decision not to use an open call for this year’s biennial. The museum’s online statement reads in
part: The 2015 Portland Museum of Art Biennial is the ninth in an ongoing series of exhibitions showcasing new or recent work by living artists. Through a generous bequest by beloved Maine artist William Thon and his wife, Helen, the Biennial began in 1998 and has become a centerpiece of the PMA’s exhibition calendar for artists, audiences, and arts professionals in the state of Maine and beyond. The 2015 Biennial will be organized by nationally recognized guest curator Alison Ferris, Curator of the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Unlike previous Biennial exhibitions, this exhibition will not include a call for entries. -------I think the most telling part is PMA’s lack of acknowledgement about how huge the change is -- their words even imply that we should all somehow be pleased. Yes, pulling together a meeting with them would be good -- not that I have any hope that PMA gives a shit, but we can’t just lie down either. For me, it’s not about “ethical standards” and “sound practices” in how they proceed with this now curated show -- it’s the elimination of the open call itself that’s so disturbing. It’s a giant change and completely sad. -- S -------I believe when William Thon left 4 million to the Portland Art Museum, it was to fund a juried biennial. The article in the Portland Press Herald from March 23, 2001 by Amy Sutherland says, “Thon approached the museum in 1996 and said he’d like to support a program that would benefit Maine artists. In response, the museum organized its first biennial exhibit in 1997. Thon provided the seed money for that exhibit, which included funding for a cash prize and a museum intern to work on the show...Thon’s will directs the museum to use the funds [4 million bequest} for support of its juried biennial exhibit of Maine art, but the money is not restricted to that use. Nevertheless, the museum plans to put the funds in an endowment, the Helen E. and William E. Thon Endowment Fund, the proceeds of which will be used to fund future biennials and possibly programs in support of American art.” The question remains then, what is the museum using this money for instead? -- A -------I value biennials as a chance to see new work and to discover new artists, so to the extent that open submissions bring new artists to light, I think they have a place. If I were the UMVA I would not picket the PMA biennial (petty and sending the wrong message to the public), I would organize an open juried exhibition as an alternative…The more I think about it (and after reading Abby Shahn’s fond recollection of the free-for-all that was the 1988 All-Maine Biennial at USM) it might even be more radical and instructive to stage an exhibition in which every artist in the state is invited to contribute a single new work of art (probably with a size restriction). Find an empty factory, warehouse, church, gym, etc. Come one. Come all. No jury. No competition. Just a glorious non-judgmental celebration of art in Maine at the moment. -- E -------There has been a problem with the ethics of conflict and transparency at the PMA, so the UMVA should use this switch - which is newsworthy and interesting to the public - to help educate the public about why shows are juried or curated and why that matters to the art public and the community. If we can get the PMA to say publicly that they are committed to getting to know the Maine artist community and committed to ethical practices, then I think we will have positioned ourselves as well as possible. I agree with you, E, that picketing to reinstate a juried show is a losing proposition. The UMVA could look petty and disenfranchised. On the other hand, I think this is a major topic of discussion for Maine’s artist community and I would rather help foster that conversation than punctuate its end with a singular pronouncement. My complaint last time around wasn’t about whether the show was juried or curated, it’s that it was put to the public as juried, submissions were sought and entry fees were charged. And then, hidden from the public, the PMA invited some select individuals - including donors and former employees (read: unethical scumbaggery) - without informing those artists or the public. So, to be clear, my complaint was about the lack of transparency and willingness to cross fundamental ethical barriers. My complaint was not about whether the show was juried or curated. -- D -------Here’s some questions for any of you who have shown at Portland Museum of Art in the Biennial or other show: What has it done to “further” your career as an artist? Did it help sales? Did it get you a job? Maybe help you get in another show? For most artists who got into the PMA (or CMCA) Biennials in the past I would bet the answer to all of these questions is nothing and no. Yes you get to add it to your resume and yes it makes you feel good about yourself. And you’ve been told that “exposure” has valve. So what’s “exposure” worth? If you were told today that you would never have your work in another show and would never sell another piece would you continue making...being an artist? I’d say yes and I’m betting most of you would too. So why concern ourselves with what the PMA is doing if it really has no real significance to our lives and work? -- J 88
March 16, 2015
Mr. Mark Bessire, Director Ms. Jessica May, Chief Curator Portland Museum of Art 7 Congress Street Portland, ME 04101 Dear Mr. Bessire & Ms. May, It was with disappointment that we read the recent announcement that the PMA 2015 Biennial will not include an open call to artists. We consider this major change to be a serious blow to the overall health of Maine art and the 800+ Maine artists who usually enter the biennial. We are not unsympathetic to the challenges that may have contributed to this decision, but we believe it is overly exclusionary and shortsighted. We would very much appreciate an opportunity for the UMVA to discuss this change with you, to learn more about your reasons for coming to this decision, as well as to have the opportunity to discuss your plans for future biennials. We believe that the missions of both of our organizations are similar enough that finding common ground should be quite possible; a meeting to exchange ideas could be beneficial to both groups. We hope you will agree. Please let us know at your earliest convenience when a meeting can be scheduled. Thank you. Sincerely, For the UMVA lease Robert Shetterly, President ir press re ut e th r te f a k abo meet e feedbac equest to v r a a h h s r it e w b mem plied Do UMVA book. um has re e The muse n artists goes out. on on Fac ti se a o s h r c e v e n th o on the c ng? Join that meeti
4 6 B r i d g e R d . B r o o k s v i l l e M a i n e 0 4 6 1 7 U M V A l i s t i n g s @ g m a i l . c o m
Artists’ Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) Report ---- Jan. thru March, 2015
Above: ARRT!, banner, “Ban the Box”, created for the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition for their “Ban the Box” campaign
ARRT!, banner, “together We Can Change the World”, created for the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine’s HOPE festival 90
ARRT!, banner, “League of Women Voters” created for the League for their “Get Out the Votes” campaign
ARRT!, banner in action, Global Divestment Day - Maine Statehouse and MainePERS ARRT!, banner, “Maine Divest For a Brighter Future”, created for 350Maine and Climate Solutions for the Maine Divest From Fossil Fuels campaign
ARRT!, props, “Mother Courage/Annie’s Canteen”, created for Code Pink for the spring mobilization for peace at BIW vigil
ARRT!, props, created for We The People Maine, pictured at Maine Clean Elections Rally at the Statehouse in Augusta 92
Guidelines for Submissions
to the Summer UMVA Quarterly Journal, 2015 “Sense of Place” “Place” represents the geographical space we inhabit or dream about. It may occur in our work metaphorically, spiritually or realistically. It may be a map or something/someone that makes anywhere a home. We invite UMVA members to submit TWO (2) examples of your work for the Summer, 2015 issue with “Place” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 15 deadline. (If you submit multiple images, we will choose what fits publication). Let your work speak for itself, no description or artist statement necessary! Please submit images as jpgs: high-resolution images, 150-300 dpi; the format should be at least 1000 pixels on the shortest side. Please label work with artist, title, year, medium, dimensions and, if required, the photo credit. Questions? Other ideas of art or content you’d like to see in the online journal? Please contact Anita Clearfield, (207) 751-4848, email@example.com. With the idea of kickstarting and modeling visual essays as a regular feature in the Journal, the four editors will be using submitted work, as well as curated work, to each create a visual essay based on the theme “Place.” Our goal is to inspire a regular feature that will allow the “curator” to think and act creatively, instead of feeling hemmed in by a very specific form. Accompanying or embedded in each of our visual essays may be a bit of commentary about what inspired each of us, how we compiled it, and what we hoped to convey through our visual essays...or not. We hope readers will be inspired enough to come to us with their own ideas for visual essays for future
Please check out back issues of the UMVA Quarterly Journal Summer, 2014 (Art You Don’t Show)
Fall, 2014 (Then and Now)
Winter, 2015 (Interview/Innerview)
Published on Apr 1, 2015
The Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) Journal is published quarterly. Our theme for Spring is "In Defense of Painting," featuring work f...